The diocese’s ‘best kept secret’

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The history of Sacred Heart Parish in Manassas dates back to the early 20th century when it was founded by a group of immigrants from Austria and Czechoslovakia. The first church was built in 1918 on Spriggs Road, near the current Hylton High School in Woodbridge. One Saturday a month, a Polish priest from the Richmond Diocese would come to celebrate Mass with the congregation, a mixture of Eastern European and Byzantine Catholics. When St. Mary Byzantine Church was built nearby in 1929, the two communities separated and Sacred Heart became a mission of All Saints Parish in Manassas.

In 1937, the church relocated to its current location. A new chapel, a replica of the original, was constructed using some of the original lumber and windows.

Following the 1959 opening of Our Lady of Angels Parish in Woodbridge, Sacred Heart was closed for 10 years. In 1970, it reopened as a mission of Holy Family Parish in Dale City. Fourteen years later, in 1984, Sacred Heart was named a parish with Father Frank Ready as founding pastor.

In 1994, the current church and parish center was dedicated across the street from the chapel, which is still used for daily Mass. Today, Sacred Heart is home to more than 1,300 families.

Father Michael J. Bazan has been pastor since 2003. His favorite part of the parish is the welcoming, laid-back atmosphere.

"The parish mission statement describes who we are: We proclaim His word, we build His community, celebrate His liturgy and serve His people, and we provide a warm and hospitable atmosphere of love to all who come through our doors," Father Bazan said. "One thing that new people always say is, in this place, everybody is smiling, everybody is laughing and people greet others through the doors. It's one of the things people constantly say - 'This is the friendliest parish we've ever been to.'"

That friendliness could be attributed to the parish's spirit of hospitality, which starts with the complimentary donuts and coffee after Mass and continues with many groups, organizations and events focused on socializing and building relationships.

"We do a lot of community building here," Father Bazan said. "There are a lot of social functions to bring people together."

The parish is home to several committees and prayer ministries, as well as a Legion of Mary, a Knights of Columbus, a large music ministry, the women of Sacred Heart and a group for senior citizens. Annual events include a festival every June and an Oktoberfest organized by the Knights of Columbus.

(Read about a recent musical performance at Sacred Heart here.)

The parish is home to an extensive outreach program, which includes a food and clothing pantry open every Saturday. Father Bazan estimates that half the parish supports the pantry by giving donations, and 60 volunteers help run the weekly programs. According to Dianne Anderson, the parish coordinator of social outreach, the program serves the needs of approximately 35 families.

In addition, parishioners serve many local shelters and charities, with money, supplies or time.

"I very much believe that we as a church, one of our major missions is to help the needy," said Father Bazan. "Our parish theme for this community is, 'Prayerful hands serving with love.' Prayer and Eucharist are the foundations, but it doesn't stop there. It then goes out to serve the needy."

(Read about a Sacred Heart parishioner who spends her time ministering to women in crisis pregnancies.)

For religious education, Sacred Heart offers a total family, generational program in which parents and children of all ages meet as a group once a month. There, all ages are catechized at the same time, with specialized lessons for each age group.

The program, entitled Generations of Faith, is in its fifth year. The monthly gatherings include dinner together prior to small group catechesis.

"We have our own catechists that are trained to handle all the different levels - adults, high school, middle school, elementary school and preschool," Father Bazan said. "There are different presentations each month so that way everyone who comes to Generations of Faith will have a good understanding."

Anne Cashdollar, administrative assistant at the parish, has been a parishioner for12 years. She estimates there are 210 families or 842 "souls" enrolled in the program. She believes it is beneficial because each family member learns the same material at their own level.

"This way it's continuing education for everyone - not just the kids," she said. "Adults should keep learning the Faith, it doesn't stop at confirmation."

The parish also has ministries for middle school and high school students and young adults, as well as an active Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program, which brings 20 to 30 people into the church each year.

Sacred Heart is home to a diverse congregation, with Catholics of all ages and occupations and from many cultural backgrounds, including a Portuguese community of 80 families that worships together in the old chapel on Sunday mornings.

"I would say that this is a parish that serves everyone, but doesn't have an agenda," Father Bazan said. "The ideology is, whoever comes here is welcome. You can be extremely traditional or extremely progressive and find a home here and there isn't any judgment."

"People allow you to be who you are here," he said. "It's a laid-back parish, a very casual parish and an informal parish. It's a wonderful place - the best-kept secret in the diocese."

That sentiment was echoed by others, including Anderson, who has been a parishioner for 17 years.

"I like our people and our spirit of community," she said. "We truly have the spirit of one body here. We function as a unit. We have great programs to develop that and I would like to think that anyone that comes through the doors of the church feels that welcoming spirit."

Another parishioner, Al Caporaletti, has been at Sacred Heart for 11 years.

"Sacred Heart is probably the most loving, giving parish I'd ever been in. People notice it when they come to visit - how loving we are."

Office manager Kathy Mindock has worked at the parish for 25 years, but has been a parishioner since the parish was a mission.

"From the very beginning, it was just always a very friendly community. Even though it's grown so much, you still have that small parish feel to it," Mindock said. "I just feel very at home here. It's kind of like a big extended family, I suppose. It's a great place to be."

Quick Facts

Sacred Heart Church

12975 Purcell Rd.

Manassas, Va. 20112


Pastor: Fr. Michael J. Bazan

In residence: Fr. Devaraju Arockiasamy

Deacon: Gerald J. Moore

DRE: Kathleen Burr

Mass Schedule:

Sat.: 9 a.m., 5 p.m. vigil

Sun.: 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 12:30 p.m.

Weekdays: 9 a.m.

Parishioners: 4,509

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2011