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Corpus Christi breaks ground on new church

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A long table with bowls of holy water, crates of hymnals and piles of bulletins greeted Mass-goers in the lobby of John Champe High School in Aldie. After taking what they needed, the parishioners of Corpus Christi Church headed to pray before Mass in squeaky auditorium seats. An altar and ambo were set up on the auditorium stage; the choir softly rehearsed in the back.

Corpus Christi celebrates four Masses a weekend in the public high school, but the end of this makeshift arrangement is in sight. Father Michael G. Taylor, pastor, Father Charles W. Merkle, parochial vicar, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and other community members broke ground for the community’s permanent home May 5.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge (center) and other community members break ground on the new building site for Corpus Christi Church in Aldie May 5. ZOEY MARAIST  |  CATHOLIC HERALD

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“It’s really been something that the entire parish has been praying for for a long time,” said Father Taylor. “There’s a tremendous sense of gratitude.”

Corpus Christi was a mission of St. Stephen the Martyr Church in Middleburg before becoming an independent parish in 2014 — the 69th in the Diocese of Arlington. As of 2018, there were more than 5,800 parishioners. The parish owns 18 acres of land in Aldie off Route 50 that is slated for its future church, parish hall, and possibly school. The church may be completed as soon as 2021. As of May 5, they received pledges for $5 million, their fundraising goal. 

Tim Hartless, head of the finance council, moved to the area with his family in 1995 and has been part of Corpus Christi from its inception in the late ’90s. “There’s just such a family atmosphere. It’s a strong faith community,” he said. “We’ve raised our kids here, now we hope to have them get married and receive all the sacraments (in the new building.) We’re certainly going to build a church and it’s going to be beautiful.”

During the Mass preceding the afternoon groundbreaking, Bishop Burbidge said that just as the success of the new church depends on its foundation, so does each believer’s spiritual life. “That foundation of faith we must embrace and live even when it’s difficult,” he said. “If we’re willing to be faithful to God, holy and pure and just, even when we know it might (make us vulnerable) to criticism and ridicule and false labeling, then people will see us as a companion of Jesus."

Following Mass, parishioners drove three miles to the site of the future church on Marrwood Drive. Families huddled under tents and umbrellas to escape the deluge of rain. “Father Merkle was in charge of the weather,” Father Taylor joked. 

Bishop Burbidge prayed over and blessed the site, and then he and others scooped muddy shovelfuls of earth to officially break ground. Afterward, the rain abated enough to allow socializing at a reception. 

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“I didn’t think (the parishioners) would be held back by a little bit of rain because they persevered for a lot of years preparing for this day,” said Father Taylor. “People weren’t going to be deterred from celebrating this moment. It’s a beautiful day.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019

@ZoeyMaraistACH