St. Michael the Archangel, a private Catholic high school in Spotsylvania County, has earned official designation as a Catholic, independent school in the Diocese of Arlington.

Jennifer Bigelow, superintendent of schools for the diocese, read a letter from Bishop Michael Burbidge granting the designation at an assembly Wednesday morning.

“We’re so thrilled for you,” Bigelow told the audience, which included teachers, administration and most of the student body of 67.

Principal Ann Lewis wrote in a letter to the community that “an achievement such as this is the result of the passion and dedication of every single member of the Warrior Family—faculty, staff, parents, students and volunteers—and I offer my most sincere gratitude to each of you.”

Achieving recognition from the diocese was a year-long process that began in September. The school had to demonstrate evidence of school accreditation and financial stability, verify that the principal and board of trustees are practicing Catholics in good standing and that faculty are Catechist-certified.

Recognition means the school’s religious and academic curriculum has been approved by the diocese and that it is a “well-run” school, Bigelow said.

“I think the immediate benefit is credibility,” Bigelow said. “The school has been found to be in service to the bishop.”

Hugh Brown, one of St. Michael’s founders, said the school applied for recognition five years after it was established in 2004.

“We were told no,” he said. “Thirteen years have passed and here we are.”

Brown said he hopes the designation will attract new families to the school, which usually has an enrollment of between 70 and 105. He said there is a need for a Catholic high school in the Fredericksburg area to serve students attending one of the local Catholic elementary schools—Holy Cross Academy, St. Patrick School, St. Francis of Assisi School or St. William of York School.

Until now, the nearest Catholic high school in the diocese was St. John Paul the Great in Dumfries.

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Adele Uphaus-Conner: 540/735-1973 auphaus@freelancestar.com @flsadele

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