100 Words

Bill CrittenbergerFrom our Head of School, Mr. Bill Crittenberger:

"100 Words" (which, in actual fact, is rarely less than 300 words in length) provides me an enjoyable weekly platform by which to communicate to the school community on numerous topic areas–reflections from week to week on my thoughts, observations, opinions, takeaways, musings, etc. that fall 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 aspiration is for you, my reader, to get to know me as I continue to get to know the Bishop O'Connell community, and all I ask from you is that you take a couple minutes every week to read and mull over my (more or less) 300 words.

God’s Peace.


Dr. Stabile

I continue to be on cloud nine thinking about last week’s assembly and how well the large group of O’Connell students, led by their irrepressible faculty moderator, Ms. Gipson, delivered a beautiful and affirming tapestry of tribute to African American culture, history, presence, and story. As always, I am proud of the remarkable young people who are at the heart of this Christ-centered school, and I continue to be ever hopeful that the world that our youngsters are growing up in will be shaped by a light and a love that the incomparable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about those many years ago: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Did you know that in 1963 our very own Dr. Daniel Stabile, a then 19-year-old student at Troy State University in Alabama, met and spoke briefly with Dr. King, having come upon this life-defining encounter while Dr. King was preparing to lead thousands of peaceful protesters in Birmingham. Dr. King asked a young Dan Stabile what his aspiration were, to which he replied: “to become a teacher.” At my request, Dr. Stabile kindly has shared with me Dr. King’s reaction to that response, which to the best of his recollection went like this: “You will be working with the most important natural resources we have, the minds of our children. If you are going to be a good teacher, you need to look into the eyes of each student you come in contact with, regardless of race, creed, or color and inspire them on the importance of education. Let no man, woman, or institution ever obstruct you from accomplishing your objectives and dreams. If you do that, you will be a good teacher.” In taking this to heart, Dr. Stabile, during the long arc of his amazingly impactful career as an educator and an educational leader has approached all that he has done, and continues to do, with Dr. King’s words as his centerpiece and focus, making a very real difference in the lives he touches. 

Always a great day to be a Knight!

Our Admissions Office sent out “You’ve Been Knighted” acceptance packets to hundreds of deserving 8th grade applicants late last week. Between then and March 8, the notification deadline, O’Connell will be hosting (among others) a Preview Knight (2/29) and a Mass and Breakfast for newly accepted families (3/2) to provide additional information and insight opportunities for those youngsters and their families to make the right and the very best high school decision, that of Denis J. O’Connell. Likely there are other solid matriculation options that they are reviewing, but Bishop O’Connell’s vast array of opportunities under the enormous “DJO Experience” umbrella is unmatched in the DMV. Take for example today’s highly informative, powerfully uplifting, and beautifully orchestrated African American Heritage Assembly (one of the three heritage assemblies that we have on our annual calendar—the others being Hispanic Heritage in autumn and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage later this spring), virtually all of which had been created and brought to life by student leaders (and a fabulous faculty moderator). Another core example of who and what Bishop O’Connell is about took place yesterday at the Virginia State “March for Life,” held in Richmond. A large contingent of students and adult moderators, led by our incomparable chaplain, Father McShurley, answered Bishop Burbidge’s call for O’Connell to serve as the lead Catholic school at the Rally, which our group did with dignity and a confidence borne from knowing that they were doing the Lord’s work. Truly, the Christ-centric unity and prioritizing of the dignity of human life that stands at the heart of the March stands as well at the heart of Bishop O’Connell. So, yes, while we offer a world class program of studies here, an unparalleled Campus Ministry and retreat program, membership in arguably the finest athletic conference in the country, and a fine arts program marked by excellence, talented teachers, and a wide array of programmatic offerings—what Bishop O’Connell is all about at the end of the day, is a community where we love and care for one another, see Christ in the other person, and live our lives with the singular hope of one day being home, completely at peace, and in the loving and eternal embrace of our Heavenly Father. Please talk up all that you know can be captured by and gained from the Bishop O’Connell experience with anyone whose son or daughter was accepted this past week, noting to them with a sparkle in your eye that every day is a great day to be a Knight.

Power Up for Superdance!

I met an engaging gentleman from O’Connell’s class of ‘77 at a work function earlier this week, and in our enjoyable exchange naturally I brought up Superdance—as his era had kicked off this unique and remarkable tradition. I shared with him that this past Friday the entire school had gathered for the Superdance Assembly, revealing this year’s theme of Super Mario—Power Up to the Cure. I suggested to this gentleman, only somewhat tongue in cheek, that the world’s energy concerns would instantaneously disappear if there were a way to capture the energy expended by O’Connell’s all-in student body in powering up all that’s at the heart of this mega-watt event—that of eradicating, hopefully someday soon, cystic fibrosis (CF). Naturally I was interested in his high school memories about the origins of Superdance, which unsurprisingly he said centered on the amazingly strong O’Donnell family and the vision and unyielding commitment of then-principal Father McMurtrie. That today’s median life expectancy for an infant born with CF is 56 years old is not only amazing and uplifting but also inspiringly demanding of us as fundraisers never to relent until that time when eradication becomes a reality. O’Connell passed the $5 million funds-raised mark last spring, which simply means that this 49th Superdance marks the start of a new chapter in raising another $5 million. Won’t you please help? This is not about our O’Connell’s students alone, but also about us, you and me, and this larger community that takes pride in being a place renowned for its sense of family. In my closing remarks at the assembly I challenged our students—every one of them—not to sit on the sidelines but instead to get involved, and to truly own the opportunity to serve the CF community in a beautiful display of encounter by reaching out to friends, loved ones, and others in their lives who are but a click or two away, electronically, in asking for financial support for this remarkable and ever inspiring cause. Having called on myself not to sit on the sideline and to lead by example, during the hour immediately following the end of the assembly, I texted my friends, family, and other loved ones the following link: www.bishopoconnell.org/superdance, while providing them a sentence or two of context—and…ping, ping, ping…over the course of the next few hours I got back a significant handful of “heck yes!” responses, totaling, to this point in time days later to nearly $1,000 in donations. The plaque hanging prominently in our main hallway chronicles the moneys raised for CF every single year since 1976; the following quote about the O’Donnell family also resides on the plaque: “Their memory will always be cherished and their love never forgotten.” Let’s go, DJO! We are made for greatness, made for more, and, yes, we’re better together.