The community of St. Raphael School, Rockville, continued its celebration for winning the prestigious National Blue Ribbon Schools award by welcoming students’ grandparents for a special Mass, reception and classroom visits one day after the Sept. 26 announcement came from the U.S. Department of Education.

“We are here to celebrate so many things today – grandparents who have gathered in such great numbers, to praise God and thank God for the awarding of the Blue Ribbon,” said Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory just prior to the start of Mass.

St. Raphael School, one of 362 schools nationwide chosen for the honor, was among three other Catholic archdiocesan elementary schools also named as 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools. Blessed Sacrament School in Washington, D.C.; St. Joseph’s Regional Catholic School in Beltsville; and St. Peter School on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. were also named as Blue Ribbon Schools for this year.

In his first visit to St. Raphael Parish and School, Archbishop Gregory first praised the grandparents for their steadfast love and care of their families. He went on to offer his congratulations to the administration, faculty and students for their hard work and dedication that went into receiving the Blue Ribbon.

“This wonderful Catholic education helps shape and form young people in generous and creative ways – and you do it better than most schools. Four (schools) in the Archdiocese of Washington stand out as doing it right, doing it well and doing it generously,” the archbishop said. “To the parents, grandparents of your students, teachers, staff and students – congratulations!

He also encouraged the students to look to St. Vincent de Paul, on whose feast day (Sept. 27) the Mass was being celebrated, and St. Louise de Marillac as examples of answering God’s call to religious life and faithful service to the poor. “Here at St. Raphael you might hear the same grace as they did and give lives as sisters or priests and respond to that voice, ‘I must do something for the poor,’” Archbishop Gregory said.

Sandra Schuler kisses her granddaughter, third grader Kelsey deKowzan, during Grandparents’ Day on Sept. 27 at St. Raphael School in Rockville. Archbishop Wilton Gregory celebrated a Mass for the families in St. Raphael Church, congratulating them on the school being named a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School. Afterward, grandparents attended a reception and visited classrooms. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

At the conclusion of the Mass, Teri Dwyer, St. Raphael’s principal, thanked Archbishop Gregory and the grandparents for being a part of the school’s celebration. “I couldn’t think of a better day to have you,” she said.

To the grandparents, she said, “Thank you for sharing your faith by your words, by your actions and by your lives. You planted seeds of faith in your children. Your children have taken your faith, the faith of our fathers, and passed it to a new generation. Thank you for building the Body of Christ...Thank you for the gift of the most precious children sitting next to you.”

The families participating in the Sept. 27 Grandparents' Day Mass for St. Raphael School in Rockville, Maryland, included, from left to right, seventh grader Caitlin Woodward and her grandmother, Michele Tate, and her mother, Stacey Woodward. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Before the final blessing, Archbishop Gregory reminded the congregation that Jesus too had grandparents, Saints Anne and Joachim. “We don’t know much about them, but they must have been terribly proud of their grandson and may have even spoiled Him!” the archbishop said.

After the Mass, grandparents and their grandchildren proceeded to the school building, where they posed for family photographs, spent time in the classrooms and greeted teachers and staff. Bright blue ribbons adorned campus trees and blue confetti could still be seen scattered in the school’s courtyard from the surprise announcement of the national honor a day earlier.

“We couldn’t be more impressed with the teachers and principal. We see how happy our grandkids are since they started here. We feel the love,” said Mimi Nogales, who along with her husband, Hector, are the grandparents of a St. Raphael’s second and fourth grader. “And we are so happy for their Blue Ribbon.”

During the Grandparents' Day Mass at St. Raphael Church, Archbishop Gregory gives Communion to Megan Partridge, a third grader at St. Raphael School. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)