Sister Mary Sue Carwile, IHM

Principal, St. James Catholic School

Latest Updates

March 19, 2021

Friday, March 19, 2021

Dear Parents,

Today, we had a virtual Professional Development Day. The Diocese of Arlington Catholic Schools Office provided a full and varied program of online options for us to view. The day began with a brief faculty meeting and moved to an opening and welcome video from Bishop Burbidge. 

Throughout the day, the teachers joined together in grade clusters to view similar videos that will enhance their classrooms and our school. Since there were so many valuable options, and very difficult to choose only a few to watch, the Diocese is making these available for a year. The teachers loved that!

We are entering into the final weeks of Lent. For me, this is a good time to assess my journey to make sure I have not strayed too far from the road that will lead to Good Friday and Calvary. Sometimes I think Lent is six weeks, so that I do have the time to get back in line, recognizing that Easter can only be celebrated because Jesus accepted Good Friday. I pray that these last days of Lent provided time and space for prayer and reflection for each of you.

Today, on this feast of Saint Joseph, we pray that he will guide us, as a loving father, to welcoming arms of Jesus.


Sister Mary Sue  

March 12, 2021

Friday, March 12, 2021

Dear Parents,

We were blessed this week with beautiful weather and the students enjoyed being back on the convent and rectory lawns. They are very anxiously awaiting the spring uniform changeover. Normally, this begins on April 1. Because April 1 is an early dismissal, we will grant a grace period until after Easter Break for spring uniforms. The uniform exchange will be on March 27, as noted in previous Friday Notes.

Next Wednesday we will be rocking the green (FREE DRESS DOWN) as we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! 

Next Saturday, March 20, our eighth grade students will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Father Scalia has been designated by Bishop Burbidge to confirm the students in three separate Confirmation Liturgies that will not include Mass. We congratulate these students and their families and thank Sister Regina, Mrs. St. Pierre, Mrs. Heid and Mrs. Wilson for all they did to prepare these students for such a special moment in their faith lives.

I hope you enjoy a Fish Fry meal tonight!

I pray you have a peaceful and blessed weekend!

Sister Mary Sue


March 5, 2021

Friday, March 5, 2021

Dear Parents,

We completed a full week of school for two weeks in a row! This is good news indeed! The weather has been very cooperative and by Monday, we hope to be back on the lawns by the convent and rectory. We welcome any lunchtime volunteers for recess, if you have any available time.

The year is moving quickly! Our students in grades 2 and 8 are actively preparing to receive the Sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation. Father Scalia will confirm our eighth grade students on Saturday, March 20. We remember them especially in our prayers during these final weeks of preparation.

Next week our NJHS students will work with Sister Melissa to pack lunches for those in need. These lunches will be sent to Christ House in Alexandria for distribution. Thank you to all who supported this effort through the purchase of Krispy Kreme donuts before Lent.

Tonight will be a very active Fish Fry night. Our monthly food distribution will continue as usual along with the drive through fish fry.  The Fish Fry Committee, working side by side with the Social Outreach Committee fulfilling the monthly food distribution, is a great example of the good works of Saint James Parish. Thank you to all who make this possible.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Sister Mary Sue

February 26, 2021

Friday, February 26, 2021

Dear Parents,

Thank you for your generous donations to our dress down fundraiser for those suffering in Texas. We raised $2,500.00. We have decided to send this money to the Diocese of Beaumont to support Catholic School students who have been impacted by these storms.

Today we began to pray together the Stations of the Cross. Grade 7 & 8 participated. So that everyone can sit in the center and be engaged, we are sitting 3 in a pew, still wearing masks for social distancing.

We have enjoyed a couple of beautiful days and the students and teachers enjoyed time outside.

Hope to see you in line at the Drive Thru Fish Fry!

Have a great weekend.


Sister Mary Sue

February 19, 2021

Friday, February 19, 2021

Dear Parents,

This week, we began the holy season of Lent with Ash Wednesday Mass and the distribution of ashes.  May our lives witness the unfailing love that our God holds for each of us, as we experience the peace of forgiveness and the openness to the graces we need to change our hearts and minds to reflect the genuine love of neighbor that Jesus calls us to live.  

The rest of the week was cut short by this most recent storm.  I hope that you were able to enjoy some down time with your family.  We had a great time playing “Heads Up” in the convent!

While we rejoice with this time to relax, we also remember in our prayer those whose lives have been so tragically impacted by these recent storms.   We will have a dress down day on Wednesday, 2/24,  to support efforts to bring relief to these areas.  Any donation you can send in will go directly to this effort.

Tomorrow, please pray for our young men in grade 8 who will be making a retreat in preparation for their reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation.  Thank you to Sister Regina for all her efforts to make this a great day for them.

Have a great weekend!



Sister Mary Sue

February 12, 2021

Friday, February 12, 2021

Dear Parents,

As you know, sometimes, I recycle my letters. Since Sunday is Valentine’s Day, I am going to share the letter I sent home two years ago: 

Valentine’s Day has come to be a very special day for me. It is a day that speaks of the depths of love that two people share, despite the trials and challenges that may face a married couple. Specifically, I am speaking of my parents. My father died in 1997 and was buried on Valentine’s Day. As is so often the case, he was my mother’s caregiver for 8 years prior to his death. They were totally devoted to one another, and even with my mother’s dementia, their bond never dimmed. I had the privilege of becoming my mother’s primary caregiver after my dad passed. 

Over that year, my mother came to finally realize that my dad had died and she yearned to be with him every day. It was not a surprise to my siblings and me when she peacefully died the next Valentine’s Day. She had been ill and was in the hospital. When we arrived at the hospital that morning, she told us that she dreamt that my dad appeared to her and told her she would die that day, to follow the light to its end, turn right and he would be there waiting. We learned from the nurse that when she told my mother that it was Valentine’s Day, she said, “My Sid can’t be with me, so it is time I go to him.” 

Some would say my mother died of a broken heart. I say her heart, so full of love, brought her to heaven’s gate. During that year, I was witness to her enjoying her children and grandchildren, as well as family events and gatherings. In fact, I would come to Saint James School every day with my mother and work in the office each morning. She enjoyed seeing the students and even became an honorary member of Sister Marie’s fourth grade class. She did not live as one with a broken heart, but one who knew her journey was coming to an end. She enjoyed her life and looked forward to eternity.

I am sharing this story simply because it speaks of love that endured and deepened over many years. I pray that we all may experience the deep love of family and friends and ultimately come to know that this love reflects the unfaltering love that our God holds for each of us. When the candy is gone and the flowers have wilted, how great it is to know that the love God has for each of us stands forever.

News as We Enter into the Holy Season of Lent:

This week we begin Lent. On Ash Wednesday, we will have grades 4 and 7 at Mass and the rest of the school will view it live-streamed. At the end of Mass, our priests will come to school and distribute ashes for the students. The ashes will be placed on the students’ forehead as is traditionally done.

During Lent, the students will not be attending Mass during the week, so that this time can be used for them to have the opportunity to receive the sacrament of Penance. Because of time constraints and safe distancing, only one class per grade will be able to go to confession during the regularly scheduled Mass time.

Enjoy your holiday on Monday!


Sister Mary Sue

February 5, 2021

Friday, February 5, 2021

Dear Parents,

We had a very short, but fun, Catholic Schools Week! The students (and teachers) enjoyed dressing up and down in our various outfits. Because we were out on Monday and Tuesday, this coming Monday will be favorite teams’ jersey/shirt day and Tuesday will be crazy sock day! The students enjoyed a game of Bingo Thursday afternoon and on Friday we played a Saint James Trivia Game! 

Also in school this week, our students in Grade 2-6 received the Sacrament of Penance for the first time on Thursday night. It was wonderful to see them leave the church with so much joy! 

Today after dismissal, the faculty and staff met in the gym (safely distanced) for a brief meeting and time to celebrate together our Blue Ribbon Award.  We also used this time to recognize Nurse Clare for the countless hours she has spent keeping us all safe. Through her experience and expertise, she has done a fantastic job, all with a smile on her face!

We are happy to report that Nurse Clare had navigated the faculty and staff through the process of registering and receiving our Covid-19 Vaccination.  Most of us who have opted to receive it have had our second dose!

Our “SOUPER BOWL” collection had gone very well! Thank you for supporting this endeavor!

I hope you have a peaceful weekend.


Sister Mary Sue

January 29, 2021

Friday, January 29, 2021

Dear Parents,

“Catholic education is above all a question of communicating Christ, of helping to form Christ in the lives of others…” -Saint John Paul II

Sunday begins Catholic Schools Week 2021!  We continue the NCEA theme of Catholic Schools: Learn, Serve, Lead, Succeed! Like all things this year, our Catholic Schools Week will look very different from years’ past.

I am writing this letter fully aware that a huge snowstorm may descend upon us on Sunday, and bring us at least one snow day. If we do not have school due to inclement weather, this will be a true snow day. If the days off exceed more than two days, the teachers will post work on schoology for the students, but there will be no virtual instruction.

If we are in school, we will celebrate CSW with a variety of different outfits during the week. 

On Monday, we will have a favorite team dress down day (for example Notre Dame, just saying…)

On Tuesday we will celebrate our creativity with Crazy Sock Day.

On Wednesday, we will celebrate our literacy by dressing up as our favorite book character or author.

On Thursday, we will celebrate our students with a Free Dress Down Day, following our regular guidelines in the handbook. We will play our annual BINGO in the afternoon over the PA system.  Our students in room 2-6 will receive First Penance this evening. 

On Friday, we will have Spirit Wear Day or anything Red and White and will have Saint James’s Trivia Contest over the PA.


The students are very excited about the variety of dress opportunities. Please assure them that we will reschedule these days if necessary!

As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, I would like to add that not only do I celebrate our students, teachers, priests and staff, but I also celebrate you, our parents, who entrust your children to us each day. Let us continually hold each other in prayer that God will guide us in His wisdom as we work together to instill knowledge to these children, HIs most precious gifts to us all.



Sister Mary Sue

January 22, 2021

Friday, January 22, 2021

Dear Parents,

We began this week with the commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.   On Wednesday, we watched as our new President was sworn in. Today is designated by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops as a Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. All three of these days have, in past years, provided many opportunities for engagement in activities that lifted up the beliefs that we hold deeply as a people. These events have been moved to virtual forums due to Covid concerns. These three events remind me that all of life is holy, that each of us is called to be holy, and our lives in Christ invite us to live that holiness by bringing his love to the poorest among us.  Still, we need to recognize that we live in a broken world where divisions can lead to broken relationships and broken hearts. My daily meditation book provided today a reflection by Sister Melannie Svoboda, S.N.D.   Because she says it better than I could paraphrase, I will share her words with you:

“Kindness and truth will meet, justice and peace will kiss. Psalm 85:11. This Scripture expresses the oneness we all long for. We want love to be wedded to truth, justice and peace. We long to recognize each other as members of one single family. We desire our beliefs and actions to form one seamless garment. In reality, though, we are often confronted by painful division. It is helpful to recall that the name devil (dia-bolos in Greek) means ‘one who divides.’ The evil spirit promotes division, isolation and discord. In contrast, we have Jesus, the Great Unifier, promoting oneness, peace and reconciliation. He does this by his example and teachings on love and selfless service, especially to those most vulnerable. Today, let us pray for the oneness we long for in our families, neighborhoods, church, country and world. And ask for the strength to help heal division wherever we may find it.”

May God bless us all as we work together in building His Kingdom.


Sister Mary Sue

January 8, 2021

Friday, January 8, 2021

Dear Parents,

Happy New Year! May you and your families be blessed in abundance in 2021!

´╗┐Now that the weather may become questionable, and Falls Church City Schools may or may not be in their buildings, please be sure that you have your constant contact information up to date, as closing/late arrival decisions will need to be made in house here at Saint James and notifications need to be accurate. 

We are starting the year with some exciting news! Our IHM postulant, Miss Alexis Reavill, and her director, Sister Mary Ann Spaetti, will be joining our Saint James community for the next three months. This time will provide the opportunity for Miss Alexis to live in a smaller convent setting and experience a great school environment. She will be working with Mrs. Keffalas and Mrs. Donnelly in the teaching of music. We are very happy to welcome these two IHM’s to Saint James!

I would like to thank you for your very generous Christmas giving in so many areas. It is with a grateful and humble heart, that I thank you, also, for your very generous donations to the PTO collection. I think I can speak on behalf of every faculty and staff member in saying thank you for your thoughtfulness.

Next week, Scantron testing will begin and take place over the next three weeks. Please be sure your children come rested and well fed!

May you have a peaceful weekend.


Sister Mary Sue

December 4, 2020

Friday, December 4, 2020

Dear Parents,

It was good to return to school this week after a nice Thanksgiving break. I hope that you enjoyed the extra time.

May this second week of Advent bring you time for preparation of the coming of Jesus, the Prince of Peace! As Christmas approaches ever so quickly, I am grateful for this time of Advent. It is a good time to take stock of how we use our time and the demands we place on ourselves that are relatively optional. What can we put on hold, and what is essential? What time can we carve out in our schedules to ponder the gift of a poor child coming to us from all eternity, to experience the boundaries of time and space as He teaches us to live in the present moment of each day.

We hear daily about the rising number of Covid-19 cases across the country and we continue to take every precaution to keep everyone safe at school. As a reminder, if you travel, please check the status of your destination and quarantine if you do visit a high risk area or are in a group of people. Nurse Clare is available to help you in this area.

You may have received the mailing containing the Annual Appeal information. Thank you for the support you constantly give in so many ways. We are most grateful for any financial gift you may be able to provide, especially this year with so many added expenses needed to keep school open and safe.

Don’t forget to put your shoes out Saturday night for Saint Nicholas!

God bless,

Sister Mary Sue

November 13, 2020

Friday, November 13, 2020

Dear Parents,

This week we had another “new” experience: parent teacher conferences via telephone! As we explored different avenues of how to conference, the idea of outside meetings was very appealing.  Given the rain we experienced, it is a good thing our conservative approach of phone calls prevailed!

As we move through the year and life, we are moving into a regular routine in school. The two most concerning times of the day for me are drop off and pick up. During these times, many of us are in a hurry. After Mrs. Haines’ retirement last year, no crossing guard replaced her.  With the increase in traffic, construction vehicles, walkers and bikers, we could use crossing guards at all four corners surrounding school. Please be extra vigilant as you drive to and from school in both the morning and afternoons.  Some of the students are small and not easily seen and the bikers are quick. Please keep a lookout for these students!

Next week is 50’s Day! It’s gratifying to know that we will have finished 50+ days of in school instruction! Let’s keep that going as we head into the holiday season! Next week is our last week before our Thanksgiving Break. There will be no school the week of November 22nd and school will resume on Tuesday, December 1st. If you travel to a place where the Covid numbers are rising, please be prepared to isolate when you return. Please call Nurse Clare if you have any concerns or questions regarding your traveling plans.

Have great weekend!


Sister Mary Sue

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