In 1959, the Richmond Diocese covered the entire state of
Virginia. The Arlington Diocese was still 15 years from its
founding and the Annandale/Springfield area was served by one
parish, St. Michael in Annandale, and it was getting crowded.
Bernadette Church in Springfield arose from the
mid-century Catholic boom. About 500 St. Michael parishioners
made up the fledgling parish when founding pastor, Father
Francis Bradican, began celebrating Mass in April 1959 at Lee
High School in Springfield.
Father Bradican was succeeded as pastor by Msgr. Edmund
Browne in 1972. It wasn't long before Msgr. Browne began a
building drive to get a permanent home for the parish.
Ground was broken for the new church in early 1980 and in the
fall of 1981, the church was dedicated by the late Arlington
Bishop Thomas J. Welsh.
In 1985, Father John Hughes became pastor and served for 17
years before retiring in 2002. Father Tom Ferguson served as
administrator until Father Kevin Larsen took over as pastor
During this time, the area population and church membership
rose steadily. The federal government, the military and the
companies that support them swelled the regional
In 1997, St. Raymond of Peñafort Church was founded in
response to the population changes, taking members from
several area parishes, including about one-third of the
parishioners of St. Bernadette.
"(Before the split,) every Mass was packed," said Father
Afterward, attendance dropped off. They had a big church, and
it was not being filled.
Before becoming pastor, Father Larsen was parochial vicar of
St. Bernadette from 1993-97.
When he returned in 2004, he began addressing the changing
demographics of his church and the need to maintain the
nearly 30-year-old parish structures.
Father Larsen added a Spanish Mass every Sunday, a Filipino
Mass every third Saturday and various cultural activities for
the many ethnic groups served.
He's replaced roofs, heating systems and windows, all the
things needed to maintain aging structures.
"People have been very generous," he said of
He's assisted by parochial vicars Fathers Marcus Pollard and
Paul Richardson. Father Luis Fernando Franco Henao is in
Parishioners now total more than 9,000, and Clare Berkovic,
office manager, said that about 7,000 are active in parish
"The parishioners deeply love this parish," she said. "This
parish (is a model) of deep-rooted kindness."
Father Pollard said the church is special, "because we make a
wide spectrum of Catholics feel welcome. We cater to
Father Pollard was the founding pastor of St. Veronica Church
in Chantilly, and he came to St. Bernadette in 2007.
Father Richardson came to St. Bernadette in 2009 and the
parish has embraced him. Although his multiple sclerosis
forces him to walk with a cane, he's managed to become a
journeyman blacksmith, accomplished photographer, musician
and quite the Warhammer (a tabletop war game) player. "I love
it here," he said. "The people are wonderful and Father Kevin
is as good a pastor as you can ask for."
Peggy Seegers, now 84, was the first parish secretary. She
worked for Father Bradican and Msgr. Browne.
"I did it all," she said. "From bookkeeping to answering the
phone" and acting as the buffer between the pastor and
Seegers likes working in the office so much she still comes
in once a month to help out.
David Wallace has been the director of religious education
for three years. The Christendom graduate is responsible for
300 children and has about 60 volunteers who teach religious
education. These are a stable core of teachers.
"A lot of the catechists have been here for decades," said
Wallace, who lives in Front Royal and has a unique view of
"It's interesting to see the parish as an outsider," he
He likes the enthusiasm of all the volunteers.
Donna Feerst has been the business manager for seven years
and is also a parishioner.
"It's a vibrant parish filled with wonderful people," she
Feerst said that Father Larsen is a good leader and a strong
Khan Nguyen has been the facilities manager for 12 years. He
was married in the church and loves implementing the physical
renovations and installations that Father Larsen has planned.
He proudly tours the buildings pointing out new or renovated
areas he helped put into service.
The parish celebrated its golden anniversary last year when
Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde was joined by diocesan
priests, parishioners and friends to celebrate its years of
commitment to the Faith. Despite demographic and population
changes, with strong clergy leadership and parishioner
commitment, the parish's future is secure.
Next week's profile
St. Leo the Great in Fairfax
St. Bernadette Parish
7600 Old Keene Mill Rd.
Springfield, Va. 22152
Pastor: Fr. Kevin Larsen
Parochial Vicars: Fr. Marcus Pollard, Fr. Paul
In residence: Fr. Luis Fernando Franco Henao
Deacon: Ramon Tirado
DRE: David Wallace
Sat.: 8 a.m.; 5:30 p.m. (Vigil) Filipino Mass every third
Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Sun: 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m.
(Spanish), 5 p.m.,
Weekdays: 9 a.m.
School: St. Bernadette School
7602 Old Keene Mill Rd.
Springfield, Va. 22152
Principal: Trish Beeks