Stafford Parish celebrates 50 years


When Mary and Denny Fallon moved from New York to Virginia, they wanted to join a vibrant Catholic Church. They believe God led them to St. William of York Church in Stafford. “It is an authentic Catholic parish full of good people. We love it, ”said Mary Fallon. She and her husband both came to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ward at a Sunday Mass with Bishop Michael F. Burbidge on December 5. ,” she said.

The Catholic roots of Stafford County go back to the 1600s, when the Brent Catholic family moved to the area. In 1897, what is now known as the Brent Family Cemetery was discovered. In the 1920s Bishop of Richmond Denis J. O’Connell purchased the land and later an altar was erected in the cemetery so that Masses could be celebrated on sacred ground.

In 1958, St. William of York – named after an Archbishop of York, England in the 12th century – became a mission of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg. In 1971, it became a parish and Father John S. Wysocki was its first pastor. A parish school was established in 1992. Last year a renovation of the church added a new narthex and a bell tower. Today, the parish has more than 5,000 parishioners and the school has 200 students. Father Robert J. DeMartino, Pastor, Father Henry E. Rivera, Parish Vicar, and Deacon James J. Benisek currently serve the parish.

Mary Fallon is involved in parish mourning ministry and in the volunteer run thrift store. Profits from the store provide financial assistance to residents of Stafford County at risk of eviction or their utilities cut. The parish also maintains a pantry which distributes food weekly.

The wonderful preaching heard in St. William over the years sets the parish apart, said Fallon. “We would come out of church on a summer Sunday and people would pull us over in the parking lot and say, ‘Do you hear that sort of thing here every Sunday? And we were smiling because we knew what they meant. We know how blessed we are, ”she said.

Stafford County, and by extension St. William of York, attracts traveling government workers, people stationed at nearby Marine Corps Base Quantico, and a growing number of immigrants, especially Hispanics, a Fallon said. “Our church is changing all the time because it has to reach out to all these different communities,” she said. “It’s always changing to accommodate whoever comes the door.”

Like the Fallons, Tom Faha and his wife, Mimi, were looking for a strong Catholic community, especially a school for their boys, when they found St. William of York. “Our third son was born and we needed a bigger house and we couldn’t afford to stay in Fairfax. We found out that St. William of York was just starting a school, ”he said. “We were there from the start. “

Now, 27 years later, their four children have graduated from St. William of York School. “We spent 16 years in school and we estimated the number of back and forth trips Mimi made, it was well over 10,000 times,” Faha said. “(We did) everything parents of school-aged children do, from secret Santa Claus to painting to helping with mowing the grass. Whatever we give, we always get more in return.

Faha is proud of the parish facilities, including the gymnasium and the new school wing that the community built while there, but also of the strong spiritual foundation of the church. “It is a joy to go to mass or to stop on the way home as a respite from everyday life,” he said. “I am very proud to be a part of it.

Ridelphine Katabesha and her three children, newcomers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, have only been at the parish for a year, but it was important for her to witness the parish event. “We are learning a new language and this parish is helping us to integrate into the community and to learn the word of God in a language that is not our main language,” she said. “This parish received us as neighbors and we wanted to join our community here to celebrate this event.

Father DeMartino, who spent 14 years in the parish, said he was very proud of his parishioners’ love for the Blessed Sacrament and of their tender devotion to the Virgin Mary. “These are the best years of my life,” he said.

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