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.

September 21, 2020

Good people doing good things: The Church of the Holy Apostles, Virginia Beach, donated 300 sets of earbuds with microphones to their neighbors at Twin Canal residence. The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HUD Title 8) community has 500 children under age 18 who are attending school virtually. Earbuds with microphones enable the children to participate in their online virtual classes – listening and talking without interrupting or disrupting others in the same apartment. The Holy Apostles community raised over $900 to purchase earbuds with microphones along with other school supplies and food.

By the numbers: As it begins its second year of existence, Cristo Rey Richmond High School reports that the school has 85 new students to go along with its 83 returning students.

Rooftop voting is underway: Catholic Energies has nominated the Diocese of Richmond for a Solar Builder Project of the Year award from Solar Builder Magazine. Between now and Sunday, Sept. 27 you can vote once a day for the diocese by clicking here. Scroll to the bottom of the C&I Rooftop category, choose the Diocese of Richmond in the click-down box and click submit.


August 10, 2020

Blessed are they: Come Oct. 31, Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, will be known as Blessed Michael McGivney as he will be beatified in Hartford, Conn., on that day. Learn more about Father McGivney’s cause for sainthood at www.fathermcgivney.org.

Service with humor: It was great listening to Frank Solari a couple of weeks ago as he reminisced about his late sister, Sister Mary Agnes. A Sister of Mercy for 70 years, she passed away a little more than a year ago. Sister Mary Agnes was a Richmond native and St. Gertrude High School alumna who was active in the Catholic Theater Guild and modeled for Seventeen Magazine during her teenage years. Frank noted she had a “great sense of humor” and, at one of the convents where she lived, had a pet pig. Sister Mary Agnes taught at and was principal of several Catholic schools in North Carolina, and later served in campus ministry at UNC-Charlotte and Central Piedmont Community College.

Proud to be Catholic: In a 1996 interview, the late Regis Philbin said, “I think everything I am is the result of 16 years of Catholic education. The values that you learn as a kid stay with you the rest of your life. Certainly, those nuns and brothers and priests drummed enough of those values into us that it helped us tremendously.” Would that more people in the entertainment business spoke of their Catholic roots in a similar manner. Read more about Philbin at www. catholicvirginian.org.


July 27, 2020

Hired: As of May, Christy Heinen is the director of development for Saint Francis Home — a mission of the Diocese of Richmond that serves up to 125 elderly and residents with handicaps. The Richmond native and St. Gertrude High School alumna served in a similar capacity for 18 years with the Little Sisters of the Poor St. Joseph’s Home.


July 13, 2020

Gift of a grotto: St. Mary Star of the Sea School has a grotto, thanks to Matthew Van Horn. With help from fellow Scouts and Scout leaders, Matthew, son of Tricia Van Horn, a Pre-K teacher at the school, built the grotto as his Eagle Scout Project. Construction took place on June 20 — the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

A boost for Petersburg students: A generous benefactor is helping fi ve students return to St. Joseph School, Petersburg, this fall. According to the school, the St. John Paul II Scholarship is a merit award that recognizes and celebrates “Catholic students who have demonstrated a commitment to academic achievement, service to the school, church or community, and Christ-centered values.” The scholarship also supports families who don’t qualify for tuition assistance, but who may still need help in making Catholic education more accessible.

The recipients and the grades they will be entering are: Michelle Alphonsus, seventh; Anna Martinez, sixth; Sophie Dyke, fourth; Raquel Reisweber, second; and Isabella Campisi, first. 

June 29, 2020

That’s some pizza: Several years ago, the St. Matthew School Parent Teacher Guild in Virginia Beach began participating in the Papa John’s Pizza Dollars for Dough fundraiser. Not only did they raise $3,226.24 from the 10% they received for 995 online orders, but they were the winner of the $10,000 grand prize in competition with schools having 300 or more students in Richmond, Hampton Roads and in Birmingham and Huntsville, Ala. The contest also benefitted the HER Shelter, Union Mission and essential personnel in Hampton Roads.

Good people doing good things: Knights of Columbus Council 5476 at St. Bridget, Richmond, awarded Jude and Luke Drew, graduating eighth graders at the parish school, each a $1,000 scholarship to attend a Catholic high school. They will begin attending Benedictine College Preparatory in September. 

Rocket peopleThe experiment of Ana Reveles Leon and Lainey Rivera, eighth graders at St. Mary School, Richmond, will be included for launch in a NASA sounding rocket. Their experiment will measure and display g forces exerted by the rocket during its flight. Fifth grader Lourdes Olivencia’s experiment will be aboard to test and determine the best way to protect fragile equipment during the flight. Their work was selected through the Cubes in Space program.


May 4, 2020

Good people doing good things I:  Students, faculty and staff aren’t in the building at Portsmouth Regional Catholic School, but that hasn’t stopped them from practicing one of the faith-based tenets the school models: Helping others.

The PRCS family recently donated tissues, disinfectant spray, wipes, and hand sanitizer to the grateful ER team at Riverside Hospital.   

Good people doing good things II: Knights of Columbus Norfolk Council 367 has been helping people for decades so it is no surprise that they held a food and supply drive on Saturday, April 18, to aid the St. Columba Ecumenical Ministries in replenishing items that are needed by the homeless and low-income people in their community. The Knights collected over 1,500 pounds of supplies and more than $1,200 in donations. All who donated were treated to grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, courtesy of the Knights.

Congratulations: John Montoro has been hired as the chief financial officer for Commonwealth Catholic Charities. Montoro has worked for over 30 years in public accounting, serving nonprofit organizations and local governments as an auditor and consultant. In the Richmond area, he has worked with Salvation Army, United Way and American Red Cross. 

Over the last seven years, he owned and operated an accounting practice that provided bookkeeping and payroll services to small business, nonprofit organizations and foundations. He and his wife Mindi have two adult children.


March 23, 2020

Top middle school essayist: Trenton Townes, a sixth-grade student at St. Joseph School, Petersburg, was the middle school winner of U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin’s first Black History Month Essay Contest. Middle and high school students in the Fourth Congressional District were asked to submit an essay on the topic “What Black History Month means to me.” 

 Trenton is a Weinstein Scholar — one of nine students attending St. Joseph School through the generosity of Marcus Weinstein, a passionate proponent of education opportunities for African American youth of all faith backgrounds, especially young men.

International distribution: Thanks to Father James Griffin, pastor of St. Paul, Richmond, “Shine Like Stars” — a condensed history of the Diocese of Richmond that was published for our bicentennial — has international readership. He and parishioner Ed Gerardo presented Bishop Bishop Desinord Jean of Hinche, Haiti, with a copy of the book when they visited their sister parish, Our Lady of Sorrows, Poulee, last month.


March 9, 2020

Matching milestones: Two members of the Blessed Sacrament Hugenot School boys’ basketball team hit milestones in the same game. Seniors Robbie Kurtz and Raymond Avery each scored his 1,000th point in a 65-60 win over Brunswick Academy on Jan. 31.

Tops in science: The St. Matthew School, Virginia Beach, team placed fi rst in the 10-team competition of the South Hampton Roads Catholic Middle School Science Bowl at Catholic High School, Saturday, Jan. 18. Sarah Rorick was advisor for the group that included Noah Avis, Nate Keys, Caley Byles, Hannah Schaar, Ethan Legaspi, Cole Rorick, Sebastian Rodriguez, Shael Amin, Elijah Roman, Jaden Camba, Jack Givey and Axelle Ackebo.


February 24, 2020

Good people doing good things: Providing ultrasound machines for crisis pregnancy centers is a mainstay in the outreach of the Knights of Columbus. The latest to do so is Knights of Columbus Msgr. James J. Hickie Council 6695 in Bristol. A large contribution from the Knights and church congregations in Virginia and Tennessee made it possible for the Abortion Alternatives and Crisis Pregnancy Center in Bristol to install an ultrasound machine when it opened last month.

Two-time winner: James “Jim” Wentzel, a member of St. Mary Parish, Richmond, and a sophomore at Benedictine College Prep, accomplished a first for the Richmond Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution: He earned first place in both the Joseph Rumbaugh Oratorical Contest and in the George and Stella Knight Essay Contest. His essay earned first place in the state contest and is entered in national competition. He took third place in the state oratorical contest.

Cinematic catechesis: In a review of the movie “Just Mercy,” Catholic News Service described it as “a valuable potential resource for catechizing adults about the perils of capital punishment.” Forty-five people who took that to heart turned out for the “Tuesday Conversation” at Epiphany Parish, Richmond, Thursday, Feb. 13, that focused on the movie and the book. Besides their discussion, participants heard from Michael Stone, executive director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. 


February 10, 2020

Good people doing good things: Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 26-Feb. 1, was another opportunity for Catholic schools to showcase what they do best: Practice what they teach. Some examples:

Schools from throughout the diocese: They gave those working in the Pastoral Center a gift about which one doesn’t hear much these days — spiritual bouquets. Wonderful to know that all these students, teachers and staff were praying for everyone in the building.

Blessed Sacrament Huguenot School, Powhatan: Kelin Flowers and her fifth graders collected snacks, fruit, food with protein and drinks to fi ll 215 “Backpacks for Love” to be distributed in Powhatan. The school’s students and their families also donated over 100 sets of pajamas to the Home for Boys and Girls.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Newport News: After learning about Amazon Relief from Karen Rutherford- Coulson, a staff member at the school, students held a series of fundraisers. The school presented a check for Amazon Relief to the Our Lady of the Rosary Secular Franciscans. Amazon Relief helps at-risk children living near the Equator.

St. Benedict and Our Lady of Lourdes, Richmond: Each brought a choir to the Pastoral Center for brief performances filled with talent and enthusiasm.


January 27, 2020

Serving those who serve: Major General Timothy P. Williams of the Virginia Army National Guard expressed his gratitude to the parishioners of St. Theresa, Farmville; Sacred Heart, Mehrrin; and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Blackstone; and to their pastor, Father Stefan Migac, for providing six Masses at Fort Pickett’s Bulla Chapel during the VaARNG training last summer.

In a letter to the priest, the major general wrote: “It is our mission to provide every soldier with the opportunity to exercise their right to worship, and your efforts assured that. … Affording those soldiers the chance to fi nd solace and connection with their areas of belief fuels them for the tough training that follows.”

Support for the bicentennial: The Knights of Columbus at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville, are doing their part to support the Diocese of Richmond’s bicentennial celebration. They held a brunch on Sunday, Jan. 12, with a goal of raising $2,000.

First year, sixth place: In its first year of competition, the middle school robotics team at Blessed Sacrament Huguenot School recently took sixth place during competitions in Richmond and Roanoke. They competed among 27 and 33 teams, respectively, in the competition. Most of the teams they faced were composed of high school students.


December 16, 2019

Perception vs. reality: In an interview with Crux, (https://bit. ly/2sZluVP) Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori was asked if Americans don’t like Pope Francis. He replied: “It just isn’t true. One of the things that I think I’ve drawn from this (ad limina) visit is that the narrative that the pope doesn’t like us, and we don’t like the pope, not only is it not true, it’s being used by people on the extreme right and the extreme left for their own ideological purposes.”

Franciscan leadership: Members of the Our Lady of the Rosary Secular Franciscan Fraternity elected the council who will serve for three years. Maria Fuentes-Sherman, minister; Rick Churray, vice minister; Barbara Massey, treasurer; Bea Sanford, secretary; Glenn Davis, councilor at large; and Peg Crews, formation. For more information visit their website: https://olrsfo.weebly.com.

Franciscan profession: Eight candidates were professed into the Companions of Francis and Clare Secular Franciscan Fraternity, Sunday, Dec. 15, at Our Lady of Nazareth, Roanoke, during a Mass celebrated by Franciscan Father Louis Canino of St. Francis Springs Prayer Center in Stoneville, N.C.

After several years of study, prayer and discernment, the following lay people made a lifelong commitment to their Catholic faith by following Christ in the example set by St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi: Karen Adams, Our Lady of Nazareth, Roanoke; Bryan Boggs, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Salem; Georgene Bramlage, Our Lady of Nazareth, Roanoke; Rob Closs, St. Thomas More, Lynchburg; Gayle Danielsen, St. Gerard, Roanoke; Luisa Perkins, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Salem; and Daisy Warnalis and Mike Warnalis, Resurrection, Moneta.


December 2, 2019

Witnesses to Matthew 25: Volunteers from the Hanover Friends Church and the Knights of Columbus from Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville, are practicing what is preached. The two groups collect food from Kroger, Food Lion, Wawa, Aldi and BJs and distribute it on Tuesday nights to Hanover County residents who need food. Last year they distributed nearly 200,000 pounds of food.

Quoting one of Pope Francis’ frequent admonitions regarding food waste, the Knights note they are taking “what is thrown into the vicious cycle of waste and inserting it into the ‘virtuous circle’ of good use.” 

What we haven’t heardGenuine Christmas music — the kind whose lyrics include “Jesus,” “Savior,” “holy,” “virgin,” “angels,” etc. — appears to be missing from most of the big box retail world this Advent. With the exception of Hobby Lobby, one is hard pressed to hear anything religious playing in the stores. Just as they are replacing “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays,” so, too, it appears to be another year of “Christ Child” being eliminated in favor of “Santa Baby.” Very sad.       


November 18, 2019

Sartorial distinction: Permanent deacons in the Diocese of Richmond are getting a new look. Beginning with the fi rst Sunday of Advent, permanent deacons will wear grey clerical shirts rather than the black worn by priests.

In an Oct. 7 letter to the deacons, Bishop Barry C. Knestout wrote, “This will give clear distinction between the two holy orders and diminish any confusion during occasions such as hospital visits or other pastoral care provided by deacons in the diocese. This distinction will assist the people we serve to know more quickly and readily whether the clergy visiting or working with them is a deacon or a priest.”

Honored: The Knights of Columbus Hopewell Council 4568, Fourth Degree Appomattox Assembly 1614, St. James Parish, Hopewell and its Sisters of the Heart Ministry celebrated a veterans’ recognition dinner Saturday, Nov. 9. Each veteran received a dog tag on which a Bible verse was inscribed. They specifically honored retired Colonel Charles W. Wiker with a medal for his service to the country and community. He also received a signed baseball from Boston Red Sox centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.

We’re number one! “Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges 2020” has ranked Saint Leo University, with eight locations in Virginia, first in the United States in the Online & Nontraditional Schools category. This is the first time the university has ranked first in the nation.

More firsts: The Franciscan Sisters of Saint Joseph, together with their residents in Virginia Beach, celebrated the first anniversary of Saint Clare Home. In 2018, the sisters formed a partnership with Catholic Charities and participate in the Guardianship Program. Local parishes worked through the Friends of Saint Clare Home and assisted the sisters in their efforts. This is the first mission in the U.S. for the sisters, whose motherhouse is in Asumbi, Kenya.

“A” good grade: Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center, Norfolk, and Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital, Newport News, were awarded an “A” from the Leapfrog Group’s fall “Safety Grade.” The designation recognizes the hospitals’ efforts in protecting patients from harm and in providing safer health care. Details of the grades and more about the Leapfrog Group’s work are available at hospitalsafetygrade.org.


November 4, 2019

Appreciation: In a letter to Bishop Barry C. Knestout thanking the Catholics of the Diocese of Richmond for their contribution of $89,339.61 to the National Collection for the Archdiocese of the Military Services USA, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, head of that archdiocese, noted that the “more than 300,000 Catholics between the ages of 18-29 on active duty, the U.S. military provides the Church with a substantial pool of priestly vocations.”

Good people doing good things: The Virginia Knights of Columbus, through its KOVAR charity that provides fi nancial assistance to organizations that serve people with intellectual disabilities, awarded 33 grants for a total of $569,199 in the recently concluded fi scal year. That generosity included a grant of $22,295 and a loan of $253,250 to Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in Williamsburg, following a fi re that destroyed one of their long-term care facilities in October 2018.

Words of wisdom: Blessed Solanus Casey: “Man’s greatness lies in being faithful to the present moment. We must be faithful to the present moment or we will frustrate the plan of God for our lives. We are continually immersed in God’s merciful grace, like the air that permeates us.”


October 21, 2019

Beneficiaries: Two Catholic entities in Williamsburg are the beneficiaries of the late Jenny E. Wible, who passed away in 2017. Her estate designated that St. Bede Catholic Church receive a grant of $29,616.50 to support its ministries and Walsingham Academy receive a grant of $59,233 for student scholarships. The grants, awarded by the Williamsburg Community Foundation on Oct. 4, will be provided to the parish and school annually through the Jenny E. Wible Endowment Fund.

New leaders: The Congregation of the Sisters of Bon Secours elected Sister Rose Marie Jasinski as its international congregation leader on Oct. 4. Her academic achievements include a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Sister Elaine Davia was elected leader for the Sisters of Bon Secours USA. Among her ministerial work was the opening of a clinic in Portsmouth for the underinsured in 1998.


October 7, 2019

Rest in peace: If you were a student at George Mason University in the early ‘70s, you will recognize the name of Claretian Father Richard Wozniak a k a “Father Woz.” He served as campus minister there. A priest for nearly 67 years, Father Woz passed away Sept. 6. He was 92. Plugged and unplugged: The Missioners of Christ are looking for gently used electric and acoustic guitars for their mission work in Honduras. Donations are tax deductible. For more information, contact Deacon Bob Straub, bob.straub@missioners.org, or 804-721-5300.


September 23, 2019

Putting others first: In planning the party for her 12th birthday, Lilly Riffe, a member of St. Francis de Sales Parish, Mathews, decided she had everything she needed. So when inviting guests, she requested that invitees bring food for the Bread for Life Food Pantry at St. Therese Parish, Gloucester, which is near her home. The result was a 105-pound contribution of food and supplies.

Honored: Eva Brown a 14-year-old parishioner at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Salem, was recently awarded the Junior Legion of Honor Award by the Chapel of Four Chaplains. Her numerous community projects include her main focus to end the inhumane treatment of animals by laboratory testing, as well as combating veterans’ hunger and educating people about our national flag and heritage. She addresses these issues by running programs in her school.

Elected: The K-Cettes — The Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus Council 395 — have new officers: Anne Gourley, president; Toni Giovenco, first vice president; Margaret Johnson, second vice president; Jeanne Marie Hulcher, recording secretary; and Mary Kathryn Duffer, treasurer.


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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