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More than 1,400 educators begin school year together at Mass

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It sounded a little like recess — but it was teachers gathering, talking about setting up their classrooms, learning the names of their new students and being excited to soon meet them.

During the annual Opening Mass for teachers, more than 1,400 diocesan educators celebrated the start of the school year at All Saints Church in Manassas Aug. 21.

Diocesan Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Bigelow welcomed the teachers to the Mass. “We are so blessed to be together to celebrate our call to Catholic education,” she said. “Thank you for answering the call to serve God through Catholic education.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass with 20 concelebrants and delivered the homily. In his homily, he said, “In a special way at Mass today, I give thanks to God for all of you, for responding to his call to be Catholic educators,” he said. “I thank God for the gift you are to our church and our diocese, to our students and to our parents.”

He noted the providential time of the gathering, on the feast of St. Pius X, “a teacher and catechist who encouraged us to teach the faith with purity and integrity.”

Katherine Fulgenzi, a teacher at St. Veronica School in Chantilly, said teaching at a Catholic school means “not only teaching, which I love, but I get to express my faith, which is something not many schools let you do anymore.” She believes students get to be in “an unbelievable community of people. We get to bring Jesus into everything we do.”

Ellen Fitzpatrick is starting as a fourth grade teacher at the Basilica School of St. Mary in Alexandria. She has a Catholic school background of 12 years. “Being able to bring prayer into school and spreading the Catholic faith to the children is so important, and being able to go to Mass with them.”

Teachers celebrating significant anniversaries were recognized at the end of Mass, including Patricia Bowers, a teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School in Woodbridge, who has taught for 40 years. (See the list of anniversaries below.) 

Jonathan Doyle, an author, speaker, educator and founder of the Going Deeper program used in over 400 Catholic schools around the world, gave the keynote talk after Mass, telling educators practical ways to “thrive and not just survive in the Catholic education vocation.”

“Begin to make your problems God’s problems,” he said. “Say to yourself: In an environment of increasing demands and expectations, I will use all of my resources.” He asked them the question: “What if you didn’t choose Catholic education...what if it chose you?”

Renee White, assistant superintendent for the Office of Catholic Schools, said the educators look forward to starting the year with prayer. “This is an opportunity to get the year started off on the right foot,” she said.

White said teaching is a vocation. “Not only are we educating the whole person — academically, spiritually, physically and emotionally —  we are doing so with the hopes that they take the gifts and talents God has given them and make this world a better place,” she said.  

Natalie Plumb assisted with this article. 

Teacher Anniversaries

25 Years

Blessed Sacrament School, Alexandria: Janet Maalouf

Sacred Heart Academy, Winchester: Monica Lapsley

The Basilica School of St. Mary, Alexandria: Loretta Golinowski and Anna Blaszkow

St. Thomas More Cathedral School, Arlington: Nelda Thomas

Bishop O'Connell High School, Arlington: Joe Crivella

Paul VI Catholic High School, Fairfax: Virginia Colwell

30 Years

Blessed Sacrament School, Alexandria: Valerie Garcia

Bishop O'Connell High School, Arlington: Diane Cerniglia, Sr. Elizabeth Goltman and Monica Stabile

40 Years

St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School, Woodbridge: Patricia Bowers




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018