What We’ve Heard

What We’ve Heard

What have you heard? The CV welcomes hearing about awards, honors, achievements, accomplishments and good works related to the Catholic community. Put “What we’ve heard” in the subject line and email your item to acarneal@catholicvirginian.org. Include your name and phone number in case we need to follow up. Information cannot be taken over the phone.

August 26, 2019

Congratulations: Caroline Murphy, a 2019 graduate of Blessed Sacrament Huguenot Catholic School, was the recipient of the Knights Honor Scholarship award presented by the Uknighted Board of Blessed Sacrament. The award is given to a student who exemplifies commitment, service, and leadership during their time as a student at the school.

Formed in the faith: Last month Tony Ganser, Andrew Michalak, Marco Paras and Abby Truax, members St. Mark Parish, Virginia Beach, participated in the “One Bread, One Cup” liturgical leadership conference for high school students at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana. It was an opportunity to examine their faith through immersive participation in the Liturgy of the Hours, Lectio Divina and daily Mass, as well as theological reflection. Each could choose formation in a number of areas such as liturgical arts, proclamation of the word, stewardship, hospitality and others. 


July 29, 2019

Honored: The Social Action Center of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Newport News, and its director of social ministry, Brenda Orie, were honored by the Newport News Department of Human Services as Holiday Sponsor of the Year this spring. The Social Action Center provides holiday food baskets and an annual Christmas party with giveaways, food and entertainment for the community. Since 2010, the center has provided support to nearly 500 families and 120 senior citizens.

Lesson in heroism: Retired Brigadier General “Jack” Nicholson gave the “We Need a Hero” presentation on Captain Humberto “Rocky” Versace to the students of the Veritas Preparatory School. A graduate of Norfolk Catholic High School and West Point, “Rocky,” who was deeply religious and a fervent Catholic, served during the Vietnam War and had been accepted to the Maryknoll Mission where he hoped to minister to the Vietnamese children.

Versace was captured and tortured by the Viet Cong but never abandoned his values or beliefs. He was an inspiration to fellow prisoners and was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2002 by President George W. Bush.

Nicholson, who served multiple tours in Vietnam, led three attempts to rescue Captain Versace from his captors and related his personal experience and interactions with Rocky throughout their careers.

Nicholson served 33 years in the Army and is the recipient of the Silver Star Medal for Valor in Combat. At the conclusion of the presentation, Veritas students assisted in awarding the general a Quilt of Valor.

19-year-old twins: St. Kateri Tekakwtiha, Tabb, celebrated 19 years of Haiti twinning with St. Michel Parish, Boucan-Carre, on June 2 with a traditional Haitian dinner. Guest speaker was Steve Applegate, founder of “Haiti. Today.Tomorrow.,” who spoke about collaboration helping those with whom the parish twins realize a more sustainable way of life.

Outreach: The Encounter Migrant Ministry, in collaboration with the Legion of Mary, our Lady of Fatima Praesidium of St Matthew Parish, Virginia Beach, held a Marian event at Ames Camp in Eastern Shore on June 30. There was Mass, recitation of the rosary, a soccer match and fellowship. Parishioners brought toiletries and other items for the migrant farm workers.

Chalice presentations: The Knights of Columbus All Saints Fourth Degree Assembly 2185, comprised of councils 8240 and 11984, celebrated chalice ceremonies at St. Stephen, Martyr, Chesapeake, June 1 and 2, and Prince of Peace, Chesapeake, June 29 and 30. The recipients of the chalices were the parishes’ respective pastors, Father Brian Rafferty and Father Romy Jazmin. The chalice given to Father Rafferty was inscribed with the names of 27 deceased assembly members and donated to a parish in the Philippines.

Navy bound: Jake Kiggans, Kristen Ocampo and Mark Ostrowski, members of the Catholic High School Class of ‘19, have accepted appointments to the U.S. Naval Academy 


June 17, 2019

Congratulations I: Two graduates of St. Bridget School, Richmond, are beneficiaries of $1,000 scholarships from the St. Bridget Knights of Columbus Council 5476. The recipients are Elizabeth Payton Horan, who will attend Saint Gertrude High School, and Jackson Wilde Mann, who will attend Benedictine College Preparatory. Gary Port, the council’s scholarship chairman, presented the scholarships June 3 at the school’s eighth grade closing exercises.

Congratulations II: Jim Wentzel, a freshman at Benedictine College Prep and a member of St. Mary, Parish, Richmond, received a monetary award from Commander Fritz Eley of VFW Post 10657 as first-place winner in the Voice of Democracy oral essay contest on the topic “Why My Vote Matters.”

Congratulations III: Taylor Mowery from St. Mary Star of the Sea School received the school’s Child of God Award. This award was established in memory of former student Connor McCall and is the highest honor given to a graduating student at the Hampton school. It recognizes the student who best lives out the ideals and virtues of the Catholic faith.

Congratulations IV: St. Joseph School, Petersburg, awarded its St. John Paul II Scholarship to students who have demonstrated a commitment to academic achievement, service to the school, Church or community and Christ-centered values. Recipients of the merit award for the 2019-2020 school year are: Michelle Alphonsus, Anna Martinez, Analise Parham, Raquel Reisweber and Madeline Riggs.

Leader in education: Clarke C. Scott, a member of St. Victoria Parish, Hurt, is serving as chairman of the board of directors of National Beta, an educational non-profit serving students in 4th- 12th grades. At his parish, Scott has served on the parish council and with the peace and justice ministry. He is an advisory board member at Holy Cross Regional Catholic School, Lynchburg.

May 20, 2019

Congratulations: Raul Acevedo, a sixth grader at St. John the Apostle School, Virginia Beach, earned second place in VFW Post 392’s Patriot’s Pen essay contest. The title of his entry was “Why I Honor the American Flag.”

Leadership I: Among the Virginia Knights of Columbus’ new leaders from the Diocese of Richmond are state secretary Brian Ripple, St. Andrew, Roanoke; state advocate Pat Rowland, Church of the Ascension, Virginia Beach; and the immediate past state deputy Edward Polich, St. Michael the Archangel, Glen Allen.

Speaking of the Knights, following their recent state convention, they presented Bishop Barry C. Knestout with a check for $15,000 to be used for the education of diocesan seminarians. The Knights gave Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington the same amount for the same purpose.

Leadership II: Saint Gertrude High School has announced that Benedictine Sister Cecilia Dwyer, a 1963 alumna of the school, will serve as interim head of school for the 2019-2020 school year while the board searches for a permanent head of school. She is a member of the school’s board of trustees and former prioress of the Benedictine Sisters in Virginia. She replaces Renata Rafferty who is retiring June 30. She served as head of school for the last four years.

Rest in peace: The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul have informed us of the passing of Sister Jane Marie Otterson, 93. Within her 71 years of religious life, she taught at Our Lady of Victory School, Portsmouth (1948-1955); was a group worker at St. Joseph Villa, Richmond (1955- 1959); and taught at Sacred Heart School, Norfolk (1964-1967).

Example of wisdom, age and grace: Monica Keyes of Salem wrote to let us know that her aunt, Benedictine Sister Helen Lange, passed away at the age of 105 — probably one of the oldest religious in the country. She had been a Benedictine for more than 86 years, 44 of which were devoted to teaching elementary school. According to Monica, her aunt’s advice for longevity was, “Be happy and have no regrets, live a life of hard work and love people and love God.”


May 6, 2019

“…and with the fourth pick…”: Although the NFL Draft was held during Benedictine College Preparatory’s spring break, students, staff, faculty and alumni were elated to hear that Clelin Ferrell, one of their fellow Cadets, was selected in the first round by the Oakland Raiders.

In an email to The Catholic Virginian, the school noted Ferrell has attended at least one Benedictine football game annually since graduating in 2015. He has also visited the school a couple of times each year — including after Clemson won the national championship in January.

According to Greg Lilly, head football coach at Benedictine, “I think Clelin was raised in a tight family. He’s close to his mom, brothers and sisters. And I think he sees Benedictine as an extension of that family.”

Honored: Tony Stellwag, a member of Immaculate Conception Parish, Hampton, was recently honored with the Hampton Volunteer of the Year Award. Tony is 90 years old and leads a weekly exercise class for Hampton Parks and Recreation.


April 22, 2019

New leadership: The Benedictine Sisters of Virginia elected Sister Joanna Burley as their prioress, Saturday, April 6. Sister Joanna, the community’s director of mission integration and communication, will serve a four-year term in which she will lead the 30 sisters, oblates and ministries according to the Rule of St. Benedict. The Benedictines have been a presence in Richmond since 1868.

Remembering brother Knights: Msgr. William H. Carr, pastor of St. Bridget, Richmond, celebrated a Mass of Remembrance for 24 deceased members of Knights of Columbus Councils 5476 and 395, Saturday, March 30. As each departed Knight’s name was read, a bell was rung and a candle lighted while the cantor and congregation sang “Christ Be Our Light.” 


April 8, 2019

Good people doing good things I: The faithful of the Diocese of Richmond contributed $104,671.41 to the 2018 Retirement Fund for Religious collection last fall. In thanking Bishop Barry C. Knestout for the faithful’s generosity, Sister Stephanie Still, a Sister of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and executive director of the National Religious Retirement Office, wrote, “Please extend our heartfelt gratitude to your parishioners for their ongoing support of senior religious and their communities. Since the collection was launched, contributions from your diocese have totaled $4,424,048.49.”

State’s top essayist: Erica Gillian, an eighth-grader at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Newport News, won the American Legion Department of Virginia’s middle school essay contest writing on the topic, “I like living in America because…” She received an award and $250. The American Legion also honored her literature teacher, Jessica Peters.

Good people doing good things II: Thanks to a $4,174 grant from the Southeast Virginia Community Foundation, St. Matthew Catholic School, Virginia Beach, will be able to offset the cost of increasing the number of Chrome Books and a Chrome Cart for use in its middle school grades. The additions will help students enhance their technical and academic skills. At the same time, the equipment allows teachers to incorporate team projects into teaching plans for science, math and English.

Choristers at the Capitol: The Young Choristers Choir from St. Bede, Williamsburg, participated in the Pueri Cantores Mid-Atlantic Choral Festival at St. Peter Church on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sunday, April 6. They and students from several dioceses were part of the Festival Mass choir. The choristers rehearse vocal and handbell music weekly and sing during Mass at St. Bede every other Sunday. 


March 25, 2019

Honored: Amy Schleicher has earned her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor and achievement a girl can earn in Girl Scouts. The daughter of Christine and Dean Schleicher, Amy is a junior at Ocean Lakes High School and a member of Church of the Holy Family, Virginia Beach. For her project, “St. John the Apostle Catholic School Library and STEM Program Upgrades,” Amy improved the library and its offerings. She created a better book drop location while turning the old one into a functional table. Amy also made it convenient for people to get books during times the library was not open by designing a freestanding library. She also organized the STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math) closet and created a database of items in order to make checkout more efficient.

How cool is this? The high school building at Roanoke Catholic School is going to be much cooler come fall, thanks to the more than $125,000 students, parents and staff raised during Roanoke Valley Gives Day, Wednesday, March 13. The money will be used to install an HVAC system in that part of the facility. The school also earned $17,000 in bonus money that was awarded throughout the day. For a look at one way students encouraged people to give, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXEw- BhxPIXc&feature=youtu.be.

Hired: John Elwell is the new director of parish engagement at Commonwealth Catholic Charities. He will serve as liaison between CCC and Catholic parishes and schools throughout the Diocese of Richmond “facilitating cooperation and partnership to execute the social mission of the Church,” according to a release from CCC. Elwell previously worked as program manager for volunteer and in-kind services at Catholic Charities in Fort Worth, Texas.


March 11, 2019

Top essayists: Erica Gillian, John Driscoll and Leila Carey, eighth-graders at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Newport News, earned fi rst through third places, respectively, in the American Legion Post 25 middle school essay contest. Erica’s essay has advanced to state competition. Jessica Peters, the middle school literature teacher, was also honored by Post 25 for preparing the students to write the essays.

Serving: Matthew J. Haske, a member of Holy Cross, Lynchburg, can add another item to the list of ways he serves. He was already involved in his parish as a youth group member, ministry volunteer and altar server. During the recently completed legislative session he served as a House Page. He told The Catholic Virginian, “It provided me with the skills and knowledge to be an active participant as a citizen in the Commonwealth.” 


February 25, 2019

Scouts honored: Steven Bottone, Josh Decker, Austin Dodd, D J Kennedy, Nick Solzbach and Alex Weimer were awarded their Ad Altare Dei Emblem at St John Neumann, Powhatan, on Scout Sunday, Feb. 3. The purpose of the Ad Altare Dei (to the altar of God) is to help Roman Catholic Boy Scouts develop a fully Christian way of life in the faith community.


February 1, 2019

 Tech savvy: Rhys Ana Savering, a seventh-grader at Sacred Heart Catholic School, Danville, is the Special Girls4Tech Recognition Winner for the Scholastic National Tech4 Innovation Student Contest. The Girls4Tech portion of the contest recognizes young women who show innovation and creativity in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics).

Students were asked to create a concept that uses digital technology to solve real-world problems in the context of a given category. They had to draw the idea and describe what the innovation does and what problem it would solve. Rhys Ana’s concept was a device that could be used for safety in agriculture and which would ensure a cleaner and chemical-free food supply.  

While she will receive a laptop and cash for her winning entry, the school will receive grant money to be used for enhancing students’ access to technology and to encourage students to enter STEAM careers.

Focus on faith, family: Knights of Columbus Council 5480 honored three Our Lady of Mount Carmel eighth graders for their entries in the Knights’ Catholic Citizenship Essay Contest. Writing on the theme “How does your family keep its Catholic Faith in Action?” Nhi Nhi Do earned first place, Leila Carey was second and Gabe Rossi third.

Hired: Gabriel Obregon, an alumnus of Cristo Rey New York High School and the University of Richmond, has been named assistant to the president/chief of staff at Cristo Rey Richmond, which will open in August.


December 3, 2018

 Honored I: Sister Bernadette Kenny, a Medical Missionary of Mary, was awarded the Bishop Sullivan Award for Peace and Justice at the annual meeting of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia in Abingdon, this past September. Sister “Bernie,” who has lived in southwest Virginia since 1978, was recognized for her commitment to the health of the community.

Honored II: Alexander Feher, son of Stephen and Natasha Feher, earned his Eagle Scout Award through Troop 1893 in September. A senior at Monacan High School, his Eagle Scout service project was to rebuild and enlarge the outdoor classroom stage at the Rockwood Park Nature Center in Chesterfield County. In addition to his involvement with the scouts, Alexander has been a youth ministry leader at his parish, St. Edward the Confessor, Richmond, and participates in Knights of Columbus fundraisers and activities.


November 5, 2018

Honored I: Megan Gillespie, daughter of Mark and Kathy Gillespie, Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Newport News, alumnae and senior at Jamestown High School, earned the Girl Scout Gold Award — the Girl Scouts’ highest honor. Through her project, “Growing for Giving: New St. Bede Garden Ministry,” she is assisting less-fortunate members of her community. With the help of the Williamsburg House of Mercy and St. Bede, Williamsburg, where she is a parish council member, Gillespie created a garden at her parish which produced food that fed the guests of the Williamsburg House of Mercy. Her project will be sustained by the parish’s garden ministry.

Honored II: Michael von Spakovsky, a member of St. Jude Parish, Radford, professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering and director of the Center for Energy Systems Research at Virginia Tech, has been named the Robert E. Hord Jr. Mechanical Engineering Professor by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. The professorship acknowledges and rewards faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering who have shown exceptional merit in research, teaching and/or service. According to parishioners, Michael is a pro-life leader in the parish and community, as well as active in multiple parish ministries.

Good people doing good things: For the seventh consecutive year, Commonwealth Catholic Charities has awarded scholarships to students in Richmond-area Catholic schools through its Karl N. and Edna L. Reidelbach Scholarship Fund. Eighteen students will receive tuition assistance for the 2018–2019 academic year. A total of $10,500 will be disbursed. Scholarship recipients are enrolled in the Richmond schools of All Saints, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Benedict, St. Bridget, St. Edward-Epiphany and St. Mary, and in Powhatan at Blessed Sacrament Huguenot.

Breathing easy(ier): Residents at Our Lady of Hope Health Center, Richmond, are the beneficiaries of the facility’s new comprehensive cardiopulmonary therapy program. It is offered through Respiratory Health Services, a division of Genesis Rehab Services. Genesis Rehab already offers physical, occupational and speech therapy services to Our Lady of Hope residents. Rehabilitation is also available on an “outpatient” basis to individual patients who prefer to seek care at Our Lady of Hope instead of a hospital setting.


October 8, 2018

Good people doing good things: Thanks to the generosity of the Knights of Columbus, Virginia Veteran and Family Support has more resources with which to serve its clients. With the proceeds from its Sept. 7 golf tournament, the Knights have raised more than $40,000 over the last six years. The event was hosted by Knights of Columbus Fr. John Boddie Assembly 3349.


September 10, 2018

Knights to the rescue — rescue mission, that is: Fifteen members and their families from Knights of Columbus Salem Council #10015 recently volunteered at the Roanoke Rescue Mission, helping prepare food and then serving it to the more than 250 guests at the mission.

Scouts honored: It was quite a celebration at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Harrisonburg, Saturday, Aug. 25. During Mass, six Boy Scouts from the parish — Joe Blanton, Liam Chester, Owen Chester, Collin Jessie, Aiden Keesee, Chris Syptak — received the Ad Altare Dei Award, while Brady Hecker received the Parvuli Dei Award for Cub Scouts. The former award emphasizes the sacraments and includes a service project, while the latter focuses on the presence of God in the scout’s family and parish.

More ministry: The Sisters of Bon Secours USA has expanded its Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry, begun in Baltimore in 1999, to Richmond. Volunteers will serve with Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital’s emergency room and patient advocacy team, a neighborhood and nutrition center and on a mobile health clinic. They will also share common meals, weekly morning reflection, weekly contemplative prayer and dialogue, seasonal retreats and spiritual direction.


August 27, 2018

Train to evangelize: Three diocesan parishes and William and Mary Campus Ministry participated in a three-day training camp sponsored by Evangelical Catholic in Carlinville, Ill. Evangelical Catholic focuses on training people to do small group evangelization in their parishes. Parishes participating in the training included Blessed Sacrament, Harrisonburg; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Newport News; and the South Richmond cluster — Dinwiddie, Hopewell and Prince George County.


July 30, 2018

Making the Top 40: The Virginia Housing Alliance recently recognized Jay Brown, division director of housing services at Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC), with their Top 40 Network Award. Recipients, under age 40, have demonstrated professional excellence in the state’s housing industry and leadership in innovation.

During the last five years, with Brown’s leadership in the housing division, CCC has expanded services into four markets of the Commonwealth, more than doubled its operating budget, and significantly increased the capacity of CCC to serve the most vulnerable.

Practicing what is preached: Twenty-seven members of Immaculate Conception, Buckner, and St. Jude, Mineral, practiced the Gospel mandate “feed the hungry” as they were among those packaging and boxing 10,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church, Mineral. At least eight churches participated in the June 10 undertaking, which was completed in 90 minutes.

Honored: Emma-Marie Dulog is the recipient of the St. Michael Joseph P. Solari Council 1172 Knights of Columbus (Female) Ambassador Scholar Award. The daughter of Marco and Cheryl Dulog, Emma-Marie is a parishioner at St. Michael the Archangel, Glen Allen, and an accomplished harpist who shares that gift with faith communities throughout the area. She will use the monetary portion of the award to travel to Catholic churches while in Germany for the second half of her Gap Year Study.


July 16, 2018

Diamond jubilarian: Sister Rita Thomas, a member of the Sisters of Bon Secours USA, recently celebrated 75 years with her religious community. She helped open St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, and served as its CEO in 1967, becoming the first female CEO of a Richmond hospital. She also helped establish the Bon Secours Health System in Hampton Roads.

Gratitude for clergy: Knights of Columbus Salem Council 10015 recently held a Clergy Appreciation Night at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Social Hall. The 56 attendees included Knights and parishioners who honored those who have answered the call to ordained ministry. The honorees were: Fathers José Moran Arce, Ken Shuping, Paul Maier, Daniel Kelly, Louis Benoit, and Deacon Eric Surat.


July 2, 2018

 E-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t  s-p-e-l-l-e-r: That’s Ryan Crawford, an eighth grader at Sacred Heart Catholic School, Danville. He recently competed in his second consecutive Scripps National Spelling Bee, finishing tied for 42nd place. To qualify both years for the national competition, Ryan won the City of Danville Spelling Bee, sponsored by Big Brothers Big Sisters.


June 18, 2018

First place at state: Members of Court Regina Coeli 2032 of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas from St. Ann, Colonial Heights, earned three first-place awards at the organization’s state convention. Pat Ewen, treasurer, won for the annual crowning of Mary in the spirituality division. In the family division, Pat Blaszak, financial secretary; Father Ramon Baez, state chaplain; Chit Peters, regent; Vanny Marrero, Father Baez’s mother; and Karin Mitchell, vice regent, for the marriage blessing. Theresa Grizzle, recording secretary, won for the court newsletter.


By the numbers: The Vatican has released its Statistical Yearbook of the Church, from which one learns, among other things, that in North America there are 1,916 Catholics for every priest; in South America, there are 7,203 Catholics for every priest. It also reports that the world’s 1.29 billion Catholics are 17.7 percent of the population.


Following up: Kristen Byrd, who wrote the feature on Brian and Gerson Carrera in the Nov. 20, 2017 issue of The Catholic Virginian, reports that the Benedictine College Preparatory graduates are headed to VMI on full scholarships. If you missed the story, you can read it at www.catholicvirginian. org/?p=6276.


Benedictine receives $750,000 for Scholarship Program

The Smithfield Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Smithfield Foods, Inc., is pleased to announce a $750,000 donation to launch the Smithfield Foods Scholarship Program at Benedictine College Preparatory. With the support of Smithfield’s substantial gift, this new program will provide need-based scholarships for students from lower-income families.

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