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Bishop Burbidge celebrates Opening Mass for schools

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This story has been updated. 

A mosaic of Jesus preaching to an attentive crowd hangs on the wall of All Saints Church in Manassas. During the annual Opening Mass for teachers Aug. 22, hundreds of diocesan educators sat in the pews beneath the artwork, spiritually preparing for the academic year.

Diocesan Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Bigelow welcomed the teachers to the Mass. Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, who celebrated the Mass and delivered the homily, was joined by high school chaplains and pastors, as well as Deacon Thomas L. Grodek, a physics teacher at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax. Singers and instrumentalists from schools around the diocese provided music.

In his homily, Bishop Burbidge talked about the previous day’s solar eclipse, when people spent the whole afternoon wearing silly glasses and staring at the sun. “I was thinking maybe that could be our theme for this academic year —  look up,” he said.


This summer, the students have witnessed much darkness: bigotry, violence and hatred. They will probably ask you many questions, said Bishop Burbidge. “The real one is this:  what do we do? And there is only one answer —  look up.”

Catholic schools exist to give students guidance from the God who dispelled darkness, said Bishop Burbidge. “Dear friends, it is your sacred duty to help our students understand that it is only when we live as God created us, and are faithful to His commands that we discover the one Isaiah foretold.”

But students aren’t the only ones that need to look heavenward, he said. “Dear Catholic educators, if your eyes are only fixed on what is right ahead, you will forget why you first responded to God’s call to be a teacher. It's only when your eyes are fixed above that you remember all the work you do is for the glory of God who will work miraculously in and through you.”

After the final blessing, teachers celebrating significant anniversaries were honored for their service to the diocese. One such teacher, Maureen Arroyo, has taught at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington for 40 of her 54 years teaching. Also at the Mass was Liz Cheney, a student in Arroyo’s first 1977 kindergarten class, who now teaches kindergarten at Linton Hall School in Bristow.


Arroyo, who teaches Spanish, said she teaches for the love of the students. “I’ve been following (Jesus’ words) — ‘let the little children come to Me,’ ” she said.

Teacher anniversaries

25 years

Bishop Ireton High School, Alexandria: Marianne Bradford, Susan Connors and Stephanie Hughes

Paul VI Catholic High School, Fairfax: Karen Marksteiner

St. Francis of Assisi School, Triangle: Karen (Callahan) Costanzo

St. John the Evangelist School, Warrenton: Linda Hammelman

St. Joseph School, Herndon: Donna Mann

30 years

Blessed Sacrament School, Alexandria: Cesarina Berrigan

Our Lady of Good Counsel School, Vienna: Cynthia Boyce

St. Ann School, Arlington: Mary Therrell

St. Leo the Great School, Fairfax: Sharon Wardell

40 years

St. Thomas More Cathedral School, Arlington: Maureen Arroyo

50 years

Bishop Ireton High School, Alexandria: Ronald Umbeck




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017