As Catholic school teachers from throughout the Archdiocese of Washington’s Catholic schools gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington for the Opening of Schools Mass on Aug. 26, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory encouraged the teachers, administrators and students to turn to the Holy Spirit at the beginning of this new school year. 

“We pray for His gifts of wisdom and courage,” Archbishop Gregory said in his homily. “We also seek His assistance as we continue to discover the meaning and purpose of our Catholic faith and applying all the lessons discovered in our books and classrooms and on our electronic devices in ways that we live in union with the Lord, with one another, and with people everywhere.”

The annual Mass sponsored by the Catholic Schools Office of the Archdiocese of Washington brought together members from the 93  Catholic schools in the archdiocese to open the school year in prayer led by the archbishop. 

William Ryan, Secretary for Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, called on teachers and administrators to take a moment of reflection before the school year begins to contemplate ways to build strong relationships with students' families this school year. 

“It is important to recognize and appreciate that our success depends a great deal on this partnership,” Ryan said. 

He continued to encourage teachers and administrators to take family participation beyond parent-teacher conferences to a partnership that extends to faith formation in both the home and the classroom.

“Pope Francis reminds us that the family makes the basic unit of society and the first school in which children are given human, spiritual, moral values in which they are guided to be a beacon of goodness, integrity and justice in our communities,” Ryan said. “Together with our families we support our students in developing a close relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Teachers pray at the Opening of Schools Mass, a gathering of teachers, administrators and students before the beginning of the school year. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj) 

Several schools were also recognized for significant anniversaries that will be celebrated this upcoming year. Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, Maryland will celebrate its 60th anniversary this school year, alongside Our Lady of Mercy School in Potomac, Maryland, which was also acknowledged for its 60th year. Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington celebrates its 220th year this year, and Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, Maryland will celebrate its 230th year of Catholic education. 

Sister Dorothy Lyons, a Daughter of Charity who is the librarian at Elizabeth Seton High School, was recognized for her 65 years of service in Catholic education. 

“It has been such an inspiration (to work in Catholic schools) because of what it gives to students, faculty and parents,” she said. 

LaSandra Hayes, principal of St. Mary’s School in Landover Hills, Maryland, said she is “triply” excited for this upcoming school year, and the opportunity to once again bring faith, knowledge, and service into the classrooms. 

“I’m very grateful to Archbishop Gregory,” Hayes said. “We not only hear that (excitement) from him, but we feel that and see that.” 

Laura Machovec, a second grade teacher at St. Mary's School in Landover Hills, was honored by the archdiocese for her 30 years in Catholic education. This will be her second year at St. Mary’s. When asked about the depth of her experience in Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Washington, she simply responded, “all glory to God.” 

“I still get excited as if it was my first year,” Machovec said, noting that she is grateful for the “so many gifted people in the school” that she gets to work with on a daily basis. 

For many teachers, Catholic education is a “calling and a blessing,” as Emily Kogut, a first grade teacher at St. Mary’s, said. 

“We get to teach students that are already scholars,” Leisel Lashley, religion and math teacher at St. Mary’s, said. “We see God work through them.” 

Sister Dorothy Lyons of Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, who is marking her 65th year in Catholic education, was congratulated at the Opening of Schools Mass by Archbishop Gregory and William Ryan, the Secretary of Catholic Education for the Archdiocese of Washington. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)