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New church for St. Mary of Sorrows in Fairfax

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Pieces of parish history are embedded in the new St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax. A brick from the original 1860 church rests on mortar alongside the new lighter red bricks of the facade. A Celtic cross atop the church honors the Irish railroad workers who founded the parish. The crucifix is made from the wood of a tree that grew where the church now stands. Old missals and blessed religious items are buried in the concrete underneath the altar. The tabernacle was used for decades in the parish worship center. 

But much of the church, designed by McCrery Architects with input from the parish and brought to life by Coakley and Williams Construction, is brand new. Bishop Michael F. Burdbige dedicated the new St. Mary of Sorrows Church Nov. 15. “Today in this beautiful ceremony, your church comes to life,” said Bishop Burbidge in his homily. “This church prefigures the image of the heavenly Jerusalem. Maybe that's a reminder we need, because all too often we walk through this life forgetting it’s really a journey. It’s really a procession to the heavenly Jerusalem and life with God forever.”

The rite of dedication began with praying the litany of the saints. Then Bishop Burbidge deposited relics of saints into the altar. He said the prayer of dedication before anointing the altar with chrism. Bishop Burbidge, Father James S. Barkett, pastor, and Father Francis J. Peffley, parochial vicar, also anointed the walls of the church. 

Bishop Burbidge blessed the altar with incense, then passed the thurible to Deacon Jeff Meyers, who walked down the center aisle blessing the congregation with incense. Finally, Bishop Burbidge gave a glowing candle to Deacon Meyers, who lit the candles around the altar. Father Barkett and Father Peffley lit candles mounted on the walls of the church. 

After holy Communion, Father Barkett thanked everyone whose efforts had made the new church possible. “This is a day that's been a long time in coming,” he said. “This is truly more beautiful than I can imagine.” 

Parishioners were thrilled to see their new church. “It’s just overwhelming, it chokes me up really,” said Gerard Rutkowski, a parishioner of nearly 30 years who served as co-chair of the building committee. “We’ve been working with Father Barkett from the beginning and just put it in the hands of the Holy Spirit when things looked to be tough.” Rutkowski loves the religious symbolism built into the church, including its cruciform shape, the 12 pillars on each side and the way the building draws visitors’ eyes toward the crucifix. 

The whole design of the new church began with Father Barkett’s desire to have the Seven Sorrows of Mary depicted in stained glass above the altar, said Kathy Coleman, business manager. Only two of the windows, created by Beyer Studio, were installed in time for the Mass. A few other things, such as pew cushions and the new organ, will also arrive in the coming months. The community plans to use the old worship space as a reception hall. 

Coleman is happy that after 20 years of planning and fundraising, the new church is finally here. “People have been incredibly generous and gracious and giving,” she said. “It’s been so amazing to be a part of this whole thing.”

Buy photos from the dedication at catholicherald.smugmug.com.

This story has been updated.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020

@ZoeyMaraistACH