Mission & History

Mission Statement

In the spirit of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop Ireton High School is a Catholic college preparatory school that promotes spiritual, intellectual, creative, social and physical development.
As a Salesian community of learning and service, Bishop Ireton High school prepares and inspires students to Advance Always with a Christ-centered focus to meet and surpass current and future global challenges.

Our School

    • Head of School with students at front entrance

    • Bishop, Father and students in prayer

Bishop Ireton High School, a Catholic preparatory high school located in historic Alexandria, Va., began its proud heritage of academic excellence in 1964. As a Salesian community of learning, Bishop Ireton is dedicated to the educational and spiritual formation of young men and women, challenging them to Advance Always in scholarship, service, and in the love of God and one another. The school resides in the Diocese of Arlington, receives accreditation from the Virginia Catholic Education Association, the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools and competes in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) and the Virginia Independent School Athletic Association (VISAA).

Bishop Ireton accomplishes its mission by developing within each student the following:

  • Deepened faith in order to encourage a loving commitment to God and the Catholic Church
  • Spiritual and moral values
  • The desire for life-long learning
  • The pursuit of academic excellence in all disciplines
  • Appreciation of the fine and creative arts
  • Understanding of our multi-cultural heritage to appreciate and respect individual differences
  • Knowledge and application of technological innovations for the benefit of humanity
  • The pursuit of physical fitness and knowledge of mental and physical health as a life-long goal
Together with its community of families, Bishop Ireton provides students with the foundation and relationships for a lifetime of success, helping to ready the next generation to be exemplary and ethical leaders in an ever-changing world.

History and Salesian Heritage

Peter Leo Ireton served as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond from 1945 until his death in 1958, establishing 42 parishes and 24 schools during his tenure. In collaboration with Monsignor Edward L. Stephens, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Alexandria (the oldest Catholic Church in Virginia), Bishop Peter L. Ireton recognized the need for a Catholic, all-male high school to serve the needs of a booming Northern Virginia area and complement the nearby Catholic school for young women. This all-girls’ high school, St Mary’s Academy, was a private Alexandria school founded by the Sisters of the Holy Cross in 1869. 
Under the leadership of the Diocese of Richmond, Bishop Ireton High School opened its doors to young men in 1964 and was staffed by the Oblates of St Francis De Sales. In 1974, the Diocese of Richmond was reconfigured, and Bishop Ireton High School became part of the Diocese of Arlington. In 1990, Bishop Ireton High School became a co-educational institution in response to the closing of St. Mary’s Academy. The administration worked closely with the Sisters of the Holy Cross to ensure a smooth transition for the students. Enrollment grew and facilities increased with the addition of a new auditorium wing and several new classrooms.

The Oblates of St. Francis De Sales announced their last year on staff in 2008, and the “Live Jesus Charter” was implemented to maintain traditions and the school’s Salesian spirituality. Under diocesan direction, Bishop Ireton High School’s lay professionals continued leading with outstanding academics while also infusing the curriculum and activities with Salesian charism. In 2013, the Diocese of Arlington transitioned all high school leadership to a Head of School-Principal model, and Bishop Ireton High School operates under that model to this day. The school built a new academic building, front entrance and renovated athletic wing in 2020, and continues to expand its academic support services while remaining steeped in tradition and Salesian spirituality.

For more than half a century, Bishop Ireton High School has provided a first-class Catholic education to over 10,000 young men and women, teaching them to “Advance Always” and “Live Jesus” through the charism of St. Francis De Sales. Bishop Ireton High School cherishes the sacred dignity of every individual and values the contributions of all school community members. We strive for academic excellence rooted in Catholic social justice teaching, with a shared sense of belonging and the understanding that cultural and racial diversity enriches the quality of our learning, faith, scholarship, service and leadership. The faculty and administration continually strive to teach and live the core Gospel values, and emphasize the humble spirit of “the gentleman saint.”

Salesian Activities

  • Daily recitation of the Salesian Direction of Intention prayer
  • Instruction on the life of St. Francis de Sales through our Religion classes, retreats, Mass and iconography throughout the building
  • Maintain and provide instruction on the Live Jesus Charter, which is visible in every classroom throughout the school
  • Annual selection of a student Salesian leadership team, with student leaders providing monthly reflections on Salesian values for the student body
  • Student participation in Salesian Leadership Camp in Michigan and Salesian trips to Annecy, France during the summer
  • Student participation in DeSales Service Works retreat program in Camden, New Jersey throughout the year
  • Alumni, student and faculty-written Salesian reflections included in various publications throughout the school year
  • Maintain an ongoing relationship with the Oblates through our Salesian Discipleship Team, Masses and events, alumni activities, and through community financial support of the Oblate Retirement Fund
  • Award the Salesian Medal to faculty and students on the Feast of St. Francis de Sales and during Graduation exercises