Students receive a friendly friar welcome on the first day of school.

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Another year of learning officially began for schools across the Diocese of Arlington Aug. 27.  At St. Francis of Assisi School in Triangle, more than 240 students in grades pre-k through eighth-grade were greeted outside the school by a group of faculty, staff and Franciscan friars. 

“It is very much like New Year’s Day at the parish,” said Father John F. O’Connor, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church. “We don’t have the fireworks, but we do have the level of enthusiasm. It’s a new year with new things, new potential and new possibilities.”

"The school in a parish is the driving engine for activity and we see that here now.” Father John F. O’Connor

For Father O’Connor, the first day of school also energizes the parish after a long sleepy summer. 

“Summer is a quiet time for the parishes. A lot of our people are away on vacations. Now they are back and we see a whole different level of activity in the parish once the school starts. The school in a parish is the driving engine for activity and we see that here now.”

At 8:05 a.m., Principal Tricia Barber’s voice could be heard on the intercom welcoming students to a new year. The students were led in morning prayers and the pledge of allegiance before starting lessons. 

After 24 years as principal at St. Francis of Assisi School, Barber was as excited for the first day as the children. She said the teachers have been at the school for the past two weeks getting their classrooms ready and decorating billboards with this year’s superhero theme and inspirational quotes. According to Barber, some of the staff get up as early as 2 a.m. in anticipation of the students’ arrival.

“This is truly (our teachers’) vocation,” said Barber. “The opportunity for them to evangelize on a daily basis is what draws the excitement here at St. Francis Catholic School.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018