In a prelude celebration of Catholic Schools Week with Catholic schools in St. Mary’s County, Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory shared sentiments of gratitude for the vibrant and faith-filled school communities at a Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Lexington, Park, on Jan. 22.

“It is good for us to be here, especially as we celebrate Catholic Schools Week,” the archbishop said. “All this week we will be giving thanks to God for the blessings our Catholic schools provide for the whole Church.”

More than 500 students representing six St. Mary’s County Catholic schools were in attendance at the Mass: Father Andrew White, S.J. School in Leonardtown; Little Flower School in Great Mills; St. John School in Hollywood; St. Michael School in Ridge; Mother Catherine Academy in Mechanicsville; and the choir from St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown.

“As we gather this morning, we celebrate most of the great gift of our faith, and praise God for all his blessings,” Father Marco Schad, pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary, said. “... Sometimes our schools are rivals at sports and other competitions, but it’s wonderful to gather as a community and family of faith.”

Father Schad was joined by many of his brother priests from parishes in St. Mary’s County who concelebrated the Mass with Archbishop Gregory. 

Archbishop Wilton Gregory blesses a student from a St. Mary's County Catholic school at an all-county Mass in celebration of Catholic Schools Week. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj) 

The day’s first reading from the first Book of Samuel, which told the story of David’s battle with the Philistine, Goliath, offered inspiration for Archbishop Gregory’s homily. 

“The Goliath that David had to confront stands for all the Goliaths we have to confront,” he said.  “Sometimes there are things and occasions and opportunities that seem so attractive, like being disobedient, or not telling the truth, or maybe even using substances that are harmful. There are Goliaths in all of our lives, and like David, we have to confront them.

“But also like David, if we have trust in God, we can overcome and accomplish and overwhelm all of the Goliath we will ever face,” Archbishop Gregory said. 

Christina Mendez, assistant superintendent for Catholic identity and accreditation from the Catholic Schools Office of the Archdiocese of Washington, brought greetings to those in attendance from the Catholic Schools Office, noting the strong academics of the schools in St. Mary’s County, as well as the faith of the school communities. 

“In particular your Catholic identity, which is obviously on display right here,” she said. “The fact that your leadership would bring all of you together for a Mass demonstrates a unity we find in community.” 

As the schools prepare to celebrate Catholic Schools Week, which will officially begin on Jan. 26, middle school students at Father Andrew White, S.J., School who were in attendance at the Mass shared that one of their favorite parts of their Catholic education was their daily religion class taught by Deacon Joe Vavrus. 

“I like how our teachers are so hard working and do whatever is best for their students,” seventh-grader Evan Greer said. 

Shileta Weems, a middle school language arts teacher at Father Andrew White, S.J. School, shared that she cherished how the school professes its Catholic faith every day. 

“I love the culture,” she said. “You really do see what you get... and you see the Lord.”