Music, speeches, prayers and fond memories marked Saturday morning's ceremony at St. Timothy Catholic School in Chantilly, dedicating the junior-high wing and library in honor of school principal Marilyn Valatka.
The school band performed, and a student ensemble sang a song written especially for her. And the fall festival following the event kicked off a year of celebration of the school's 25th anniversary.
The Rev. Gerald Weymes welcomed the crowd and served as emcee. Guests included the Rev. Timothy McNiff, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Arlington; Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully); Sen. James K. "Jay" O'Brien (R-39th); and local architect Bill Robson, who designed almost the whole campus, as well as the new library and junior-high wing.
Frey, who was instrumental in helping St. Timothy obtain Fairfax County's approval for the new additions, thanked school officials for allowing him to "share this wonderful day." And he congratulated the school on its continued growth.
"When this church first opened, there were probably literally more cows than people for your neighbors," he said. "It's a beautiful campus sitting here in the midst of suburbia. While we're proud of Fairfax County Public Schools, we're just as proud of the choices in education Fairfax County offers. An education at St. Timothy is as fine as it comes, and I know the next 25 years are going to be just as good. So best of luck and continued success."
O'Brien, who noted that he, too, attended Catholic school, said his sons Sean and Kiernan currently attend St. Timothy. And, he added, "Catholic education is all about growing in faith."
McNiff said this diocese contains 44 schools, and "there's not another school that comes with as much success and rich history that this school has." Giving credit for that to St. Timothy's pastors, principals and parents, he said the parents give back on a voluntary basis, and the teachers and students work hard.
Therefore, said McNiff, when students graduate from here, "The high schools want St. Timothy kids, and that's because of the quality of the education here."
The next speaker was Robson, of Robson Group Architects in Chantilly. And in introducing him, Weymes said, "Without him, we wouldn't have this building."
Robson then quoted from a letter St. Paul sent to St. Timothy, in which he wrote, "Be an example to others in speech, love, life and in faith." And, said Robson, "I think there's no better example of this than in the work of the teachers here and how they illustrate God's truth. And it's important in the world today when we face the pressures we face."
After that, Weymes blessed the building, saying, "We ask God's blessing on our continued seeking, learning and teaching what is true ... so our students will be able to educate and enlighten others. Lord, we dedicate this building to the education of youth, the progress of science and of learning and to the search for the wisdom that guides the Christian life."
He then thanked God for the school and its principal, Valatka. "She is an outstanding educator, and she's been at St. Timothy 25 years — God has been good to us. She understands children and loves every one of them, and she's been discerning in picking a quality staff."
Weymes presented a plaque to her — unveiled by her son Greg and grandson Henry, 22 months, of Blacksburg — "in recognition of 25 years of devoted service to St. Timothy and the opening of the new junior-high wing and library."
"This is a wonderful school, for many reasons, and [it] was dedicated to our Blessed Mother," said Valatka. "In 1981, all the houses across the street [Poplar Tree Road] were hit by a tornado, and it didn't touch a single shingle on the school. That's when I knew we had work to do."