The Church of Saint Mary is an established, vibrant and thriving parish with a historic, well preserved church, a parish school of quality reputation, and a treasure in the Diocese of Arlington for those who seek inspiration and spirituality through her beauty, sacred musicality, and active pastoral liturgy.
Throughout the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the Church of Saint Mary played a crucial role in the growth of Catholicism in Virginia. From her inception, the Church of Saint Mary became the “Mother Church” to mission churches in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. All missions that Saint Mary’s has helped established over the years have flourished, becoming independent parishes within the Diocese of Richmond (1820), the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston (1850), and the Diocese of Arlington (1974), which now numbers over sixty-nine parishes. The parish elementary school, founded in 1869, continues to serve as the largest elementary school in the Diocese of Arlington.
Among the many notable parishioners of the Church of Saint Mary, the Reverend Father Richard L. Carne (1826 – 1911) stands out as he was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 66, highly unusual during his time. He continued to serve the parish until his death at the age of 84.
Another notable parishioner, Francis C. Hammond (1931 – 1953,) was a young U.S. Navy Medic who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in the Korean War. Families including the Cilinskis, the Fannons, the Igoes and the Nugents served as religious and priests in the Diocese of Arlington. Currently, Reverend Father Robert Cilinski serves as Episcopal Vicar for Charitable Works. Reverend Father David Whitestone, JCL, whose family had been parishioners for generations, studied Canon Law in Rome and was appointed and served as a Diocesan Judge. Newly ordained in 2015, Reverend Father Dort Agustín Bigg, who graduated from The Julliard School in New York, is now serving in the Diocese of Arlington.
The history, reputation, and significance of the Church of Saint Mary is well documented in several publications, including the following:
- Commonwealth Catholicism: A History of the Catholic Church in Virginia (University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana, USA (2001) written by Reverend Father Gerald P. Fogarty, S.J., the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Religious Studies and History at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
- St. Mary’s One Hundred and Fifty Years for Christ, written by the Reverend Edward L. Stephens, Pastor of the Church of Saint Mary in 1945, with a Foreword by Most Reverend Peter L. Ireton, D.D., Ninth Bishop of Richmond.
- St. Mary’s: 200 years for Christ, written by principal author, researcher and life-long parishioner Kitty Guy along with the Bicentennial Historical Committee comprised of parishioners of the Church of Saint Mary with a Foreword by the Reverend Stanley J. Krempa, Pastor in 1995.
- St. Mary’s Catholic Church, a picture book by award-winning photographer, Marty LaVor of the LaVor Group, formerly a consultant to the U. S. House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate published as a gift to the parishioners of the Church of Saint Mary in 2012.
- The Alexandria Gazette (1834 – 1974) and The Alexandria Gazette Packet: These Alexandria city newspapers have chronicled a wide variety of the Church of Saint Mary contributions, development, events and history from 1856 to the present.
- The Arlington Catholic Herald: Official newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington. This publication has reported on the various Church of Saint Mary contributions, development, events and history from its founding in 1974 to the present.
- The Catholic Virginian: Official newspaper of the Diocese of Richmond for more than 90 years. The publication has reported on the various Church of Saint Mary contributions, development, events and history over the years.
- Eternal Word Television Network (ETWN): The largest Catholic television network has made several visits to the Church of Saint Mary, using it as a backdrop for reporting on local and national events.
- The Washington Post: A prominent newspaper of the Washington, D.C. since December 6, 1877, making it the area’s oldest extant newspaper. The Washington Post has published articles to its national audience about the Church of Saint Mary over the long history of its existence.