Mary’s makeover; parish time capsule

First slide

For many years, passersby along Wythe Street in Old Town Alexandria have seen a small statue of Mary on the grass of St. Joseph Church. But for the parish's 100th anniversary, a renovation was in order.

The statue was first donated to the parish by Nathan Murray, who wanted to denote through religious artwork that the church was Catholic. Shrubbery and two potted flowers offset the figure.

Now, stacked stones rise up behind the statue, and a white bench with the engraved words, "Hail Mary Full of Grace," encircles it.

Father Donald M. Fest, pastor, blessed the grotto on the feast of Pentecost May 15, one day and 100 years after the church was dedicated May 14, 1916.

A walkway runs from the bottom of the steps at the church's front door down to the grotto. Engraved bricks along the walkway mark moments in the parish history, such as the year the renowned gospel choir was founded. Names of the five founding parishioners grace the stones, along with the name of St. Katherine Drexel, who originally donated money for the construction of the church.

On the other side of the walkway more bricks bear the names and messages of current parishioners.

A time capsule was placed beneath the Mary statute. It is filled with mementos such as notes and videos. It will be opened in 2066.

"We even taped CCD classes, in the hopes that some of the children will still be practicing at St. Joseph and will get to laugh at who they were," said parishioner Bill York.

This grotto was erected through of the generosity of J. Brian Sharkey in honor of his late wife, Margaret.

York believes the improved memorial has caught the eye of many, and hopes it will become a landmark in the neighborhood. "It's something we're very proud of," he said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016