‘A wonderful place to be’

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Father Richard M. Guest, pastor of St. Theresa Church in Ashburn, remembers driving on a dirt road to the parish to help out with confessions early in his priesthood. When he became parochial administrator of the parish in 2003 many years later, there was just a sliver of the old road left. Most roads had been paved. The town of Ashburn had changed dramatically, and more change would come for St. Theresa with Father Guest's arrival.

The parish was founded in 1991 by the late Arlington Bishop John R. Keating, who appointed the late Msgr. James W. McMurtrie as founding pastor.

The bishop wanted to name the new parish after a female saint. Msgr. McMurtrie asked if he could name the church for his mother, whose middle name was Theresa, in honor of the Little Flower. Bishop Keating agreed.

There was enough land available for a church, but Msgr. McMurtrie, a staunch supporter of Catholic education, saw the need for a Catholic school in Loudoun County. The church building was postponed in favor of St. Theresa School.

For the first few years parishioners celebrated Mass at Broad Run High School, Ashburn Presbyterian Church and St. David Episcopal Church in Ashburn. When the school building was completed in 1994, Mass was celebrated in the school's multipurpose room.

When Msgr. McMurtrie left in 2003, Father Guest was appointed parochial administrator. He became pastor in 2004, and his charge was to build a church.

Father Guest led two capital campaigns to complete construction in 2009. The church was dedicated by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde in November 2009.

When you drive onto the parking lot of St. Theresa, the first thing that strikes you about the new church is what appears to be a spectacular copper-clad steeple.

But Father Guest is quick to point out that it's not copper, but a less-expensive faux-copper material that's just as attractive. Resources are best spent on other important things and parishioners are there when circumstances warrant, according to Father Guest.

"People step up when there's a need," he said.

In 2005, three members of the Divine Mercy Prayer Group went to Father Guest and said they wanted to help the less fortunate.

"God has called us to help," said Marianne Guidos, a founding member of the group.

With Father Guest's support, the efforts of Guidos, Christina Harrington and Christine Wilson started Divine Mercy Outreach, with a mission is "to let those in our parish and community know that they are our brothers and sisters in Christ and that we will reach out to assist them in their time of need," according to their website.

The group provides beds, mattresses, clothing, furniture and other basic living essentials.

Guidos said their work provides people with necessities to live with respect.

Just a few weeks after its founding, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the group mobilized to send aid to the victims. The group has grown dramatically over the past five years.

"We now have 300 volunteers," Guidos said.

Assisting Father Guest in caring for the parish is Father Daniel S. Spychala, parochial administrator and director of religious education. He's been at St. Theresa since 2006. Father Spychala was the assistant chaplain at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, a job he loved. But he said coming to St. Theresa was a blessing.

"It's a wonderful place to be," he said. "The parish is outstanding. If you need something (the parishioners) will do it."

He said there's a sense of mutual respect between clergy and laypeople.

"The people respect us as priests," he said.

Msgr. McMurtrie's vision for St. Theresa School has been achieved and exceeded since the school was built in 1994.

It became a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2010, which is considered the highest honor an American school can achieve.

"We're very happy getting the Blue Ribbon designation," said Principal Carol Krichbaum.

Krichbaum said that service is what the school is known for. As an example, after Hurricane Katrina, a third grader came to Krichbaum and asked if she could do a penny drive to help the victims. The idea was to collect loose coins and send a check to a charity in New Orleans. The effort raised thousands of dollars. In a similar effort, $6,000 dollars was raised after the earthquake in Haiti.

"Service is part of who we are," Krichbaum said.

A story Father Guest told about a parishioner may sum up the spirit of St. Theresa parishioners and clergy.

On Christmas Eve several years ago, Father Guest got a phone call from a woman who asked him, "Do you know of anyone who needs something?'"

As a matter of fact he did know of someone - a single mother and child who desperately needed clothes. The woman then delivered clothes and Christmas gifts to the family.

Next week's profile

Our Lady of Good Counsel in Vienna

Quick facts

St. Theresa Church

21371 St. Theresa Ln.,

Ashburn, Va. 20147


Pastor: Fr. Richard M. Guest

Parochial vicar: Fr. Daniel S. Spychala

DRE: Fr. Spychala

Mass Schedule:

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

Sun.: 7:30 a.m., 8:45 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.

Weekdays: 8:30 a.m.


21370 St. Theresa Ln.,

Ashburn, Va. 20147


Principal: Carol Krichbaum

Students: 465

Parishioners: 13,183

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2011