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Commute gets shorter for Catholic students
Catholic diocese builds new school in Dumfries

 Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School will open its doors to nearly 200 students Monday.
Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School
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Date published: 8/23/2008


Glass trophy cases line the sleek hallways of the new Catholic high school in Dumfries.

The glass shelves remain empty, save for a few artifacts from the school's namesake--rosaries and missals blessed by Pope John Paul II.

But Colin Komp, a Stafford County resident who will begin his freshman year at Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School this week, hopes to help line those shelves with trophies.

He played on Holy Cross Academy's basketball team and looks forward to competing on the new school's basketball team.

When Colin started at Holy Cross two years ago, there weren't many options for Catholic students after they finished at the southern Stafford school. It ends with eighth grade.

Some chose to make the long trek to Bishop Ireton Catholic High School in Alexandria, often taking the Virginia Railway Express to classes every day. Some go to public schools or enroll in the local Catholic school, which is not run by the Arlington Catholic Diocese.

Colin and his family knew Pope John Paul the Great was expected to open in time for his freshman year, so they planned for him to attend the Dumfries school, which is 30 minutes away "in light traffic," Colin said as he toured the new school during a blessing ceremony held Sunday.

He is one of about a dozen Fredericksburg-area students who will make the commute. The school will provide a bus, which will pick up and drop off at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Fredericksburg.

When he walks through the doors Monday, Colin will know only three other students, out of the 200 who will attend the school.

"Three is enough," he shrugged. And he said that in addition to the new architecture of the school, the high-tech details and the new curriculum, which includes the only Catholic bioethics program in the nation, he is also looking forward to a new social structure.

"Nothing is preset," Colin said. "You're making the culture of the school."

Patricia Smith, director of counseling, will help Colin and the other students make that culture.

She also commutes from Fredericksburg, a drive she has been making for about a month. The trip is a small sacrifice to be part of the school, she said.

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The school year will begin Monday with 200 students, representing the freshman and sophomore classes. Members of the Class of 2011 will be the first graduates of Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School. The school will be run by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation, a teaching order working in 32 schools. The school will eventually serve 1,000 students on its 40-acre site in Dumfries.

This school is now the closest high school run by the Arlington Catholic Diocese, which oversees the Catholic churches in the Fredericksburg area.

For details, visit jpthegreat .org.

--Amy Flowers Umble