THOUGHTS FROM OUR HEAD OF SCHOOL, JOSEPH VORBACH:
On Monday, our nation remembered Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose life, example and words had a transforming effect on the Civil Rights Movement. His legacy continues to inspire our collective efforts to "...hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." A quick search for inspirational words from Dr. King leads one to a sea of quotations at times very simple, but profound. One that caught my eye immediately was:
Life's most persistent and urgent question is 'What are you doing for others?'
On Tuesday, the faculty and staff gathered in retreat at Our Lady of Good Counsel parish in Vienna where Father Fred Edlefsen, the pastor at Saint Agnes in Arlington, offered a reflection on the concept of "accompaniment," drawing upon the words and actions of Pope Francis. He encouraged us to consider our role as an "accompanist" in our interactions with loved ones, friends, peers and students—defining an accompanist as someone who prays and listens attentively for the Holy Spirit's prompting to gently inspire the "right words" at the "right time" that may bring healing and new life to another.
Yesterday, it was my privilege to participate in an "in-school" field trip—a Founding Fathers Symposium—organized by our AP U.S. History teachers, Errika Durdle and Jim Shirey. Students prepared for this event by reading one of three biographies (David McCullough's John Adams, Jon Meacham's book on Jefferson "The Art of Power", and Ron Chernow's work on Alexander Hamilton). As part of the morning panel discussion, I was able to witness a thoughtful discussion on leadership qualities and accomplishments of these founding fathers, and a challenging discourse on the complexities of their legacies, particularly in the case of Jefferson regarding the question of slavery.
As I write this today, a large contingent of our students and faculty are participating in the Rally for Life at George Mason University followed by the annual March for Life in downtown Washington, D.C. They went forth today inspired by the words of Pope Francis who reminds us that "all life has inestimable value. Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God's creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect." This morning they heard our Bishop Burbidge reinforce that point when he said, "Each and every day, the unborn and unprotected are crying out for our help...How blessed and privileged we are today to go forth in His name." Our students are accompanied today, as they are every year, by a contingent of our faculty and staff whose witness is a powerful part of the experience.
Dr. King challenged us as a nation to look closely at ourselves in the mirror and ask questions about whether we were living up to our nation's ideals. When we think about the urgent question he posed, we can consider how we are doing when we are called upon to accompany others...either to help them through a struggle or to support and all of these experiences. The discussion with Father Edlefsen reminded us of our responsibilities when we are called to accompany another. The AP history panel highlighted for me the responsibility we bear as educators, particularly as we are helping students develop their critical thinking for confronting challenging issues. Today's March for Life draws us back to what our faith teaches us about the dignity of all human life and the blessing of living in a country where we are free to assemble peaceably to advocate for policies we believe in.