Catholic Schools Start Year with Opening Mass and Awards

Monday, August 22, 2016  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Catholic school principals, teachers and staff from across the Archdiocese of Washington gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception today to open the 2016-2017 school year with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington. Catholic schools throughout the archdiocese have staggered start dates, but all schools will open by Monday, August 29.  

Cardinal Wuerl began his homily by encouraging the gathered educators about their role in the life of the Church. “The importance of your role in the life of this archdiocesan Church and its charge to pass on the teaching of Christ is visibly demonstrated by the fact that we have all come together in huge number to ask God’s blessings on what we are about to undertake, once again, this year,” said Cardinal Wuerl. 

The cardinal reflected on the readings from the day, “The contrast between darkness and light is found throughout the whole of Sacred Scripture.  In the First Letter of Peter we are told how we have been brought out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Paul, writing to the Romans, tells us to put aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us, “I am the light of the world” and we should walk while we have the light.”

Cardinal Wuerl encouraged those gathered to recognize that Jesus Christ is the light and to share that light with the next generation. “This year’s opening Mass is one more testimony on the part of all of us that we continue the extraordinary mission of helping the next generation walk in the light,” he said.

The cardinal spoke of the Mass celebrated at the Basilica last September during Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Washington. He said, “Celebrating the first ever canonization on U.S. soil, Pope Francis praised the example of Saint Junípero Serra, the famous 18th century Spanish Franciscan missionary to California. Father Serra’s motto, ‘Keep moving forward,’ inspired his life and work and should likewise inspire our work in Catholic education.  Our task is to bring the joy of the Gospel to those entrusted to our care.  Pope Francis said, ‘The joy of the Gospel is something to be experienced, something to be known and lived only through giving it away, through giving ourselves away.’ Is that not what we attempt to do in Catholic education?”

“What Catholic education brings to the young people entrusted to our care is the perspective of faith.  When we ask, How shall I live, what is the purpose of life, how should I direct my actions, we find our response in Jesus Christ.  His Gospel gives us a perspective inspired by the wisdom of God,” said Cardinal Wuerl.

He continued, “Catholic education is a ministry of the Church.  As a visible and enduring sign of your share – your participation in that mission and ministry – you are commissioned today, as some of you have already experienced.  The certificate testifies to your acceptance by the Church of your role in the great teaching ministry of the Catholic Church which participates in the work of Christ, our Divine Teacher.”

Cardinal Wuerl told the educators gathered that the Church brings us an encounter with Jesus, offers us an invitation to participate in the faith, and proclaims Christ’s words of life and truth. He continued, “It does this in a world not always prepared to hear and accept the message.”

Catholic identity is at the heart of our schools, said Cardinal Wuerl. “They exist to provide a structured context where students can experience what it means to say that each of us has a relationship with Christ and therefore, because of that, we share a bond with one another.”

“Even those who do not share our faith come to this school because they know that at its heart there is the acceptance of values motivated by our faith – values that present a specific vision or view of human life. We should expect our schools to be different,” said the cardinal. Catholic Schools exist because they offer a community that accepts values, recognizes the importance of virtue, and attempts to model what a caring and faithful society would be like, he continued.

“In reality, Catholic schools are a gift to the whole community and are recognized as centers of learning that foster personal development and growth enriched with a sense of self-fulfillment and worth and guided by basic and essential moral values,” said Cardinal Wuerl.

Cardinal Wuerl concluded his homily by encouraging all to look at the future of Catholic education with hope, confidence and enthusiasm because Catholic schools bring lessons to students that no one else can. “We share the story of Jesus,” he concluded his homily. “Like Mary, who brought the light of Christ into the world by her faith filled response, ‘Let it be done to me according to your Word,’ so, too, do all of us offer the same faith filled answer, and do our part to share the light.  May God bless you and all who support Catholic education in the effort to make the Church’s vision of life come true.”

Following the Mass, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Mr. William H. Ryan announced the names of the teachers and principals celebrating more than 25 years of service, as well as the schools marking significant anniversaries. They were brought forward to be recognized and congratulated by the cardinal. 

There are 95 early learning, elementary and secondary Catholic schools serving almost 27,000 students in the District of Columbia and Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties in Maryland. 

Below is a list of schools marking special anniversaries this year, followed by the list of Catholic school educators commemorating significant years of service with the schools in the Archdiocese of Washington.

60 years                       Holy Family School, Hillcrest Heights, Md.
60 years                       St. Jude Regional School, Rockville, Md.
60 years                       St. Peter School, Waldorf, Md.
65 years                       St. Ambrose School, Cheverly, Md.
85 years                       Holy Redeemer School, College Park, Md.
95 years                       St. Anthony School, Washington, D.C.
95 years                       St. Vincent Pallotti High School, Laurel, Md.


25 years

Jean Allman                            St. Pius X Regional School (Bowie)
Margaret Cavanaugh              St. Pius X Regional School (Bowie)
Christina Harrington               Holy Redeemer School (College Park)
Henry  Herrera                        St. Francis International School (Silver Spring & Hyatsville)
Doreen May                            St. John the Baptist Catholic School (Silver Spring)
Kathleen Pfaff                        St. Mary’s of Piscataway School (Clinton)
Elizabeth A. Smith                  St. Bernadette School (Silver Spring)
Patricia Stallsmith                   Our Lady of Lourdes (Bethesda)
Theresa Taylor                         St. John’s Hollywood (Hollywood) 

30 years

Christine Brant                        St. Mary of the Mills School (Laurel)
Virginia Lee Cooper               St. Bernadette School (Silver Spring)
Debra Corradini                      St. Pius X Regional School (Bowie)
Louisa Dwyer                         St. Jerome Academy (Hyatsville)
Eric Heller                               St. Jerome Academy (Hyatsville)
Bernadette Humphreys           St. Pius X Regional School (Bowie)
Barbara Skane                         St. John’s Hollywood (Hollywood)
Marjorie Sparks                       St. Pius X Regional School (Bowie) 

35 years

Dionicio Abril                         St. Elizabeth School (Rockville)
Maryanne Hellender               Little Flower School Bethesda (Bethesda)
Suzie Ritz                                St. Jerome Academy (Hyatsville)
Cathy  Spencer                       Catholic Schools Office (Hyatsville)

45 years

Emilie  Shipman                      St. Vincent Pallotti High School (Lauren)

60 years

Sr. Regina Smith, SSJ             Holy Trinity School (Washington, D.C.)


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 94 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi or Lindsey Frechou
[email protected]