Fulfilling a “Mission”

In the last six weeks, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington established one new parish and two new Missions. In addition to being indicative of the growth within the Diocese, they will serve emerging Catholic communities.

By: Jim Engelhardt, Communications Strategist

The faces of the faithful at St. Bridget of Ireland, St. Gabriel and Our Lady of La Vang—joyful, jubilant, excited—told you all you needed to know.

Something big happened in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington in the summer of ’17.

We grew.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Our Diocese continues to ride a wave of spiritual momentum, adding to a vibrant multicultural mosaic serving emerging Catholic communities in our area. On July 12, the parish of St. Bridget of Ireland was established in Berryville.

The celebration culminated with St. Bridget’s standing as an independent parish after having been a mission church of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Winchester since 1999.

“I thank all those who have given their time, talent and treasure to build up the Catholic community in Berryville over the years,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said. “I especially thank Father Stan Krempa, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester, for his attentive ministry to the mission of St. Bridget of Ireland over the past 16 years.”

And so it began at St. Bridget of Ireland.

That, however, was just the beginning.

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Last weekend, full houses at Manassas Park Community Center in Manassas Park and at St. Veronica in Chantilly were treated to surprising announcements, kept under wraps until it was time for their dramatic unveiling.  At the start of each Mass, the attendees provided their rapt attention as Bishop Burbidge approached the ambo. Such reverence is standard protocol when our Shepherd, resplendent in his colorful vestments, carrying his crosier and wearing his miter, presides at Masses around the Diocese, bringing with him the respect and honor of his stature within our faith.

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But this time, he brought something more, a decree establishing St. Gabriel as a new mission of All Saints Church, in Manassas, to serve the needs of the growing Catholic population, and in particular the Spanish community, in the City of Manassas Park. Just a few hours later, he issued a similar decree establishing Our Lady of La Vang as a new mission of Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church in Arlington, with services to be held at St. Veronica. They will serve the Vietnamese Catholic communities in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. View our coverage.

It is estimated that there are 3,000 Hispanic Catholics in Manassas Park. Our Lady of La Vang started with 30 families 12 years ago. It now has 422. The Catholic Diocese of Arlington stands at 70 parishes and six missions.

Do the math: Our faith is strong and we are growing.

“With the continued and rapid growth of the Hispanic community in the Manassas area, it is a joy and honor to establish St. Gabriel Mission,” said Bishop Burbidge. “My prayer is that it will provide the opportunity for the vibrant faith of the people in this area to grow for years to come.”

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Bishop Burbidge offered similar sentiments to Our Lady of La Vang parishioners to cap a day unlike any other in the 15 years since he was ordained a Bishop. In fact it was difficult to determine who was more delighted at the news, the Vietnamese community or the Bishop of Arlington.

“It sounds great to say ‘mission,’ this day has been a long time coming,” Bishop Burbidge grinned as he began his homily. “I am grateful for the gift you are to the Church. We are not a congregation; we belong to a Diocese and to one holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.”

Perhaps the parishioners themselves summed it up best at each location as the solemn liturgy gave way to rousing applause, receptions, photos and food. Oh yes, lots of food.

Rolando Rodriguez of St. Gabriel thanked Bishop Burbidge for his presence. “Welcome to our community, now to our mission, thanks to you and thanks to God,” he said as reported by the Arlington Catholic Herald. “You have no idea how much we have prayed for this day to come.”

The upbeat mood was also palpable in Chantilly.

“This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to our community,” Thinh Dinh told the Herald. “We feel very blessed and are going to do our best to have a great community in God.”

“Mission” accomplished.


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