A celebration of faith, family and community at St. Mark Church

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St. Mark Parish in Vienna celebrated faith, family and community Nov. 22 as it observed its 50th anniversary with the help of Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde and Bishop Anthony Justs, bishop emeritus of Jelgava, Latvia, and former pastor at St. Mark's.

Fathers Patrick Holroyd, pastor, and Paul Grankauskas, parochial vicar, were among more than a dozen priests who concelebrated the liturgy.

The parish was established in 1965 by Richmond Bishop John Russell. Father Robert J. Walsh served as the first pastor to 400 families. Mass was celebrated at James Madison High School in Vienna for three years before the original church was built in 1968.

As the years went by, the number of parishioners grew and so did the church. A 1984 addition brought a new sanctuary and transformed the original church into the Msgr. Tom Cassidy activity center. Msgr. Cassidy served as pastor for 16 years and came back in retirement for another eight years before his death in 2011.

Another addition in 2003 brought the St. Mark Christian Formation Center, which houses St. Mark School and all the parish religious education and formation classes. Father Holroyd has been pastor since 2001. Today, the parish is home to more than 10,000 people and 400 students are enrolled in the school.

"What a joy it is to be here gathered with all of you," Bishop Loverde said in his homily. "It is truly a day of celebration."

The bishop noted that the anniversary Mass was being celebrated at the end of the church's liturgical year on the Feast of Christ the King. It also was the week of Thanksgiving and a week away from Advent, "when we anticipate with hope and joy the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.

"We have another reason to rejoice, to give praise and thanks for the 50th anniversary of the founding of St. Mark Parish," he said.

Bishop Loverde reminded the congregation how much the parish has grown. "We are grateful for the past and hope as we contemplate the promise of more growth and fruitfulness in the future," he said.

"We open our hearts so Jesus Christ can reign in our lives."

The bishop said the parish plays a vital role in the new evangelization. "It reaches out to those in need and it is here that we are nourished," he said.

"We can see how God's kingdom has grown over the past five decades."

The bishop recognized the service-oriented nature of St. Mark Parish and the solid foundation established by Father Walsh. He praised the leadership of subsequent pastors, including Msgr. Cassidy, Father Stewart Culkin, Bishop Justs and Father Holroyd.

"Today, we can do nothing but rejoice," he said. "We also gather to renew our commitment to serve Christ the King."

The church is the people of God and the parish is the living presence of Christ, Bishop Loverde said.

Here at St. Mark's, you are the church praying, the church teaching, the church evangelizing and the church serving, he said.

"Here at St. Mark, each person is a living witness to Jesus Christ. My prayer for you is that through the intercession of St. Mark, you will continue to flourish for generations to come."

Following Mass, parishioners gathered in the parish hall to continue the celebration. Bishop Justs was presented with a cake to mark his 84th birthday. A special anniversary video was previewed and the St. Mark School Choir performed.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015