A family of faith

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It's a common problem in Northern Virginia. People are so busy with their own lives, commuting and working and shuttling children around, that they rarely have time to get involved in communities outside of work or family. That's something the parishioners of St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton are trying to change.

"In Northern Virginia, it's easy to check in and check out, but it's hard to feel a part of something," said Father John D. Kelly, pastor.

That's why he and the rest of the staff at the church are working to make the parish feel like a home for local Catholics, socially as well as spiritually.

St. Andrew the Apostle was founded in 1989 by the late Arlington Bishop John R. Keating to be a home for Catholics living in Clifton, an area that at that time was "pretty much woods," according to Father Kelly.

The church was built in 1993, around the same time that a neighborhood called Little Rocky Run was being built and a new influx of suburbanites were moving to the area. (See a video profile on the parish here.)

Today, the busy parish is home to 9,051 parishioners, many of whom work for the federal government or the military. For those parishioners, the church offers many ministries and organizations, including an active senior citizen group, a Legion of Mary and junior Legion of Mary, prayer groups and scripture studies, a Knights of Columbus council, Scouting, several choirs, and a Schonstatt group.

There is an active pro-life community, which participates in 40 Days for Life, prays at an abortion clinic in Manassas and holds monthly bake sales to raise money for pro-life causes.

The parish outreach efforts include food collections for the western Fairfax food bank and Our Lady of the Blue Ridge Parish in Madison. The church is also home to an organization called Angels of Mercy, which uses volunteers to fulfill short-term needs for people in the community - whether they're pregnant and on bed rest or elderly and in need of a ride to get prescriptions. Angels of Mercy volunteers provide meals, transportation and companionship for those in need.

Joan Crum, who organizes the Angels of Mercy, said the ministry was started two and a half years ago as a way for people in the parish to "be the hands and feet of Our Lord in helping these people." Since its inception, the ministry has grown to include approximately 60 volunteers.

"It's kind of like we're in a little town," Crum said. "These are just some wonderful quiet people who would like to do something to help. It's a blessing for the people who do the help and the people who get help."

For young people, St. Andrew the Apostle has an active youth ministry program of more than 30 teens. The ministry, run by husband-and-wife team Derek and Bethany Rogers, provides teens with social and spiritual nourishment, including monthly worship music nights and activities like paintballing.

In the past, teens have gone on service trips to the Dominican Republic and a pilgrimage to Rome. During Lent, it is a tradition for the teens to raise money for activities by serving soup to parishioners during Friday night soup suppers.

St. Andrew the Apostle School, which opened in 1993, has an enrollment of 278 students from preschool to eighth grade. The parish's religious education program is booming, with an enrollment of 700 students, and 130 people serving as volunteers or catechists, according to Dolores Nelson, director of religious education (DRE).

Nelson, who has been DRE for 14 years and a parishioner since the parish's founding, says St. Andrew the Apostle is special because it feels like a second home.

"The thing I like about it the most, I would say, is the fact that it's an extension of my home. The many friends and associates I have here are truly like family," she said.

That familial vibe is the type of atmosphere Father Kelly hopes will continue to flourish in the coming years. In the past year, the parish has taken steps to foster that feeling, including publishing a pictorial directory - with photos of parish and school staff and parishioners - and holding its first parishwide picnic. According to Father Kelly, about 1,200 parishioners attended the picnic. He hopes they can make it an annual event.

"My greatest joy is the weekends when I have the opportunity to interact and talk with my parishioners. On Sundays, my biggest charge is getting to talk to them," Father Kelly said. "We're a family of faith trying to get each other into heaven."

Quick facts

St. Andrew the Apostle Parish

6720 Union Mill Rd.

Clifton, Va. 20124

703/817-1776

Pastor: Fr. John D. Kelly

Parochial vicar: Fr. Mark Mullaney


In residence: Discalced Carmelite Fr. Russell Raj Yesudhas


DRE: Delores Nelson

Mass Schedule:

Sat.: 8:45 a.m., 5:30 p.m. vigil

Sun: 7:30 a.m., 8:45 a.m., 10:30 a.m. (Latin Novus Ordo), 12:30 p.m.

Mon., Wed., Fri.: 8:45 a.m.

Tue., Thur.: 6:30 a.m.

Thur.: 7 p.m. (Latin Novus Ordo)

Parishioners: 9,051

School: St. Andrew the Apostle School

6720 Union Mill Rd.

Clifton, Va. 20124

703/817-1774

Principal: Glenda Sigg

Students: 278

Quick links

Hugs for heroes

A life devoted to the faith

Website:st-andrew.org

Video: St. Andrew the Apostle, Clifton, Virginia

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2010