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Aurora Griffin receives Courage Award

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Aurora Griffin, a former equestrian national champion and author, received the 2017 Courage Award from Catholic Athletes for Christ April 23 at Marymount University in Arlington. In addition, two athletes from every Catholic high school and college in the Arlington Diocese were honored.

Griffin is a former U‐18 Equestrian Show Jumping National Champion, Rhodes Scholar, Catholic speaker, and author of How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard: Forty Tips for Faithful College Students.

The awards were presented by Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Father Andrew Fisher, CAC spiritual advisor and pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Annandale, and Ray McKenna, CAC president and founder.

The student honorees included: Joanna Chenaille and Robert Klazynski, Marymount University, Arlington; Anne Nelson and Stephen Foeckler, Christendom College, Front Royal; Jane Pennefather and Michael Byers, Seton School, Manassas; Isabella Toma and Patrick Casey, Paul VI Catholic High School, Fairfax; Callan McCormick and Joseph Hamer, Bishop Ireton High School, Alexandria; Lucie Drahozal and Chris St. George, Bishop O’Connell High School, Arlington; Aidan Gelbach and Thomas Gildersleeve, Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School, Dumfries.

CAC works with athletes at all levels of sport in an effort to promote a Catholic sports culture.

Following are more detailed descriptions of the accomplishments of the student athletes:

Aidan Gelbach / Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School, Dumfries


As a senior, Aidan has left her mark on the John Paul the Great athletic department —  playing varsity sports in swimming, basketball, field hockey and lacrosse. She has been captain of both the field hockey and lacrosse teams for the past three years. She has been named school MVP in two sports and was named All Tournament MVP at the Steward Lacrosse Invitational Tournament in both 2014 and 2015.


Aidan is student government president, a member of the National Honor Society, and has scored “Magna Cum Laude” for three straight years on the National Latin Exam.


Aidan is committed to leadership in pro-life work at school and her home parish (St. Raymond of Penafort Church in Springfield), where she has overseen school’s several pro-life evangelization projects, parish pro-life events, including “40 Days for Life,” and assembled classmates to help her serve meals at local homeless shelters and Catholic Charities centers.


 Thomas Gildersleeve / Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School, Dumfries


Thomas has been a standout athlete at John Paul the Great while playing varsity football, lacrosse and basketball. Coaches say that he is the player known by all for his integrity, virtue and honesty.


Thomas has 4.5 GPA, is a National Honor Student, and has been a faithful altar server for the past 10 years at his home parish (St. Patrick Church in Fredericksburg). Father Bjorn C. Lundberg, school chaplain, says, “Thomas is a leader among his peers, and lives his faith in all that he does. His parents raised an outstanding young man who by word and example leads other to Christ.”


Jane Pennefather / Seton School, Manassas


Jane is a senior who has distinguished herself for three years on both the varsity volleyball and soccer teams. For her dedication and leadership, she was elected by her teammates as captain of both teams. During her four years at Seton, Jane has been a leader in pro-life work. She has coordinated numerous programs to support local Catholic crisis pregnancy centers, and programs to collect medical supplies to be sent to a Catholic mission in Haiti. For her pro-life work, she was recognized in her school by the Knights of Columbus as Catholic Woman of the Year.


Mike Byers / Seton School, Manassas


Mike is senior who has led Seton to many victories on the varsity baseball and basketball teams. He was captain of the basketball team this past year.  Mike is president of the National Honor Society and spends free time each week as a volunteer tutor and mentor with younger students. He is very active in programs at his home parish (St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton), and was recognized at Seton by the Knights of Columbus as Catholic Man of the Year.


Lucie Drahozal / Bishop O’Connell High School, Arlington


Lucie is a senior who has played three years on the varsity volleyball team. Her coach says that Lucie’s example of hard work, love of the game, love of teammates inspired both the coaches and players. Lucie is very active in her home parish of St. Joseph Church in Herndon, and in campus ministry programs at O’Connell, such as student Masses, retreats, prayer groups and service projects to help those in need.


Chris St. George / Bishop O’Connell High School, Arlington


Chris, a junior, is known for his hard work and “never give up” attitude, playing all three years on both the varsity soccer team and wrestling teams. Chris also has been one of the leaders of the youth ministry program at his home parish of St. Teresa Church in Ashburn. Each week, Chris leads a small faith discussion group among high school students called the “Upper Room Squad.” His deep faith and knowledge of the scriptures has helped the group to attract new members, and Chris was selected by the youth minister to train other teens to play leadership roles as well.


Isabella Toma / Paul VI Catholic High School, Fairfax


Izzy is a senior who has played varsity softball and swimming for all four of her years in high school. She has also served as captain of both teams. Her hustle and leadership have been a key reason for many team victories. Her example of faith and humility has had a powerful effect on her teammates. Izzy is always encouraging teammates to pray and attend Mass, to live their faith and take time to serve others. Izzy has helped teammates to find time for team prayer, and to play roles in the School Big Brother and Big Sister program.


Patrick Casey / Paul VI Catholic High School, Fairfax


Patrick is a senior. As a defender on the varsity soccer team, he helped lead the Panthers to the 2016 VISAA Soccer State Championship. His skill for three years on the varsity swim and dive team had propelled Paul VI to many state awards, including first place honors in the NOVA Catholic Invitational tournament in both 2016 and 2017. Patrick is committed to daily prayer, the Mass and living his faith in the world. He is a coordinator of several campus ministry projects at Paul VI, including class retreats, service programs for the needy, and assistance to the closeted sister in Linden.


Callan McCormick / Bishop Ireton High School, Alexandria


Callan is a senior whose athletic career at Bishop Ireton includes ice hockey and track and field. However, she has left her mark playing all for four years on the varsity field hockey team. She is the team captain and the all-time leading field hockey scorer in the school’s history. In 2015, she was named WCAC first-team All Met, and in 2016 was the WCAC Player of the Year. (She also has a 4.0 GPA and plays oboe in the school wind ensemble).


At her home parish (St. Agnes Church in Arlington) Callan is a lector at Sunday Mass, a leader in her parish youth group, and an enthusiastic member of the Diocesan Work Camp each summer helping serve the poor in rural areas. At Ireton, she is active in campus ministry, and the Catholic witness club who coordinates pro-life work projects on campus.


Joseph Hamer / Bishop Ireton High School, Alexandria


Joey began his freshman year by playing both soccer and basketball, but for the next three years would excel on the varsity basketball team. He is known as the first to arrive at practice, and the last to leave. Two of his four years he was elected captain of the basketball team.


Joey is a man of deep faith, who is always eager to help others. He has been an altar sever for almost a decade at his home parish (Holy Spirit Church  in Annandale), helps lead prayer groups at school for the athletes, has gone on several service trips to inner city projects, and serves as a camp counselor with disabled youth — where he is known among the youth as the “cool basketball guy.”


Anne Nelson / Christendom College, Front Royal


Anne is a senior who has found success all four years on the varsity soccer team, playing mid-field. Her teammates have voted her team captain both junior and senior years. Her coaches say that she leads by her example of hard work. Anne is a woman of deep faith, who has a special gift of sharing that faith with her teammates and classmates. She organizes team rosaries, leads team prayers before and after games, and is responsible for scheduling the team Masses so all the players can attend. On campus she is active in student council, fund raisers for charity, and many pro-life activities.


Stephen Foeckler /Christendom College, Front Royal


Stephen is a senior who is never seen on campus without an athletic uniform, having played two different varsity sports (one spring and one fall) all four years. He played four years of varsity basketball as a guard, his last two years as team captain. He played four years as an attacking mid-field on the soccer team, his senior year as team captain.


Stephen is a resident assistant on campus, spending many hours helping classmates in need, leading his dorm mates in rosaries and holy hours, and faithfully serving Mass on campus. Father Stephen McGraw (college chaplain) says that Stephen shows heroic virtue by volunteering to serve the early Mass on campus when no one else will volunteer.


Joanna Chenaille / Marymount University, Arlington


Joanna is a senior who came all the way from California to play varsity soccer at Marymount. Her hard work as goalie and center midfield have helped bring great attention to Marymount athletics. One teammate said, “Joanna left a mark on the team by her hard work ethic, and constant encouragement of all her teammates.”


Joanna is an anchor of campus ministry, where she faithfully attends Masses, serves as an altar sever, trains new altar servers, helps lead small faith sharing groups, and coordinated campuswide service projects such as Special Olympics. She is also a resident assistant and student ambassador.


Robert Klazynski / Marymount University, Arlington


Robert is a senior from Abita Springs, La., who has distinguished himself for four years on the varsity swim team, leading the team in butterfly and freestyle. His coach says Robert is a natural leader, always positive and encouraging with his teammates. Robert is a man of deep faith, who loves the Eucharist. He never missed Mass on campus — or road trips. His commitment to find a Mass on each road trip inspired several of his teammates to rediscover their faith, and come back to Mass on a regular basis. Robert would often lead a large group of athletes to Mass each weekend.


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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017