100 Words

Bill Crittenberger"100 Words" serves as a self-framing for me to keep things short and sweet, an homage paid and recognition to an expression I hold near and dear: less is more. Each of these reflection pieces lands quite close to the 100-word mark and provides me an avenue through which to share with you, the O'Connell community, a reflection from week to week on any number of my thoughts, observations, opinions, takeaways, musings etc.—falling within the realm, and in no patterned way whatsoever (trust me), of the prosaic to the lyrical, the informational to the aspirational, the serious to the whimsical, the arcane to the profound, the secular to the spiritual...you get the picture.

My goal and hope is for you to get to know me as I get to know you, the members of the Bishop Denis J. O’Connell community, and all I ask from you is that you take less than a minute each week to read (more or less) 100 words. God’s Peace.



High school reunions. I attended my 45-year class reunion (Langley High School ‘77) earlier this summer, and had a lovely time—and with ample time in the run up and in the aftermath spent thinking about those formative years—whether reminiscing, assessing self-happiness, thinking about where and how my life has gone since then, etc.—I’m pleased to report that all in all I think very fondly of those years, as not only were they happy, they also helped form me, providing as they did, a solid pathway to enter life as a young adult in an engaged, prepared, and forward-leaning fashion. While all of that is true, my amazing parents were my first and most important teachers and my home, and my wonderful siblings, my truest school, and schoolmates. How lucky and blessed I am for that extraordinary reality, and what a difference it has made—all of this a gift and a blessing from our Heavenly Father. Several classes of O'Connell grads gathered for milestone anniversaries this past weekend. The first two graduating classes (1961 and 1962) had a combined reunion to celebrate 60 years since their graduation, and the Class of 1972, their 50th anniversary. Each group spent a nice chunk of their very full weekend here on campus—‘61/‘62 on Saturday afternoon, where they were toured brilliantly by their classmate (and long-time O'Connell theology teacher), Dennis Dwyer, while ‘72 gathered Sunday morning for Mass in our stunning IHM Chapel followed by light breakfast fare, great conversation, and a wonderful tour of the school by their classmate, Doug Gehley, an architect specializing in school design and a long-time member of the school's Board of Governors, and the chair of its Facilities and Infrastructure Committee. My thanks to both of you gentlemen, Dennis and Doug, and to the close to one hundred members of your classes who returned to their alma mater, shared stories and reminisced about what all those years ago meant to them today. While time, as always it does, marches on, it was evident that the core characteristics of what makes up a DJO graduate—whether five or six decades ago, or now—remain in place: joyfulness, positivity, good humor, inquisitiveness, interest in community and the well-being of others, and an overarching humility stemming from the presence and grace of God in one’s life and in seeing Christ in others. 

Note: 14,039 hearty cans of soup were collected over the past two weeks, and were donated earlier today to Catholic Charities; kudos to all, but in particular to the senior class, who, in leading by example, collected 47 percent of the aforementioned 14K+!

I tip my cap

Unless you’re a fairly devoted Washington Nationals fan (which I am), odds are good that you’ve never heard of Joey Meneses. Joey, a 30-year old first baseman/outfielder, was called up to the bigs in late July for the first time in his career, having toiled previously for over a decade in the minors. From Joey’s 34-game sample size (which I recognize is super small, and thusly not necessarily predictive), it’s impossible not to recognize him for having played lights out baseball over the past six weeks, sporting a .905 OPS (a mark comparable to the career marks of two active players who are both surefire future Hall of Famers—Miguel Cabrera, career OPS of .909, and Freddie Freeman, career .900). With a .326 batting average and having hit 8 home runs in his first 144 at bats, Joey Meneses is hands down the Nationals' number one feel good story of the season. I tip my cap to you, Joey, for the remarkable, perhaps even unprecedented, manner in which you have grabbed opportunity when it came a-knocking. I wish you well in finishing up the season’s 20 remaining games in a manner similar to your performance over the first 34. It’ll be fun to watch your progress in the coming year, as your steady excellence over this most recent one-fifth of the season has to have made a staggering impression on team management. Kudos to you, and good luck in movIng forward. My three takeaways (and advice to myself) from Joey’s stunning and really fun to watch run: 1) keep grinding, stay prepared, and don’t be discouraged, as you never know when you’ll get your shot; 2) don’t look past or underestimate those who are right there in front of you—as the bird in the hand may in fact be worth two (or more) in the bush; and 3) provide every person in your care or in your charge a legitimate chance and a framing in which to excel. Metrics are one thing—and are typically of value—but metrics can’t measure a person’s heart or his/her capacity to function admirably and gracefully under pressure. Every day is a gift given to us by God and every day is a day in which we—or that other person—may succeed like never before, as God our Father wants us to shine. 

Pep Rally Reflections

A week ago yesterday (Wednesday, the 31st), the entire school gathered in the gym for our opening (fall) Pep Rally, kicking off the ‘22-‘23 school year in a manner that saw the four grades assemble for a raucous, high volume competition, each assigned to one of four quadrants in the gym and each decked out in a designated color—and in so doing proudly sporting the most disparate array O’Connell gear/merch imaginable. Faculty/staff cheered at the far end of the gym, taking it all in and rooting like mad for the student participants confident enough to volunteer to represent their class in events such as the 2 v. 2 volleyball; the relay race; the 8 v. 8 tug of war; the football toss at the fixed target; the soccer PKs; or the up-and-back field hockey juggling. Faculty members took a turn as well, playing musical chairs—as teachers and administrators (yours truly included) were selected by the kids to represent their class (my apologies, seniors: I know I let you down with my performance—please know that I gave it my best). Athletic Director Joe Wootten, with enviable passion and great control, ran the show, world class ringmaster that he is, and was aided capably by numerous high-energy, high-positivity student-leaders from the various grades. The cheerleaders and Royalettes did their thing—brilliantly, per usual—each displaying mid-season form, crispness, synchronicity, and athleticism. It was a fabulously memorable hour-plus together, and talk about the building of community! While O’Connell certainly and commendably has cobbled together pep rallies in as good a fashion as possible these past two Covid-marked years, last week’s version was wonderfully different, and wonderfully better, the shrieks deafening, the competition scintillating, and the participation wild and infectious. The seniors won the Pep Rally fair and square, which felt right, perhaps as it should be, and it was a great day to be a Knight—which I have come to see now in my own “junior year” at DJO seems to be pretty much the case every day at Bishop O’Connell.