All-School Blog


Kate Walsh | Assistant Principal for Students

#iStand4Life. These signs were distributed three years ago when I attended the March for Life Rally downtown, while the rest of our school gathered as we are right now. I'll be honest. I was a bit apprehensive about the whole experience. From the 4:00 am wake up call to be sure I was here at school early enough to meet the buses and students, the absolutely frigid cold predicted for the day, the idea of being responsible for such a large group of students in a less than controlled environment, to the very heavy subject matter at hand—one could say I was not looking particularly forward to the day.

This feeling of discomfort was eerily similar to the one I felt when Mr. Tamberino asked me to give this reflection today. I was honored, but I was also uncomfortable. The easy answer would have been to say, "I'm flattered to be asked, but I'd rather not."

In other words, I don't want to be uncomfortable. Knowing that much of what we ask you to do, to grow and mature as people, requires you to accept our call to be "uncomfortable," I agreed.

I asked him the intended purpose of the reflection. Should I just share what it means to me to be a mother? I could do that. Although, I'm not sure how meaningful that would have been to my teenage self. Next, I thought about why the LIFE issue is so important to us as a school community, a faith community, and to me personally. "Standing for Life" reaches far beyond abortion. I think there are few among us (literally here in this room) or our wider society who would really argue that abortion is a positive, regardless of where one stands on the political issue. There may be secular political debate on its legislation, but I think all agree abortion is not a good thing.

I want to focus on why "Standing for Life," on all fronts, is a mandate of our school mission and our faith and perhaps, most simply, our shared humanity. We proclaim our mission to inspire each of you to EXCEL, SERVE, and LOVE. If we, as a school, are going to claim we have achieved this goal, we must inspire our students to "Stand for Life"; serving and loving require it.

Look around you. The adults in this room chose the vocation of teaching to inspire you, each one of you, to EXCEL, SERVE, and LOVE. This is why we are here. Clearly, fame, glory and salary were not driving forces in our career decisions.

I am a mother. For many years, this is a statement I was never sure I would make. My husband and I met my senior year of college. He was a recent grad. Two years later, we made plans to move to DC, where he had landed his dream job, and we were married. That was 13 years ago this March. While we may have been the first of our friends to marry, we were far from the first on the baby train. I will spare you all the gory details, but I suffered from the shockingly common diagnosis of unexplained infertility. I lost TWELVE consecutive pregnancies to miscarriage. Every single one was excruciating. No matter how hard we tried not to get our hopes up and believe this would be the one, we always did. It was equally devastating every time it turned out not to be.

Those were very dark days; many times, I wanted to give up. After all, I have 1,257 adorable "little" children in my care every day. I was very happy being the school day mom to all of them. I truly was, and I still am. But a little part of me knew, not just for me, but for every other woman and family who suffered my fate—and maybe even for one of my students who someday might meet the same challenge—that I couldn't just give up looking for answers. I had to "Stand for Life." I couldn't just accept my experience of the commercial fertility industry which went something like this: "We don't know what is wrong or why, but if you pay us tons of money we'll try a few things and see if they work. Oh yeah, and insurance doesn't cover it and some of what we are suggesting definitely sounds morally questionable...but you want to be parents, right? There are pictures of adorable babies all over my office, right? Just fork over the cash, don't ask questions, and we'll get you a baby. Maybe." I kept thinking what happens to folks who can't afford this? Should I really agree to these types of extreme measures without really knowing they are necessary or ethical? Surely, there has to be some doctor, somewhere, with a slightly less commercial approach to this. It was far from easy but eventually after many, many doctors, I finally found my way to someone at the National Institutes of Health who was interested in looking for answers and knowing the why before the how. And the ultimate solution? Effectively, Benadryl. In simple terms, I was highly allergic to being pregnant. Tone down the allergic reaction, and the pregnancy should be fine.

First try, lucky number 13, and our Billy was born. We are so grateful every day for that little boy. And in a strange way, in hindsight, I am also grateful for that experience and for the opportunity to "Stand for Life," especially because I know there will be other women and families who will be saved the pain we went through because of what was learned through us.

This year we are focusing on the Xaverian value of Zeal. To me, this is what we mean when we talk about Zeal. Having that little fire inside of you and knowing when and how to access it. Sometimes, I wonder if humility or compassion and zeal are a contradiction in terms. Can one really exhibit humility and zeal at the same time? I'm not so sure zealot always has the most positive connotation.

But, how about a zealot for life? Obviously, we won't all have the same opportunity, or perhaps, to use a better term, occasion to be a zealot for life. Thankfully, not all of us will have as dramatic an experience. However, I'll share just a couple of other observations from my experience of motherhood which may be a little easier to imagine impacting you.

As if our road to parenthood was not exciting enough, less than 24 hours after Billy was born and laying in his bassinet in our hospital room, I noticed he was sweating. That's odd. Baby's don't sweat. Turns out he had severe hypoglycemia and was quickly whisked off to the NICU. Soon after that, the NICU at GW Hospital decided he needed to be transferred to Children's Hospital ASAP. On his second day of life, they came with a mobile incubator contraption that looked more fit for a scene from Star Wars. Off he went to Children's. We followed close behind. It was a Friday evening. I stayed with Billy EVERY night for those two weeks. I left the room only to eat and shower. Food wasn't allowed in the NICU. I couldn't imagine being ANYWHERE else.

On that first Monday in the NICU, I noticed something very odd—maybe it was because I was coming out of the fog of having a baby, or maybe it was really a Monday phenomenon, but I made a curious observation as I walked to Billy's room on my way back from showering downstairs. He was in the farthest room from the doors of the ward. Room after room after room, there were just babies—no parents. Like literally, zero. Okay, maybe there were two or three other families there. In chatting with our nurse Julia, I asked her if I was losing it? Was this typical? Sadly, her reply was "totally." You see, most people don't have the leave they need to stay with their baby in the NICU. They might be there for two or three months and the parents need to save their leave from work for when the baby gets to go home. So, the vast majority of the babies are all alone. A LARGE portion of the time. Many of these families live so far away even commuting to DC at night or on weekends is cost prohibitive. That walk down that hallway will stay with me forever. I have very, very different opinions on family leave after that experience. I cannot reconcile "Standing for Life" and accepting 100 plus premature and/or extremely vulnerable babies fighting to stay alive being all alone.

Billy struggled more with his hypoglycemia this past year. Perhaps some of you were aware of my recent extended absence. We spent 83 days in a variety of children's hospitals in 2017. I can tell you after 2017, my understanding of Standing for Life has expanded dramatically. From the first experience of picking up his lifeless body from his crib on January 14, 2017 and rushing him here to Montgomery General in an ambulance with little to no idea what was wrong, to watching the look of terror on the face of the young the doctor on call early that Saturday morning as they worked to get Billy back to life, I learned much about the fragility of life. Then there were the many, many days in the PICU and the severe and truly heart-breaking things you see all around you. Billy's problems paled in comparison. For example, not a day—not ONE day (and this last hospitalization was 20 days)—went by in that PICU when I did not see the police there investigating child abuse. EVERY day. I had no idea. Even in 2018, even in America's capital city...child abuse is very, very real. The kind of child abuse that lands children in intensive care.

Uncomfortable? Good. This is why we carve out a day every year to reflect on this issue as a school community.

My wish for each of you is that as you reflect on what "Standing for Life" means for you. Consider the many, many ways, big and small, even on a daily basis you can "Stand for Life." Whether it is making political decisions as a voter, or perhaps as an elected official one day, "Stand for Life." Will you "Stand for Life" when choosing your career path? Perhaps become a social worker who works with families in crisis in a NICU or PICU or work for social services trying to prevent child abuse. Will you "Stand for Life" when you have the power to make important policy decisions in your corporate or professional life that affect your employees and their families? Even simply in your everyday personal interactions, try to put into practice the values we've instilled in you here at Good Counsel, and try to make "Standing for Life" a part of what makes you, you. AND...do it with Zeal!

Read more about Blog: I am a Mother. #iStand4Life


My first year at Good Counsel was 2011. I was co-moderator of an 11th grade Community with my colleague from the Business Office, Bill Mooney. Back then, there was no advisory curriculum to cover. The ten minutes of Community was an informal combo of message delivery and time to relax, a time where growth and formation took place in what Theodore James Ryken called the "common, ordinary, unspectacular flow of everyday life."

Over the 2011-12 year, Bill and I figured out we had a talented group of juniors – scholars, artists, athletes. We went on a memorable Junior Retreat together. After they graduated in May 2013, two went to Ivy League schools: Harvard and Brown. Others to schools like Georgetown, Maryland and Florida. Four were D1 football players.

Today, the majority of those 25 men and women have graduated from college. Whether by LinkedIn, Facebook, word-of-mouth, or visits to campus, I try to keep up with what these young alumni are up to. It's clear that they have parlayed their Good Counsel experience into accomplishment in college. They are nurses, educational entrepreneurs, communications specialists, cognitive therapy researchers, digital media producers, graduate students in women's studies and physical therapy, wealth management trainees.

Before you say "Enough with the nostalgia," I want to share about one student whose talents have kept him connected to Good Counsel.

Jimmy Stubbs came to GC in 2009 with an interest in visual art. A large format self-portrait he completed his senior year and still hanging in Mr. Clulow's classroom points to Jimmy's talent. The brightness of the background matches the brightness of the personality.

Jimmy did not perform in plays or musicals during his middle school years. That changed at GC. We often talk about our school as a place where students are encouraged to find their "best fit." Jimmy found his. He was in all eight shows in his four years, establishing a reputation for scene-stealing comedic timing. It was no surprise when Jimmy headed to the University of Maryland to major in Theatre.

At College Park, Jimmy's focus shifted to scenic design. He stayed in touch with his teachers and mentors: Kristina Friedgen, Rosemary Slocum, Rich Slocum, David Petrocci. Knowing his talent, the Good Counsel Theatre Company invited Jimmy to design the set for the fall production. And they didn't make it easy, tossing in the additional challenge of designing a set that would have to be movable to work with two plays as we are presenting a double feature. Undergraduate students seldom design sets that get to be constructed at full scale. Jimmy was not going to pass on an opportunity to go big! I am told that the set he designed has had to be scaled back a bit. Even so, it covers the entire width of the PAC stage. It is Jimmy's largest realized set and he plans to use it in his application for admission to the Master of Fine Arts in Scenic Design program at Yale.

Not every student's path will lead back to Good Counsel in such a conspicuous way. Nor can we so directly propel every alumnus to a prestigious graduate program. Rather, Jimmy's story is one of a talent identified and nurtured by caring faculty and staff during a student's years at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. It's mission delivery at its most fundamental: We inspire our students to excel, serve, and love.

Kudos, Jimmy. You make the moderators of Community 9307 very proud.

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If you want to see Jimmy's set in the hands of extraordinarily talented students, the curtain rises on our fall double-bill later this week, The Real Inspector Hound and And Then There Were None.

Read more about Blog Post: On Setting the Stage


For six years, Our Lady of Good Counsel has offered adults the opportunity to continue their education through the Adult Enrichment Program. The program offers classes taught by members of the community, and span a range of topics and skills.

GC is offering an impressive variety of classes this fall. Sessions vary in length from 1-night to 5-week courses, and topics include:

COOKING
• Eastern Shore Seafood and Beer Tasting
• Hearty Winter Soups
• Healthy and Tasty Cooking for Kids

LITERARY PURSUITS
• The Great Gatsby

FITNESS & WELLNESS
• Barre Fitness Class
• Essential Oils 101
• Introduction to Acupuncture

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
• World Religions

ART
• Calligraphy for Beginners

For more information and to register online go to http://www.olgchs.org/enrichment-programs-fall-2017. Questions? Contact Lauren Costello, Director of Auxiliary Programs lcostello@olgchs.org

Read more about Fall Adult Enrichment Classes Begin at Good Counsel


Katie Rictor | Director of the Fund for Good Counsel
Friday, September 14, 2017

We are passionate about Good Counsel. As members of this community, we are thrilled when our team wins, when the musical is a success, or when records are broken. We gather in prayer and support those who may need some extra care. We are all a part of building Good Counsel's success. This community is like no other and this year will not be like any other year.

Last year, thanks to our generous parents, alumni, grandparents, and friends we made history. Together, we raised over $879,000, the largest annual fundraising amount in school history, through the Fund for Good Counsel. As a community, you came together to provide our Falcons the opportunities to explore their dreams and develop their own passions this year as our faculty and staff inspire them to excel, serve, and love.

Many programs at Good Counsel make our community unique and it is important that you can support those areas that matter the most to you and your family! That is why I am thrilled to introduce The Fund for Good Counsel: Family of Funds. This new model allows you to designate your unrestricted Fund for Good Counsel gift to any of the following priority areas: Arts, Athletics, Service, Faculty Development, Financial Assistance, Endowment, and Area of Greatest Need.

With your support in these seven impact areas, we can look forward to greater growth and more opportunities for our Falcons. At Good Counsel, we are reliant on private fundraising and tuition to fund operations for our school. Very simply, our success happens within the framework of a strong and thriving school community and campus. The Fund for Good Counsel ensures a strong Good Counsel for all of your children. Our goal this year is to raise a total of $885,000 across the seven areas.

We hope you will give because you believe in the mission of Good Counsel. We hope you will give because you are inspired to see today's students transformed into tomorrow's leaders. We hope you'll give because you are passionate about Catholic education. Most of all, we hope you will give because you are proud to be counted among this community and know that it is only in moving together that we can make the greatest impact. We can't do it alone.

Join us in writing the next chapter of Good Counsel's story. To make your gift or learn more about the Family of Funds, visit www.olgchs.org/giving

Read more about Blog: Introducing the Family of Funds


Dr. Paul Barker | Good Counsel President
Friday, September 8, 2017

This past Tuesday the President of the United States rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. There has been considerable public outcry. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement that begins: "The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible." Our archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, called the decision "regrettable and harmful." President of the University of Notre Dame Father John Jenkins described discontinuing DACA as "foolish, cruel and un-American."

Our Lady of Good Counsel High School stands in solidarity with these Catholic leaders in expressing dismay at the announcement.

For the next six months matters are in the hands of legislators. There is some hope that the chorus of voices in support of the Dreamers will inspire the members of Congress to overcome the bitter partisan inertia of recent years and work together to come up with a solution that provides a path for these young people to remain.

Why am I writing about this issue? Two reasons.

First, I write as head of a school where this feels personal. We think it is highly likely that we have some undocumented students at Good Counsel. We do not know with any certainty because we do not ask about immigration status when students apply for admission. Each student enrolled here has the right to feel the powerful sense of safety and belonging that comes with being a Falcon. In response to threats to the well-being of any student, our Counseling staff, our Chaplain and campus ministers, and our teachers all stand ready to offer assistance and support.

For any student who has immigration status issues or who is feeling the stress of friends and family made newly vulnerable, we hope Good Counsel will be seen as a source of support. Director of Counseling Shena Thompson-Jones, Director of Personal Counseling Eleanor Donaghue, and Dean of Students Ana Lopez (pictured above) have volunteered to be point persons for students seeking information and access to local resources.

My second reason for writing is that I am an immigrant myself.

I'm guessing the first time you heard me speak, you said to yourself, "He's not from here." Some folks guess Boston. Some, Australia. About 1 in 20 guesses correctly: New Zealand. More than 30 years removed from landing in the US for the first time with a K-1 Fiancé visa in hand, I still have vivid memories of reams of paperwork, chest X-rays, consular interviews, and airport interrogations. I won't soon forget the aggressively unwelcoming experience of the Immigration office at the Garmatz Federal Building in downtown Baltimore where the man behind the counter would shout: "If you need forms, come to the counter! No questions!" I do not flatter myself that my immigrant experience represented stress and hardship that is anything like that experienced by today's Dreamers. I came to the US with privilege – a white adult, a fluent English speaker with a college degree, some dollars in my pocket, my papers in order. I had a passport. Even so, until I received my Certificate of Naturalization in 1993 the sense of being "other-ed" was hard to escape. "Alien" was my status and alien was my feeling.

It is hard to imagine the experience of young people who are now faced with great uncertainty about their future in, to quote Cardinal Wuerl, "the only homeland they have ever known."

Today is the 59th anniversary of the opening of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. On this day we remember our deep debt to our founders, the Xaverian Brothers. We recall that a Dutch immigrant founded the Congregation in Belgium. We recall that European Brothers immigrated to the US and through their perseverance established the gift of Xaverian education in our country.

It does not take much digging for any of us to find our own family's migrant story. Our awareness of this reality is recognized in one of the sentences of the Diversity Statement adopted by our Board of Directors in May 2017: We respect, value and celebrate the unique, God-given gifts of each member of our community.

As we wait in hope for a positive legislative outcome, let's be a people of prayer – prayer for our nation, our school, and for every student whom we inspire "to excel, serve, and love."

Read more about Blog Post: On DACA
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