‘A seedbed for the spiritual life’

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St. Veronica Parish in Chantilly may be a "young kid on the block" in the Arlington Diocese, as Father Edward C. Hathaway, pastor, called it, but the parish has grown into a mature faith community. Father Hathaway is clear on what's important at St. Veronica - worship, education, outreach and fellowship, in that order - and his vision has helped create "a seedbed for the spiritual life," said parishioner Francis Seng.

(See a video profile of the parish here.)

With Marcus A. Pollard as founding pastor, the parish was established June 28, 1999, by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, carved off from the overcrowded churches of St. Timothy in Chantilly, St. Joseph in Herndon and St. John Neumann in Reston. St. Veronica's boundaries extend north to the Dulles Toll Road, west to Route 28 and south to Route 50. Before the church was completed in 2004, Mass was celebrated in the Oak Hill Elementary School cafeteria and at Floris United Methodist Church, both in Herndon. "They were the most faithful cafeteria Catholics," said Father Hathaway.

After serving as pastor of St. John the Beloved Parish in McLean and St. John the Baptist in Front Royal, Father Hathaway arrived at St. Veronica the first Sunday in Advent 2007.

"Being pastor of a new parish brings a little more work with it because not everything is established, but it creates a certain vibrancy," said Father Hathaway. Since traditions are still being formed, it inspires people to get involved and help shape parish culture, he said.

The parish is not only relatively young, it is composed of young families, often large ones, that reflect the surrounding multiethnic neighborhoods.

"It's a young, vibrant, diverse parish where catechesis is emphasized," said parishioner Elliot Dorham, a father of nine home-schooled children.


The faith life of the 5,052 registered parishioners is supported foremost by worship. "The sacraments are celebrated with excellence," said Father Hathaway.

Parishioners appreciate the focus on sacraments.

"There is reverence for the Mass," said Dorham. "The pastor and parochial vicar (Father Charles C. Smith) both give homilies that offer practical guidance. There's always something practical to take away," he said.

Part of celebrating the sacraments well is doing so in a reverent, beautiful environment. "There's an understanding that physical space is important, that beauty draws people to faith," said Dorham's wife, Sylvia.

"If God is the true, good and beautiful, beauty is a way of evangelizing," said Father Hathaway. "Even if you don't always agree on what is true, people are attracted by what is beautiful; it moves the soul," he said. "Art can teach and inspire."


Instruction in the Faith is also a main focus at St. Veronica, a place where "formation is more than skin deep," said Sylvia. There's an awareness of "a depth and a richness that is the Catholic Church," she said.

Education takes place in many forms - through St. Veronica School, religious education and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes, and through ongoing adult faith formation.

(Read how food, faith and education are mixed at St. Veronica.)

The school, which opened in 2004 with 55 students, has grown exponentially and like the parish is racially diverse, according to Kendra Turchiarolo, a parishioner, parent of two students and the school's part-time development director. The student body of 359 is more than 34 percent minority, according to the school registrar.

Just as the youthfulness of the parish affords new traditions, the young school similarly gives parents the opportunity to have a voice in its development.

"Because it has grown quickly, the school wants to respond to the needs of the community," said Turchiarolo. "So the school is able to be more flexible, more open."

And the atmosphere in the classrooms, halls and offices is "welcoming and warm," she said. "You can feel it as soon as you walk in - a sense of safety and security, knowing teachers have concern for students individually."

The "strong sense of commitment" from teachers, administrators and parents creates a fruitful educational environment, "where there's an open door to be able to learn," said Turchiarolo.

(See a story on how Father Hathaway brought history to life for students.)


"Both (Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI) spoke of alienation in the modern world," said Father Hathaway. "Christians should counter it with love put in action."

In addition to the service work of the Knights of Columbus, the parish puts love in action through the works of the Blessed Mother Teresa Social Outreach Apostolate. The mission of the parish-based organization, according to the parish website, "is to relieve suffering by helping those in need meet their short-term basic needs such as food, shelter and utilities."

"The apostolate serves the parish, the community and the diocese," said Father Hathaway, and it does so through one-on-one interactions. "The members meet people, go to their homes; it's soul to soul," he said.


The problem of alienation is also combated through opportunities for fellowship within the parish. The Scouts, Legion of Mary, Catholic Youth Organization, Youth Apostles and Knights of Columbus nurture relationships among their members and within the parish through service and social events, such as games, meals and fundraisers.

Three years ago, Sylvia started Fiat, a group for fifth- through eighth-grade girls that helps them "see that they have particular, special roles in the Church," Sylvia said. It also sets aside time for them to pray and play together, laying the foundation for meaningful friendships.

According to Turchiarolo, with the emphasis on fellowship, people don't just come together for Mass, but for socializing outside Mass. "There's a real feeling of familiarity," she said.

The seeds of faith, including education, outreach and fellowship, help this youthful, reverent community flourish. Most importantly, however, is what's at the "heart of the parish," said Father Hathaway: the sacraments.

Quick facts

St. Veronica Church

3460 Centreville Rd.

Chantilly, Va. 20151


Pastor: Fr. Edward C. Hathaway

Parochial vicar: Fr. Charles C. Smith

Religious education coordinator: Mary Lynne Ochenkowski

Mass Schedule:

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

Sun.: 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 5 p.m.

Mon., Fri.: 8:30 a.m.

First Fri.: 7:30 p.m.

Parishioners: 5,052


St. Veronica School

3460B Centreville Rd.

Chantilly, Va. 20151


Principal: Mary Baldwin

Students: 359

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2011