CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN At the end of a Sept. 29 Mass at Jesus the Good Shepherd Church in Owings, principal Jennifer Griffith announces that the Cardinal hickey Academy has been named as a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Applauding in back are Fr. Michael King, canonical administrator for the academy and the pastor of the adjoining parish, and Washington Auxiliary Bishop Martin Holley.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN At the end of a Sept. 29 Mass at Jesus the Good Shepherd Church in Owings, principal Jennifer Griffith announces that the Cardinal hickey Academy has been named as a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Applauding in back are Fr. Michael King, canonical administrator for the academy and the pastor of the adjoining parish, and Washington Auxiliary Bishop Martin Holley.
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The color blue pervaded the reception hall at Cardinal Hickey Academy in Owings: blue balloons and blue table cloths, blue icing on 300 cupcakes, and even blue articles of clothing subtly incorporated into the outfits of many of the teachers—all things fitting for the celebration of being named as a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. After a Mass on Sept. 29 celebrated by Washington Auxiliary Bishop Martin Holley, the academy’s principal Jennifer Griffith announced their achievement to the 195 students, as one female student unfurled a 2015 Blue Ribbon banner.

 “I felt like it was a goal we need to set for ourselves… we were hoping that it would shine a light on Catholic education in Calvert County,” Griffith said in an interview.

That same day, the U.S. Department of Education also announced that another Catholic elementary school in the Archdiocese of Washington – Our Lady of Lourdes School in Bethesda – had also been named as a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School. Cardinal Hickey Academy and Our Lady of Lourdes School are among 50 private schools nationwide to receive that honor this year, and the only two private schools in the state of Maryland.

Cardinal Hickey Academy’s campus, which sits adjacent to Jesus the Good Shepherd Church, prayer garden and recently formed cemetery, is supported by that parish and two other nearby Calvert County parishes: St. Anthony Parish in North Beach and Jesus the Divine Word Parish in Huntingtown.  The kindergarten through eighth grade academy also includes a Catholic Montessori preschool. 

The academy is named after Cardinal James Hickey, who served as the archbishop of Washington from 1980 until his retirement in 2000. During that time, Cardinal Hickey established 12 parishes, four pastoral missions and two schools, including the Cardinal Hickey Academy, as part of the archdiocese’s largest building boom since the post-World War II era. He was well-known for his commitment to Catholic education, and dedicated the school at its opening in 1997.

Like any Catholic school, its strength lies in its dedication to teaching the Gospel of Christ to the next generation, said Father Michael King, who serves as the canonical administrator for the academy and as the pastor of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Father King encourages that mission by celebrating weekly Mass for the students, teaching the eighth grade students on Thursdays and simply by being a presence for the students and staff. The priest said he feels deeply indebted to his own Catholic education, which he said was a mustard seed of faith that kept him rooted during times of spiritual doubt in his adolescence, and eventually blossomed.

After the Mass, the whole school, including several Cardinal Hickey Academy parents, gathered in the centre to eat, drink and especially to congratulate the principal. Griffith believes that the school excels because of the skill and faith of its teachers, all of whom are certified catechists, she noted. She is also proud of its commitment to service, remarking that last week the school raised $4,200 dollars for Smile Train as part of their Walk with Francis, all at the suggestion of one student who saw a commercial for the charity over summer break. The charity provides free cleft lip or palate surgery for children in 87 countries. 

In her 40 years of education, Griffith has served in public and private schools, as a teacher for every grade – kindergarten through eighth – as a principal and even as an employee of the Kentucky Department of Education. When she moved to the area years ago, she knew she wanted to find a home in a Catholic school.

“I believe that Catholic education is a way for me to incorporate the Gospel values into our children’s lives. Being a public school person, I’ve also seen where you couldn’t pray in school. Here we can pray, we can request prayer—we talk about Jesus all the time,” she said.