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Bishop Burbidge offers teachers encouragement for 2021 academic year

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As a new academic year begins with diocesan schools poised for in-person learning, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge praised teachers and celebrated their accomplishments at an Opening Mass Aug. 17 at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas.

“Remember what you, with the grace of God, accomplished this past year,” Bishop Burbidge told hundreds of teachers gathered from across the diocese. “You persevered, and found new and creative ways to keep our schools open and students together safely. You allowed the light to shine on our Catholic schools.”

The church was full, in contrast to last year, when most teachers watched via livestream. No social distancing requirements are currently in place, but most teachers wore masks, a nod to the latest public health advice for indoor masking in large groups amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the nation. 

Bishop Burbidge’s message this year focused on encouragement.

“Remember how God gave you strength and stamina and zeal, even in the midst of so many challenges. Students, parents, my brother priests and I are so grateful to you and proud of you,” Bishop Burbidge said.

“Remember the vocation God has given you, and think of the confidence he has in you. Remember, this is not a burden, it’s a great privilege — remember the impact you can have on students every day. 

Bishop Burbidge also touched on his recent teaching document, titled “A Catechesis on the Human Person and Gender Ideology.”

“In these challenging times, you know very well that our young people face so many challenges,” including questions about sexuality and gender identity, he said. The diocese also released a new policy for schools and ministries related to the human person and gender ideology. 

Bishop Burbidge acknowledged that the new academic year will begin with “more challenges than expected,” and new uncertainties about when the pandemic will end. But he said that just as in the Gospel proclaimed at the Mass (Mk 5:35-41), “Jesus is in the boat with us, to calm the stormy waters swirling all around us.” 

When challenges arise, he said, it’s important to remember that it is “a blessing and a gift to be together.” And as they did last year, “Catholic schools must lead the way.” 

Teachers present said they did feel encouraged. “We can do it. We did it last year,” said Kathy Nary, who teaches preschool at St. Michael School in Annandale. Even her 3-year-old preschool students wore masks last year with no problem, she said. “They knew they had to, and everybody did it.” 

Colleen Booth, a third grade teacher at St. Michael, noted that the school saw “a lot of new families last year,” because the diocese offered in-person learning, and many of those families “have stayed with us,” she said.

Diocesan School Superintendent Joseph E. Vorbach said the diocese is welcoming a large group of new principals and teachers this year. “God bless you for sharing your gifts,” he said, to applause. He added that despite last year’s challenges and the current uncertainties, diocesan schools learned a lot last year about students’ differing needs and learning styles, and they are now “more equipped than ever to serve all kinds of students.”

At the end of the Mass, educators marking milestone anniversaries were recognized. (See full list below video.) 

After a break, teachers heard from keynote speaker Sister Mary Madeline Todd of the Dominican Congregation of St. Cecilia, who teaches philosophy at Mount de Sales Academy in Baltimore. She began her career at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School in Woodbridge. 

“Being a teacher is one of the most exciting jobs in the world,” she said. “We are both teachers and healers.” She added that teachers do not just teach facts. “We are teaching people, and teaching from the heart of Christ.” 


Teachers celebrate service milestones

Teachers recognized for service milestones, listed by years served and by school: 

40 years

Bishop O'Connell High School, Arlington: James Welsford.

St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School, Woodbridge: Eileen Leckey. 

30 years

Nativity School, Burke: Maria Kelly.

St. Louis School, Alexandria: Bridget Czapiewski.

25 years

Bishop O'Connell High School, Arlington: Marie O'Malley.

Holy Spirit School, Annandale: Andra Wild.

St. Joseph School, Herndon: Joan Bolka.

St. Paul VI High School, Chantilly: Chesty Frank, Celeste Anderson, Melanie Kiernan.

10 years

Basilica School of St. Mary, Alexandria: Anne Parker.

Bishop Ireton High School, Alexandria: Kevin Curtin, Tim Gordon, Donna Lorge, Rebecca Vaccaro, Dan Cummings.

Bishop O'Connell High School, Arlington: Tom Glynn, Ciro Jimenez, David Owens, Kristina Pacheco, Melissa Pore, Tookie Crivella.

Blessed Sacrament School, Alexandria: Ellen Benson.

Epiphany School, Culpeper: Deborah Buttenshaw.

Nativity School, Burke: Deborah Gorham.

Our Lady of Good Counsel School, Vienna: Samantha Danielli, Wendy Kehoe.

Our Lady of Hope School, Potomac Falls: Ben Daughtrey, Chelie Van Belleghem.

Sacred Heart Academy, Winchester: Lorenzo Lara.               

Saint John Paul the Great High School, Potomac Shores: Milagros Mendez, Mark Moran.

St. Agnes School, Arlington: Lee Morris.

St. Bernadette School, Springfield: Gabriela Parks.

St. Louis School, Alexandria: Beth Cucinotta.

St. Luke School, McLean: Kevin Cyron, Monica Wasfy, Diana Moron-Nava, Debra Mayer.     

St. Mark School, Vienna: Amanda Gorog.

St. Patrick School, Fredericksburg: Lisa Klinge.        

St. Paul VI High School, Chantilly: Maria Devlin, Gordon Leib, Corinna Schwartz, Kathryn Virusky.

St. Rita School, Alexandria: Caitlin Rockwell.

St. Theresa School, Ashburn: Erin O'Malley.

St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School, Woodbridge: Katrina Peller.

St. William of York School, Stafford: Michelle McSorley.



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021