During opening school Mass, Good Counsel celebrates 60 years of Xaverian education
Sept. 10, 2018
During a Sept. 7 Mass celebrating the 60th anniversary of the school, the Our Lady of Good Counsel community gathered to celebrate how far the school has come, and also how much it has stayed the same.
The Xaverian Brothers established Our Lady of Good Counsel in 1958 at its original campus in Wheaton. The school became co-educational in 1988 and moved to its current location in Olney in 2007.
In the midst of all of this change, the school has stayed true to its Xaverian values, even though there is currently only one Xaverian brother still on staff. At the conclusion of the Sept. 7 Mass, the students joined together in singing the “Xaverian Values Song,” which begins, “It’s all about simplicity, humility, compassion, zeal and trust: we must remember God has a plan for us.”
Those values were evident in the homily given by Father Kevin Fields, a 2004 graduate of the school who was just ordained to the priesthood in June, and now serves as parochial vicar for St. Mary’s Parish in Rockville.
Father Fields noted that four of his Good Counsel classmates are now teachers at the school – Laura Fess, who now teaches social studies; Maria Nichols, the director of admissions; Tim Park, who coaches baseball; and Sarah Bechtol Saar, the science department chair.
Fifteen years ago, when they were all sitting in the same seats as the current students for the opening Mass of the year, “none of us would have predicted where we would be,” said Father Fields, adding, “but the five of us could agree that God has led us to our calling, our vocation.”
Father Fields said he could recall examples of those classmates’ charity while they were students there, and encouraged the students to “let the Holy Spirit transform us to love as God loves us.”
This would look different in each of the students’ lives, he said, because “true love and charity take different forms depending on the needs and talents of each of us.”
But regardless of how it looks, “each time we will the good of others, we bring people closer to God and to our faith in God,” he said.
Father Fields was the 19th Good Counsel alumna to be ordained and the 11th to be ordained in the Archdiocese of Washington. Father Fields and seven other alumni priests joined Franciscan Father Thomas Lavin, the school’s chaplain, in celebrating the Mass. They included Father Mark Smith, the pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in College Park; Father James Boccabella, the pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Silver Spring; Father Patrick Lewis, the parochial vicar of Little Flower Parish in Bethesda; and Father Kevin O’Reilly, the pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Barnesville.
“These Falcons heard God’s call to serve his Church,” said principal Tom Campbell. “They are the embodiment of the loving, good person making a difference in the world.”
Good Counsel also welcomed back several other esteemed members of their community, whom Campbell called “some of the giants on whose shoulders we stand today.” They included Good Counsel’s longest serving president, Art Raimo, and several of the school’s past principals.
The school’s current president, Paul Barker, encouraged the community to think about the school’s 60th anniversary in terms of the game of darts, where throwing a perfect score of 60 requires “a steady hand, a keen eye, and true aim.”
Throughout the school’s history, the leadership has demonstrated a “steady hand” through some difficult times, a “keen eye” in the decisions to let in girls and move to the Olney campus, and “true aim” in recognizing that what sets the school apart is its faithfulness to the style of education handed down by the Xaverian brothers, said Barker.
Following the Mass, special guests that included alumni, current and former teachers, and parents gathered for a brunch where they could look through old yearbooks that were placed on various tables. One of those alumni, Richard Urban, recalled how tuition at the school used to only be 250 dollars a year.
“A lot has changed, but a lot hasn’t changed in terms of values,” said Urban, who is a member of the school’s original class of 1962.
Xaverian Brother Michael McCarthy, another member of Good Counsel’s very first class, said it was his experience of the brothers who ran the school that inspired his own vocation.
“[It was] the care they had for us, their professionalism…the dedication to their vocation of connecting youth, education and God,” he said. “That is what I wanted to do.”
In seeing how far the school has come in the past 60 years, Brother McCarthy said, “I am filled with awe of what God can do when we cooperate with the Spirit.”
Rather than being disappointed at the fact that only one brother now teaches at the school, Brother McCarthy said it shows how “we Xaverians know when to let go and empower others.”
He noted that he is particularly proud of the Xaverian Brothers Sponsorship Program, which is a network of schools that share the the Xaverian mission and governance style.
“It has enabled schools like Good Counsel to continue to flourish in the Xaverian charism, whether a brother is there or not,” said Brother McCarthy.
Daniel Thorpe, a member of the class of 1986, recalled how a lot of the community service that he still does today is a result of the values he was taught during his time at Good Counsel. Now, he is sending two of his own children to the school because, “I wanted to really instill that in my children.”
Richard Burns taught Thorpe when he was a student, and is still a social studies teacher at the school. He has been teaching there for 40 years, and said he has seen the school grow in many different ways.
When he first began teaching at the school, all of the students lived within 10 miles of the school, were all men, mostly white and about 95 percent Catholic. Now, there are students there who are from countries around the world, and the school has expanded to include many different programs. He called it “the big tent,” because “we try to have something here for everybody.”
Art Raimo, who was the president of Good Counsel during the school’s move to Olney, said he has enjoyed seeing the school blossom into a multi-generational community.
“Good Counsel has a very special place in my heart,” said Raimo, who is now the president of the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa, Florida. “…I look around this room and I see people I know, guys I taught in the ‘70s; guys who graduated and sent their kids here…I always enjoyed welcoming children of men I taught when they were boys.”
In a reflection at the conclusion of the Mass, senior Jake Taylor summed up what he thought was most important about being a Good Counsel Falcon.
“The Good Counsel community is filled with faculty, alumni and students who all want the best for each other,” he said, adding that through all the accomplishments that the school has had in the past 60 years, “no accomplishment is as distinguished as the strong community.”
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