When the second-largest firm within the nation says it’s bringing you as much as 25,000 new neighbors, what’s a Catholic church to do? The reply was clear to the pastor of Our Girl of Lourdes, Father Frederick H. Edlefsen: you innovate to speak with individuals the place they’re and appeal to them.
As Father Edlefsen sees it, the Aurora Highlands a part of Arlington that’s residence to his church has skilled a collection of periodic renovations for the reason that finish of World Warfare II. Because the parish marks its seventy fifth anniversary this 12 months, he mentioned one other transition is underway with the appearance
of Amazon’s second headquarters and an anticipated Virginia Tech College campus.
I name us the granddaughter of the oldest church in Virginia… It’s a lineage.
After seven years as a mission of St. Rita Church in Alexandria, Our Girl of Lourdes Parish was established in 1946 by Richmond Bishop Peter L. Ireton, as Catholics emigrated to Arlington after the warfare. The 1965 development of retail shops and the Crystal Home luxurious flats coined
the Crystal Metropolis moniker. Then got here the Metro station. Now, the inflow of recent jobs and native improvement efforts are revamping the broader space right into a walkable, city neighborhood branded Nationwide Touchdown.
Father Edlefsen has embraced the change, which he predicts will reshape the parish. He forecasts “a little bit of a revolving door,” as younger adults and households be part of the parish and, after a number of years, might relocate elsewhere, changed by youthful Catholics. Whereas that could be acquainted to different Arlington
parishes, “we’re going to really feel it with somewhat bit extra, I’d say, depth,” he mentioned.
Whereas June 25 marks solely his first anniversary as pastor there after beforehand serving as pastor at St. Agnes Church in Arlington, Father Edlefsen’s vitality and big-picture imaginative and prescient have already got left an impression, parishioners say.
“It’s as if he lived right here all his life,” mentioned longtime parishioner and volunteer Kathryn Updegraft. “This man has discovered his approach into our hearts.”
The bulletin now options front-page QR codes readers can scan to volunteer or make weekly offertories on-line. Printed index playing cards within the pews and narthex bear the identical codes. All that helped Our Girl of Lourdes exceed its purpose for the 2021 Bishop’s Lenten Enchantment, reversing final 12 months’s shortfall.
Whereas he eschews being labeled tech-savvy and considers himself old fashioned, Father Edlefsen commissioned a trendy, interactive web site to draw new parishioners. An “I’M NEW” tab atop the web site greets these settling within the space.
The parish boundaries embody the Pentagon, staffed by navy service members usually on momentary assignments. Amazon is predicted to make use of roughly 25,000 individuals at its new second headquarters right here by 2025. Catholics working for Amazon and different tech firms have registered with the
parish, Father Edlefsen famous.
Marriage preparation requests have surged, thanks partially to on-line pre-Cana kinds. The brand new web site, launched in November, additionally highlights the church’s stained-glass home windows and shut relationship with its patroness. Every month, the pastor publishes a video message about upcoming feast days and
Church veterans, together with Carole DeLong, who’ve lived via previous adjustments discover one thing completely different — and extra new faces. “The parish is worked up about getting new individuals and lots of them are younger,” she mentioned. “Which is nice.”
Digital recruiting has boosted volunteer efforts, that are already substantial. This month a meals drive will profit Catholic Charities’ Christ Home pantry in Alexandria and the parish pro-life committee raises funds to assist the Gabriel Undertaking and Undertaking Rachel.
Whereas its 50-year anniversary in 1996 included gatherings and festivities deliberate properly prematurely, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted employees and volunteers to undertake a scaled-back strategy this 12 months.
Parishioners gathered for a day of thanksgiving prayer June 9. After midday Mass, Father Edlefsen led a Miraculous Medal novena, persevering with a parish custom relationship again to 1940 when it was nonetheless a mission church. A day of Eucharistic adoration was punctuated by a night rosary,
adopted by the 7 p.m. Mass.
With pandemic restrictions lifting, bigger parish gatherings are anticipated. Plans are within the works for a fall parish picnic and an Our Girl of Guadalupe feast day celebration in December led by the Spanish-speaking neighborhood.
Father Edlefsen lately revealed a historical past of the parish on its web site. It paperwork the neighborhood’s first common Plenty in 1927 and development of a “basement” church in 1939, when Our Girl of Lourdes formally grew to become a mission of St. Rita, which 16 years earlier was itself a
mission of the Basilica of St. Mary in Previous City Alexandria.
“I name us the granddaughter of the oldest church in Virginia,” Father Edlefsen mentioned. “It offers a way of the historic depth of this neighborhood. It’s a lineage.”
The church, which Father Edlefsen described as “mid-century fashionable” in structure, was constructed in 1963, with Mass first celebrated there on Christmas Eve. Through the late Eighties and early Nineties, church beautification efforts included stained-glass home windows alongside the nave depicting
the Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection and different well-known New Testomony scenes. Extra stained-glass artwork was added to adorn the sanctuary, Mary’s grotto and the narthex.
For Father Edlefsen, the mix of all that work offers the church a comfortable really feel and recollects for him the precise grotto of Our Girl of Lourdes in France, the place Mary appeared to St. Bernadette.
“And so our story continues to this present day with a thriving parish and a really dynamic neighborhood with many of us shifting in and many of us excited to get entangled in our parish,” Father Edlefsen mentioned in a latest video message on the parish web site.
Schweers may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.