St. Ambrose, a golden parish

First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
Previous Next

Many of the nearly 30 founding parishioners who returned to St. Ambrose Church in Annandale June 18 for the parish's 50th anniversary Mass moved slowly, aided by wheelchairs, walkers and canes.

When the parish was young, they witnessed their children's first Communions and weddings. Over 50 years of parish life, they watched their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren mark life's milestones. The congregation gathered first at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, then the St. Ambrose School cafeteria, and eventually in their new church.

The founders were special guests for the evening, with reserved seating in the church and time set aside for taking group photos.

"This is wonderful," said Agnes Cantwell, 95. "I'm so happy I could come."

The church's first choir director, Chuck Sanders, 85, said it's hard to believe that 50 years have passed.

Father Andrew J. Fisher, pastor, Father Charles C. Smith, parochial vicar, Fairfax INOVA Chaplain Father Stefan P. Starzynski and Deacon Ted Ostrom were led to the altar by Knights of Columbus and Sovereign Military Order of Malta honor guards.

Priests with special ties to St. Ambrose assisted in the celebration, including Youth Apostle Father Peter W. Nassetta, Franciscan Friar Father George Lewitt, Fathers Christopher J. Pollard, James C. Hinkle and Steven R. Walker. Also attending were diocesan seminarians Jeffrey Petroski and Nicholas Schierer.

In his homily, Father Fisher spoke of the countless births, first Communions, confirmations and weddings that have taken place at St. Ambrose. He praised the closeness of the parish family.

"You know every other parishioner," he said. "People stop and talk after Mass."

Father Fisher said that Masses are packed with worshippers and religious education classes are full, all signs of a "special parish family."

Father Fisher also spoke about the future of the parish. After years of Fairfax County zoning hearings, final approval was given by the county in February for church demolition and new construction. The parish is close to raising the money needed to break ground.

Father Fisher said the parish is celebrating the past half century, "but now it's our chapter." He said the parish has to get its hands dirty and start building the new church.

There was a reception in the school cafeteria after Mass, where parishioners perused photos and reminisced about the past 50 years.

Walter Jackson, a parishioner since 1987, photographed the jubilee Mass for the parish.

"It's a pleasure to see this turnout and the faces of those who came back," he said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016