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Paul VI bids farewell to Fairfax

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The close of a school year is always bittersweet, but the end of this year was particularly poignant for St. Paul VI Catholic High School. The coronavirus pandemic robbed the school of its last few months in the longtime Fairfax campus but didn't prevent the community from packing up and moving to the new one in Chantilly. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge helped the community say goodbye by celebrating one last Mass in the school chapel.


“What a privilege it is today for me to celebrate this final Mass here in this chapel that I know all of you hold so dear in your hearts,” said Bishop Burbidge to the small number of people in the chapel and the hundreds more watching the livestream. “Think about how many students and faculty members over these years have come into this chapel distressed and overwhelmed only to receive the grace of Jesus as they heard him speaking to them in his word and from this altar fed them with his body and blood. They left this chapel filled with the peace and confidence and serenity that only Jesus can give.”


Head of School Ginny Colwell and Coordinator of Campus Ministry Joyce Krolicki served as readers while Principal Tom Opfer played the piano. Senior Alison Fentress served as cantor. Bishop Burbidge was joined on the altar by Paul VI teacher Deacon Tom Grodek, alumnus Deacon Marques Silva, Chaplain Father Stephen Schultz and Oblate Father Donald Heet, parochial vicar of St. John Neumann Church in Reston and founding principal of Paul VI.


Paul VI opened in 1983 in the old Fairfax High School building with 350 students and 21 employees. The school was staffed by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales until 2000. In 2015, the diocese announced that the school would move from its 15-acre campus to a 68-acre campus in Loudoun County. The new campus will be open in the fall. Bishop Burbidge is scheduled to bless the new school chapel June 23.


On social media, members of the Paul VI community posted well wishes and notes of thanks. “Knowing what it looked like in March of 1983, seeing it now and remembering all the early struggles and now looking forward to the spectacular building which you all deserve. Blessings to all,” posted Barbara O'Donnell Rannazzisi.


“Accompanying Father Bill Davis, OSFS, to the building that would become Paul VI HS on (that) day in December 1982 when Bishop Welsh signed a contract for it was a great thrill,” posted Marie Powell, former assistant principal. “It is a privilege to join with this wonderful community today for the final Mass at Paul VI. Congratulations on a wonderful past and a great future.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020