A Milestone for Saint John Bosco and a Salute to Golden Apple Teachers

2014 Graduation

Don Bosco Cristo Rey – Class of 2014 (Photo Credit: Ana Chapa)

On Sunday, May 3, the Church of Washington was pleased to welcome His Eminence Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco, and the many pilgrims who gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for a Eucharistic celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of Saint John Bosco. The patron saint of providing a Catholic education for children in need, this beloved man, truly epitomized what Pope Francis calls “the joy of the Gospel.”

Born on August 16, 1815, in a small hamlet near Turin, Italy, John Bosco was two years old when his father died, and he grew up poor and worked as a shepherd boy. This lesson in life would stay with him forever as he also learned the Catholic faith from his mother and his parish priest.

As a boy and then as a young man, he was known for his joyful faith. When he was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Turin, he dedicated his life to providing educational and job training opportunities for street children and other youth living in poverty. From his own experience, he knew how learning about Jesus could transform one’s heart. Popularly known as Don Bosco, he began a network of schools and vocational programs, and founded the Salesians, who today constitute the second largest Catholic religious order in the world. His feast day is celebrated on January 31, the day that he died in 1888.

Next month, Pope Francis will visit Turin to venerate the famous Shroud of Turin, which is believed to be the burial cloth of Christ, and also to celebrate the legacy of Saint John Bosco. In Turin, the Holy Father will walk in his footsteps by visiting with young people and the poor, and he will meet with Salesians and educators at the Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians, which was founded by the saint and houses his casket.

The saint’s name also graces Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Maryland, sponsored by the Salesians and by the Archdiocese of Washington. In the spirit of Saint John Bosco, the school offers a challenging academic curriculum and an innovative corporate work study program to help children from low-income families find a brighter future rooted in faith. The school, which opened in 2007, has a 100 percent college acceptance rate for its students, many of whom are the first members of their family to go on to higher education.

This is also a time when we celebrate the 2015 Golden Apple Award teachers from the archdiocese:

  • John Boldt of Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg;
  • Jennifer Collier of Saint John School in Hollywood;
  • Leanne Emmerich of Little Flower School in Great Mills;
  • Jane M. Johnson of Saint Mary School in Bryantown;
  • Meghan Meyer of Our Lady of Victory School in Washington;
  • Monica Moyer of Saint Mary of the Mills School in Laurel;
  • Elizabeth  Orlandi of Saint Elizabeth School in Rockville;
  • Julie Southern Penndorf of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville;
  • Jennifer T. Gay Rison of Archbishop Neale School in La Plata; and
  • Elizabeth Wathen of Saint Michael School in Ridge.

At a dinner this month, these teachers will receive a $5,000 prize, along with a golden apple, pin and certificate. The Golden Apple Awards are presented through the generosity of the Donahue Family Foundation, founded by Jack and Rhodora Donahue, who sent their 13 children to Catholic schools.

All the teachers in our Catholic schools, and all the parents, graduates, parishioners and community members who support those schools, truly carry on the legacy of learning and love exemplified by Saint John Bosco. That great saint born 200 years ago believed in providing children with a Catholic education so they could learn about the Good News of Jesus, be inspired to help build God’s kingdom here on earth, and ultimately find everlasting joy in heaven.

The website of Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School summarizes the legacy of its patron saint which unfolds every day in its classrooms: “His mission was clear and simple: to be a friend – a friend to kids who were poor, kids abandoned, kids at risk – and in so doing, to be a friend to Christ.”