Visit no. 7: Our Lady of Angels

Visit no. 7: Our Lady of Angels

We’ve been on a roll, really enjoying our Saturday visits to Mary-named churches and attending Mass at all these different places, with different people and priests. If you’re from Arlington, you won’t think much about Woodbridge, other than a place to pass by on the way to the Ikea… No way! Our new friend, Tom, had moved out there so he could have a place where the kids could ride their bikes freely — and also found a fantastic little parish that he has been with since the 1960s.

Visit date: Saturday, August 12, 2023

Mass: 9:00 am Saturday

Address: 13752 Mary’s Way, Woodbridge, VA 22191

Website: · Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church

Saturday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Lectionary 412

A man came up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said,
“Lord, have pity on my son, who is a lunatic and suffers severely;
often he falls into fire, and often into water.
I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
Jesus said in reply,
“O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you?
Bring the boy here to me.”
Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him,
and from that hour the boy was cured.
Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said,
“Why could we not drive it out?”
He said to them, “Because of your little faith.
Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.”


by Michael

Okay, this is more than just something that happens on these trips — a pattern is developing here:

  • See a beautiful church
  • Learn something new from a Mass and homily
  • Meet wonderful people
  • Feel edified and enlivened in experiences and faith

I think that’s how the Bishop envisioned it — that, and how the Holy Spirit works it.

Another great visit, that is.

As usual, my GPS took us in the back way. Terry wasn’t having it, pointing to the “Do Not Enter” sign on the gate up the hill. As usual, I ignored here and drove on up.

The sign terry saw was on an open gate, so we drove right in. But if you do visit, go past Easy Street, which is the back entrance, and take the larger and more appropriately named Mary’s Way (map makers would seem not to like apostrophes, so it’s listed as “Marys Way” on my Bing map). Here for the map view:

The back way at Easy Street (the Lord promised an easy burden but not an easy street…)

The front entrance off Marys Way. The entrance before is to the parish convention center.

The layout driving towards the church along Rte 1after the Occaquon River bridge reminds me of South Florida: flat, painted concrete strip malls with fake bell towers (dunno if they’re full of seagulls as well), but approaching Marys Way, the land starts to wave, and the church lies on top of a prominent hill — one might think it was chosen for such reason. And the church takes advantage of it, as we see in this message from the Pastor, Father Álvaro:

A week ago, we celebrated the great Solemnity of Corpus Christi. It was an incredible grace to see Fr. Armando give the blessing from the top of the hill overlooking Route 1! Thank you to all who prepared and participated!

NEWS Archives · Page 13 of 56 · Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church

The church campus is interesting and thoughtful. It took a few minutes to figure out what was going on with the various buildings, but as we learned about the Church’s history it all makes sense. The original church is now a Perpetual Adoration chapel, and the next church after that is now auditorium for the school.

Indeed, this parish has grown with Woodbridge and the DC suburbs.

This day being the feast of Saint Jane de Chantal, Terry and I thought of our hometown, Bethesda, where she attended Saint Jane. There was still a farm not far from there, all of which is now consumed by houses, malls, and offices. Not a bad thing, that, but it’s a fond memory of roaming around the old David farm.

The Perpetual Adoration chapel is an old brick church that, we were told, was too small for the growing congregation practically from the day it was built in the late 1950s. It’s hardly big enough for the Saturday morning pre-Mass crowd. Must have been at least 15 people worshipping there when we peaked in. I didn’t take any photos, but if you’ve ever been to the Perpetual Adoration chapel at St. Agnes in North Arlington, you will really like this one, as it is traditional in look and feel, having been before a church.

I got a kick out of the reminders in the entranceway to keep silence:

Terry prayed in the Chapel and then in Church, and I wandered about. A lovely lady walked up with flowers, and upon my comment said that she hoped to plant them from her garden in front of the church next Spring. She then placed them by the Mary statue in the narthex:

What a beautiful expression of faith and community!

I wandered about before meeting the friendly and camera-shy Jane, who was super nice to share a bit about her life in the parish — starting back in CCD! I started the conversation by pointing out to her that I was pushing aside the bushes in order to find the cornerstone of the church:

She laughed and said that there are corner stones all over the place at this parish. She told me about the Adoration chapel and the church, now school auditorium, where she took CCD classes, each class separated by a little barrier that did nothing to separate the kids from one another’s distractions. I told her that a key lesson we are learning from our Mary-church visits is how the architecture defines the parish. In our parish, I explained we have four exits, so people don’t gather after mass (one of the blessings of the onging renovation at Cathedral of St. Thomas More is that there are only two exits now, one for the elevator the other, mostly used, by stairs, so we all walk in and out together. Jane told me that when she was a kid they were admonished to use the common exit precisely so they’d all be walking out together. Yes!

Jane carefully pointed out to me each building and how each marked progression of the church and school. Our priest came out of the Rectory and waived hello, so we knew it was time to go inside. As we started in, the man she told me who could fill us in on the history of the church, “Mr. Pierpoint,” approached. She greeted him and introduced us. We agreed to meet after mass, as he had a booklet on the history of the church we wanted to give me that was in his car.

I joined Terry who sat 2/3rds the way down the church, and I was thrilled that our priest processed towards the altar from the back (he did not enter through the front doors, so that’s cool that he then back-tracked to the back of the nave). He opened Mass assertively with an antiphon and prayer (not from the Magnificat I carry). He led us in a full confiteor (yes! I need that), then sang Kyrie with what I can only call a heavenly voice. (When I complemented him on is singing after Mass, he humbly replied, “Praise God.”) I lamely followed along, wondering what notes I fell upon, but smiling at our priest’s beautiful lead. I can only hope to hear him sing a full Gloria one day.

The reader spoke clearly and deliberately through the OT reading and Responsorial psalm. She then spoke the alleluia, which I have never head that way and which was rather pleasant. Father then read the Gospel, today’s about the Apostles’ inability to cast the demon, which Jesus discarded with a Word.

Father started the homily by pointing out that Jesus performed three sets of miracles, curing health conditions, feeding hunger, and casting demons. It’s these little points, or, if you’re more scripturally literate than I, reminders, that I love in a strong sermon. After I was baptized in 2021, I attended various services, including the Catholic Mass at St. Thomas More with Terry. But I had a vaguely Protestant background, with all the normal prejudices. A common encounter I ran into with the Protestant services and bible studies I attended was the constant inquisition into our own opinions, with “Well, what do you think?” I don’t want to think. I want to learn what to think — by scripture and, as I learned in RCIA, the Church’s Magisterium. I need to hear that explanation of the miracle categories and their application into the larger meaning.

He then discussed that the Apostles’ failure to heal the possessed child was, as Jesus explained, due to their lack of faith. But, Father explained, faith is like water filling a cup, although our faith is limited by the size of our cup. He related the idea to the Old Testament reading (Yes!). in which Moses implored the Jews to honor and love God always and above all else. Mary, he said, opened her whole heart to God, and she is our example of how to grow our faith. He proceeded through the Liturgy of the Eucharist with deliberation and seriousness.

I took the Eucharist standing, as we stood upon hard floor (I promised my doctor no more kneeling on concrete or tile). The sacristan, poor dear, had to figure out my posture, but was deliberate and careful to administer the host to my open mouth and tongue.

Father closed by reciting an antiphon that he specified, but it was not that in my Magnificat, so I couldn’t “antiphon” along. He then closed Mass, walked around the altar and, facing it, led us in the Saint Michael prayer. Then, and I don’t recall if he turned to us or not, but it seemed as if he did, as his voice then carried through the church, he sang the Salve Regina, which the congregation joined enthusiastically.

I hurried Terry out, hoping to introduce her to the lady with the flowers. However, I didn’t see her, but Mr. Pierpoint came out, so I greeted him and introduced Terry.

He introduced himself as Tom, although we called him “Mr. Pierpoint,” as Jane had introduced him. I will call him Tom, nevertheless, as it’s far easier to type!

Tom is gracious. thoughtful, and, at 92 (I think) has lived a rather full life, and onward strongly. We walked towards his car, with Tom using his walker, which he said he only needs in church due to the decline in the floor heading towards the altar. While we spoke, Jane came by to suggest that we carry on the discussion at, what I thought she called “The Well”, a diner across the street. Tom demurred, and we continued to speak there by his car under the growingly hot Virginia sun. Nevertheless, much was said!

Tom had moved to Woodbridge from Alexandria, as he liked the suburban environment where, he said, his kids could ride their bikes. Indeed. His parish in Alexandria was the Basilica, and, we learned later, he met his wife there. (Love hearing these stories!) To get there, though, a few things had to happen.

Tom had joined the seminary, but, he said, referring to the morning’s homily, his faith for the vocation wasn’t quite full. He had met his future wife at a youth group at the Basilica when he was in high school. While he was at the seminary, he realized that he was not at peace with his direction. And when he and his mother heard something on the radio about “it is time,” he left the seminary, proposed to his love, who became his wife. They had seven children and, clearly, a complete life together.

She died a few years back, and, Tom, said with apology, after she died he had a vision of her with “The Prince of Peace.” He shared his and his wife’s experiences just prior to and after her death, and we are sure that she died a happy death with the Lord and wanted him to know it.

Tom discussed his remarkable career in business, military service in the Korean War, and in government with the Department of Commerce. His accomplishments stun the listener, and his modesty about them frames every story. We will carry on the conversation, as I am familiar with much of the history in which he partook, as I have studied it in my own research on similar topics, especially automotive history.

After we bade one another goodbye, Terry and I posed by the Mary statue or our visit selfie:

I stepped back into the church for a closer photo of the sanctuary. In the apse (back of the altar, the domed space in a traditional church) hangs the Resurrected Christ, with a Crucified Christ by the altar:

The choice of Christ Resurrected would seem an important decision for a church, although it would be inappropriate, I would think, not also to have Christ Crucified, as it is here, as well. Interestingly for me, I had just visited with Father McShurley, pastor of Bishop O’Connell High School, a wonderful priest who showed me the school’s church which features Christ suffering on the Cross. It’s rather stunning to see Jesus depicted at the moment of death, saying, “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.”

Terry waited for me by the Mary statue, where we took our selfie. I came out and found a few little pieces of trash that I picked up — only to drop a doggie bag from my pocket, leaving it on the ground (a lesson lies therein), which Terry pointed out to me. We returned to the car, and watched a happy family gathering together in the parking lot for a baptism.

We drove off, eager to discuss the morning’s experiences and conversations. Sadly, there was a Dunkin Donuts nearby, so we decided to break fast with coffee and glazed donuts. This time, our Dunkin was well staffed and well-stocked. However, the nice lady at the counter understood my order to be for a coffee with three sugars and three creams, and it took a good 20 minutes to straighten out. Thus we are still working out our relationship with Dunkin Donuts, but we appreciate all that the employees there and elsewhere do for us as we carry on our Mary-named church pilgrimage.

– Michael

Here for other photos from our visit to Our Lady of Angels.

  • The Holy Family statue was placed in July 2022. Here for the celebration of the “long waited statue’s arrival
  • The cornerstone of the old church is dated 1958

Two last notes: :

Several trash cans are thoughtfully placed in a couple locations on the church grounds, and I don’t find them obtrusive at all:

The conference center has a separate entrance from Marys Way at the bottom of the hill:

Finally, here for a higher resolution panorama view (same as the top image on this page)


2 responses to “Visit no. 7: Our Lady of Angels”

  1. Rosemary Avatar

    I came across your blog through the article in the Catholic Herald. I grew up at OLA, was baptized in the now adoration chapel, attended mass in the school gym/auditorium, and got married in the church in 2000. So nice to see current pics of the parish. Thank you for sharing your pilgrimage to the Marian churches around the diocese.

    1. Michael Avatar

      Oh, wow, you were baptized in that amazing adoration chapel? Wonderful! I hope this will inspire you to visit Our Lady of Angels again soon. I love the Catholic practice of baptismal remembrance through the holy water. For me, since my baptism was only two years ago, I have the blessing to be able to recall every detail of it specifically when I touch the holy water and start the Sign of the Cross upon my forehead.

      Thanks for visiting, and thanks for your lovely note! Terry and I are gratified it brought back happy memories of your baptism and marriage at OLA.

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