Catholic Schools Start Year with Opening Mass and Awards

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 2017-2018 school year with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington. Start dates for the Catholic schools throughout the archdiocese vary from school to school but the Mass at the basilica provides an opportunity for the educators in the archdiocese to gather and pray together as the school year begins.

“How appropriate that in God’s Providential Plan, this new academic year begins as the Church calls us to commemorate Saint Augustine,” said Cardinal Wuerl, and noted today’s feast day of Saint Augustine as he began his homily. “There are few saints as well known and as influential in the life of the Church as the Bishop of Hippo, Saint Augustine. His ministry as a pastor of souls and a teacher has set a high watermark for all of us who try to follow in the calling to ministry as a teacher of the faith,” he said.

When Saint Augustine was bishop of Hippo, it was a moment of transition when the old order of the Roman world centered in the power of the Roman Emperor was changing, and new culture, values and society were emerging, said the cardinal. “There is a sense in which that can be said of us today,” he continued, and cited that long-cherished values such as marriage, family, the recognition of right and wrong and a sense of common good is being challenged, and in some cases, overwhelmed by a wave of secularism today.

“However, we can take great consolation in knowing that the message of Augustine, even though the secular order dramatically changed, continued to prevail. The Gospel continued to touch human hearts, convert human minds and begin, all over again, the renewal of human culture and society,” he continued. Each year in gathering for this Mass to commemorate the opening of Catholic schools, the cardinal said, we are profoundly aware that we are called to missionary evangelizing discipleship. He cited the convocation of Catholic leaders held earlier this year in Orlando that focused on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), and how the gathering was a moment of grassroots reception and embracing of the message of Pope Francis.

The cardinal called on the educators present to make the exhortation the foundational piece of their missionary discipleship and ministry, summed up by the Holy Father as: go out, encounter, engage, and accompany. “May this Mass mark not only the beginning of a new academic and pastoral year for us but a renewal of our own commitment to be those witnesses to the Lord Jesus that those entrusted to our care so much need to experience and that we renew in our hearts and for our students an understanding of the joy of the Gospel,” the cardinal said as he concluded his homily.

In his decade as archbishop, Cardinal Wuerl has made the New Evangelization the key theme. A crucial part of the New Evangelization is having disciples who strive to live out in everyday life the Gospel message, despite the challenges of today’s culture. From calling together the archdiocese’s first synod in 2014 and continuously furthering the implementation of the policies that resulted from it, to his pastoral letter on Catholic identity, Being Catholic Today, the cardinal encourages all archdiocesan employees to boldly live out their Catholic identity as Christ’s evangelizing disciples. After the homily, the educators from the Catholic schools gathered at the basilica, both Catholic and non-Catholic, were commissioned.

Following the Mass, the schools marking milestone anniversaries and the teachers and principals celebrating more than 25 years of service were announced. There are 93 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                                   St. Thomas More School (Washington, D.C.)

60 years                                   St. Peter School (Olney)

70 years                                   St. Bernadette School (Silver Spring)

75 years                                   St. Anselm’s Abbey School (Washington, D.C.)

90 years                                   Archbishop Neale School (La Plata)

130 years                                 Little Flower School (Great Mills)

150 years                                 Academy of the Holy Cross (Kensington)



25 years

Marguerite Conley Consortium of Catholic Academies (Washington, D.C.)

Delores Grymes                       St. Augustine School (Washington, D.C.)

Lorelei Matics                          St. Ambrose School (Cheverly)

Sr. Helen McCulloch, RSCJ      Archbishop Carroll High School (Washington, D.C.)

Mary McMahon                       St. Elizabeth School (Rockville)

Barbara Stirling                        Little Flower (Great Mills)

30 years

Sr. Gloria Agymagu, HHCJ      St. Augustine School (Washington, D.C.)

Tom Arnold                             Our Lady of Good Counsel High School (Olney)

Renee Duckworth                    St. Vincent Pallotti High School (Laurel)

Cindy Flores                            St. Columba School (Oxon Hill)

Annamaria J. Zimmerman        St. Martin of Tours School (Gaithersburg)

35 years

Steve Bartl                               St. Bartholomew School (Bethesda)

Jennifer Blaine                         St. Ambrose School (Cheverly)

Laura Galbreath                       St. Columba School (Oxon Hill)

Joseph Liekweg                       Holy Redeemer School (Kensington)

40 years

Mary Lou Coughlin                 Our Lady of Mercy School (Potomac)

Mary Anne O’Donnell Our Lady of Mercy School (Potomac)

Richard Seel                             Our Lady of Good Counsel High School (Olney)

Patrick Sharp                           Our Lady of Mercy School (Potomac)