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New Corpus Christi Church in Aldie 'comes to life' at Rite of Dedication

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After more than two decades of work, prayer and gathering in school gyms, the parishioners of Corpus Christi Church in Aldie marked what Bishop Michael F. Burbidge called a “historic, joyful moment” as they watched their new church come to life at a Rite of Dedication and Mass May 2.

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring,” said Bishop Burbidge, quoting St. Catherine of Siena. “It is a proud moment, I know, for all of you … and for the entire Diocese of Arlington,” he said. “You have achieved something great, Corpus Christi Parish, and God bless you always.”

The new church is built in a Gothic style that speaks of tradition and stability; it is the community’s first permanent worship space. The building has a capacity of about 1,100, but because of social distancing restrictions, only 300 parishioners, chosen by lottery, were able to attend the two-hour Mass, the first to be celebrated there. A large tent was set up outside so another 300 could participate by livestream and receive holy Communion.

The Mass began with an introductory rite in which those involved in the building process handed over the keys to the Bishop, who called upon the Very Rev. Michael G. Taylor, pastor, to officially open the large wooden doors, decorated with iron scrollwork.

In his homily, Bishop Burbidge thanked Father Taylor “for his tireless efforts, zeal and steadfast service throughout this entire initiative,” to extended applause. The Bishop also expressed “heartfelt appreciation” to all who supported and prayed for the building project, adding, “we did it for the glory of God.”

“These have been very difficult and challenging months for all of us, but Our Lord always gives us signs, and as your church comes to life in the Rite of Dedication, it’s the exact sign we need that Our Lord is in our midst, especially in times of tribulation.”

He said it was fitting that the church is called Corpus Christi (Body of Christ) because “the Eucharist is the source of everything we do.” He said that in a few moments, he would anoint the new altar with sacred chrism to prepare it for use in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and asked parishioners to pray for a special intention: “that with God’s grace, all of us will very soon return to our churches and gather around the altar, filled with Eucharistic wonder and awe.”

In addition to anointing the altar and church walls, other special rituals of the day included blessing water which he sprinkled on the church walls and parishioners, depositing a relic of the Apostle St. Peter in the altar, blessing the altar and church with incense, and lighting the church’s candles for the first time, a feat that involved deacons climbing up on step ladders to reach sconces placed high on the walls.

The Corpus Christi community began gathering in 2000 when St. Stephen the Martyr Church in Middleburg started offering “Masses of convenience” in South Riding for Catholics who could not travel to Middleburg every week. In 2005, Bishop Paul S. Loverde declared Corpus Christi a mission of St. Stephen. Father Taylor was named parochial administrator of Corpus Christi Mission in 2010 and the founding pastor of Corpus Christi Church when it was made a parish in 2014. The parish acquired 18 acres of land off Route 50 in Aldie and, after reaching its fundraising goal of $5 million, broke ground for the church in 2019.

Bishop Emeritus Loverde was among the concelebrants. Others were Father Charles W. Merkle III, parochial vicar; the Very Rev. Jamie Workman; vicar general; the Very Rev. Paul D. Scalia, pastor of St. James Church in Falls Church; Father Stephen Schultz, chaplain of St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Chantilly; Father Joseph P. Biniek, retired, former pastor of St. Stephen the Martyr Church in Middleburg; Father Ronald J. Gripshover, Jr., pastor of St. Lawrence Church in Alexandria; Father J.D. Jaffe, pastor of Christ the Redeemer Church in Sterling; Father Michael J.R. Kelly, parochial vicar of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg; Father Dennis W. Kleinmann, pastor of St. Veronica Church in Chantilly; Father Mark Mullaney, parochial vicar of St. Louis Church in Alexandria; Father Christopher D. Murphy, pastor of St. Stephen the Martyr Church in Middleburg; Father Carroll L. Oubre, parochial vicar of Holy Spirit Church in Annandale; and Father Tom S. Vander Woude, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville. Deacons were Peter A. Reyda and Nick LaDuca.  

A beaming Father Taylor said it was a “tremendous blessing” to be able to celebrate the day with parishioners. At the end of the Mass, he led a recitation of a prayer to St. Joseph; he also included a page with many thank yous in the program, addressing these words to parishioners:  “So many of your hidden prayers, sacrifices, offerings and actions have brought us to this day. It has been an accumulation of so much good that allows us to have a church and stable home. I am grateful that the Lord has allowed us to enter together into such a tremendous work. Thank you! You are wonderful.” 

Outside after the Mass, Maria Ryan said she and husband, Mike, have driven by the site, but this was the first time they saw the inside of the new church. “It’s breathtaking,” she said. Mike noted that their daughter, Melanie, 12, “grew up going to church in school gyms. It’s been so many years, it felt like this day was never going to happen, and all of a sudden here it is,” he said. 

Steve and Andrea Carroll were there with sons Adam and Matt, who participated as altar servers. Steve credited Father Taylor’s “singular vision” for keeping the project on track. The next phases planned are a rectory and parish hall, then later, possibly a school and gym. 

“God is good,” said Timothy Hartless, chairman of the finance council. “This has been a long time coming, and we couldn’t be more ecstatic. We all have new life today. This church will serve the faithful for generations to come.”

 

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021