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Seeds of community sown 25 years ago at St. Theresa Church

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A seed was sown in Ashburn 25 years ago, under the patronage of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, according to Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde. The first Mass at St. Theresa Church in Ashburn was celebrated Aug. 4, 1991, and its founding pastor was Msgr. James W. McMurtrie.

The harvest has been abundant and for this we give thanks,” said the bishop, who presided at the parish's 25th anniversary Mass Sept. 17, listing a litany of thanks at the conclusion of the parish's 25th anniversary celebration. “Twenty-five years ago Bishop John R. Keating formed a community here of less than 500 parishioners. These founding members in turn planted, nurtured and developed other seeds of Catholic faith.”

The parish has grown to more than 16,000 parishioners, according to Bishop Loverde. Father Richard M. Guest, pastor, said there are about 4,600 registered families. A few of the original members of the parish attended the 25th anniversary Mass, including Bonnie McGann, who taught second grade at St. Theresa School from 1999 to 2003.

“One day Father C. Donald Howard (former pastor of Christ the Redeemer Parish in Sterling) said all you Ashburn people, you're starting a parish. Next Sunday, you're to go to Broad Run High School and Msgr. McMurtrie is going to be your parish priest,” she said of the parish beginnings.

She left for a few years and when she returned the school was built. While awaiting a church building, Mass was celebrated at Broad Run High School and at the local Protestant church.

As part of the anniversary year, the school administrative addition was blessed. An organ originally installed at St. John's Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square Park in Washington in 1969 was moved to the choir loft at St. Theresa. The church also installed a pro-life statue, an Italian sculpture of Jesus with children.

“There are a lot of blessings to give thanks for as we look back on serving the growing needs of the people in Ashburn,” said Father Guest.

One parishioner, LaVerne Espinoza of Leesburg, said she's traveled a lot and belonged to several parishes but, “this is one of the most outstanding parishes. If Father Guest leaves, I'm leaving.”

Michael Purcell of Ashburn joined the parish in 1998 when his family moved to the area. He has been the head usher for 13 years, and his children have served as ushers. He described St. Theresa Church as a community.

“It's a great community to be with,” he said. “There are a lot of activities.”

Patricia Mica of Ashburn said although she's belonged to the parish for only 10 years, her daughter was in the first class to go all the way through the parish elementary school 23 years ago.

“Between my sister and I, we have nine children and eight of them are in the parish,” she said. “Three of my grandchildren teach in the Catholic school system.”

When asked if she was surprised at how the parish has grown, Mica said, “I'm surprised it isn't divided. It was such a small parish in the beginning and it's an enormous parish now. It's hard to know everyone.”

The bishop concluded his homily by calling on the church's patroness.

“I add my prayers to yours as we ask Jesus Christ, through the intercession of St. Theresa of Lisieux, to continue to carry out the good work he has done here through the generosity of the clergy and parishioners,” he said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016