The whitewashed bricks and stones that make up the walls of
Our Lady, Queen of
Peace Church in Arlington aren't exactly uniform. Some
are big, some are small; some jut out; some are bumpy.
Together, according to Spiritan Father Tim Hickey, pastor,
they make up a perfect metaphor for the parishioners of the
cozy church that sits at the top of South 19th Street.
"I've often thought that that's us," Father Hickey said
recently. "None of them are equal and some stick out further
than others. (But) somehow it all forms the church and it
What Father Hickey is getting to is that the community at
Queen of Peace is a diverse one with a sense of welcome for
all, which stems from its origin in 1945 as a black Catholic
"A lot of our sense of hospitality is born out of the
experience of the black Catholics who helped to found this
parish because they welcomed white families in at a time when
that was not something that was considered all that
acceptable," Father Hickey said.
According to church history, after the parish was founded,
Richmond Bishop Peter L. Ireton invited the
Pennsylvania-based Congregation of the Holy Spirit to serve
at Queen of Peace, partly because members of this order had
experience in black Catholic ministry. For the first 18 years
of the parish's existence, according to a history of the
diocese, Queen of Peace was without boundaries and open to
This same spirit of welcome continues today, with Queen of
Peace welcoming all - including those with mental health
issues, the physically disabled, people who struggle with
alcoholism, homosexuals and their families.
"They want someplace where they themselves can feel welcomed,
be able to talk about it," Father Hickey said. "It's just
Many of those groups use Queen of Peace's facilities for
meetings, will stay to attend an event or a Mass and will get
"It's because they walk in here and
(it) felt like
home because they looked around and saw people like
themselves and nobody stared at them," Father Hickey
Working hand-in-hand with its welcoming spirit, Queen of
Peace is known for its "commitment to living out the Gospel,"
Father Hickey said.
"Living out the Gospel is what inspires us as a community of
faith to understand how important it is to welcome people
into our community," he said. "As we do that, we also
challenge (the parishioners) to pick up the Gospel and to
bring it into their everyday life."
The Gospel passage from Matthew 25:35 is key for Queen of
Peace: "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and
you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me."
story on Christmas care packages for the homeless.)
A strong social justice program and outreach program, led by
Greg Staff, helps live out this mission. The Haiti Committee
works diligently to provide basic needs and educational
opportunities to the remote village of Medor, Haiti, where
Queen of Peace has a "twin" parish. (See
story about NBC Dateline's coverage of efforts in Haiti.)
Parishioners glean (harvest vegetables) for the Arlington
Food Assistance Center. They run "Matthew 25," a thrift store
for the needy located in the parish Ministry Center. The
pastoral staff encourages involvement in every project,
giving suggestions for involvement in homilies or at the end
of Mass, Father Hickey said.
"The connection (between spiritual life and action) is very
clear," said Christina Kozyn, parish office administrator.
"Priests give announcements and challenge people with a list
of things that are needed."
Queen of Peace is known as a destination parish, attracting
people from Washington, D.C., Maryland and other parts of the
Arlington Diocese by the unique way it works to carry out its
"We really challenge them," said Katie Remedios, religious
education director. "Once they get involved, they're here for
everything - making pies, working in food pantry, making
scarves for homeless. They travel a long distance, but it
changes their life."
"People aren't looking for a 45-minute experience of church,"
Father Hickey said. "They come here and they expect to
participate in the Eucharist, and they expect to do that with
a strong sense of community."
Participating in the Eucharist is an intimate event at Queen
of Peace. The small church is filled for most of the six
weekend liturgies, with the 9:30 and 11:15 a.m. Masses most
"We're packed in like sardines, but we're all on the same
page," Father Hickey said.
Their Masses feature mostly contemporary music, including a
lively choir and ensemble at the 11:15 a.m. Mass and a more
meditative group of singers at the 6 p.m. Sunday young adult
A sense of participation and joy during the Masses struck
Father Hickey from the moment he arrived at Queen of Peace.
Father Tom Tunney, parochial vicar, agreed.
"People are hugging and kissing and hand-shaking all over the
place," he said.
Queen of Peace operates a unique religious education program,
one that is home-based or "family circle"-based, meaning the
majority of education is being done inside the child's family
"Jesus should be at the dinner table every day," Remedios
said. "Our programs are designed for the parents to be the
first teachers of the Faith. The families are totally
Once a month the youths get together to go over what they
have learned independently.
"There's nothing more amazing than standing out front on
Sunday and watching these
little kids trying to drag
these reusable bags of groceries," Father Hickey said.
"Parents are teaching children - making a connection between
helping the poor and their faith life."
Father Hickey said there's a hunger among parishioners for
learning and for prayer, so it's a continual challenge to
meet needs for adult education and spiritual
"We're seeing people from the social justice committee coming
to the meditation group and vice versa," Father Hickey said.
"As they're deepening their prayer life, they're hearing the
call to step out and pay attention to the needs of
With all these projects ongoing, there never seems to be
enough time to do everything that needs to get done, Father
Hickey said. Limited staff and space are also
"As we grow, we just don't have room," Remedios said. "We're
bursting at the seams."
But that's also a good thing.
"The people are wonderful," Father Hickey said. "It's a real
strong sense of a family of faith. They want us here and we
want them here, and we want to do this together."
Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church
2700 S. 19th St.
Arlington, Va 22204
Pastor: Spiritan Fr. Tim J. Hickey
Parochial vicar: Spiritan Fr. Tom P. Tunney
In residence: Fr. Robert J. Richter
DRE: Katie Remedios
Sat.: 6 p.m. vigil
Sun.: 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 1 p.m.