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Ireton Community Bids Farewell to Fr. Metzger

ALEXANDRIA — "Nothing is as strong as real gentleness, nothing is as gentle as real strength," said St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales (O.S.F.S.), about 400 years ago. Last week, it was a phrase often quoted describing Father William J. Metzger, O.S.F.S. at a banquet in his honor. Other traits of the priest mentioned frequently included approachability, generosity, humility, humor and kindness. Since he is leaving Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria after 11 years as principal and 16 years on staff, about 200 members of the school community gathered at the Key Bridge Marriott hotel in Rosslyn for a warmhearted goodbye party, planned by Vice Principal Marguerite Scafati. Ireton has been staffed by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales since its founding in 1964. Another priest of the religious order, Father Kevin Nadolski, who was also at the event, will take over as principal at the end of June. "His true leadership style, as we know, is by example, not by decree," said Dr. Garwood Whaley, head of Ireton’s music programs, of which Father Metzger has been very supportive, he said. The priest traveled with the school musicians on 16 European concert tours over the years and was always willing to do anything helpful, said Whaley, such as to "say Mass, stay with a sick student, carry instruments or clean the tour bus." In addition to Ireton staff, alumni and school supporters, Oblate Fathers William Walsh, Ireton’s former principal; Joseph Morrissey, provincial of Wilmington/Philadelphia Province; and Lewis Fiorelli, superior general, were in attendance. Father Walsh referred to Father Metzger as "one of the best examples of our patron saint." Several speakers mentioned the "unlikely places" and "very unprincipal-like jobs" in which Father Metzger could be found during his tenure: behind the cafeteria food counter serving lunch to the students, attending almost all the school dances and doing yardwork. Describing a principal’s duties as dealing with "legal, financial and difficult personnel and student issues," Dr. Timothy McNiff, diocesan superintendent of schools, said that Father Metzger had compassion especially in handling people in "trouble or turmoil." "In my coming to know the Oblates in my little-over-a-year of service in the diocese, I’ve come to understand the essence of their spirituality, which is rooted in St. Francis de Sales … in that beautiful two-word phrase, ‘live Jesus,’" said Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde. "Every Oblate is to live that interiorally, to model that exteriorally, and to invite the rest of us to follow … Father Metzger, for the last 11 years, you have done that. " Saying that many have been "enriched" by knowing Father Metzger, Bishop Loverde pointed out that the priest will still be serving in the diocese as parochial vicar at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Vienna. "Father Metzger, may you continue to lead us to ‘live Jesus’ so that together we may bring forth fruit that will last … (which) … is called Gospel love." "As I look out over the many people who have been a help and support to me over the years," said Father Metzger in his acknowledgements, "I’d like to thank the Lord for the opportunity to serve His people in the ministry of education."

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2000