Beginning with under 300 parishioners in the early 1900s, the parish has become, in the words of Bishop Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington,“an energetic, faith- filled church community” of over 5,600 parishioners from a wide diversity of backgrounds, cultures and nationalities. St. John’s is “a house of welcome to all and a place of service to all.” (Describing the role of a parish, Blessed John Paul II, “Christifideles Laici”, paragraph 27)
Impact on Our Community
Since its humble beginnings in 1913, St. John’s has touched the lives of countless souls in our community through the Sacraments and the Word of God.The faithful, in turn, have shared their love of Christ with others, responding to our Lord’s call to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” In addition to the innumerable individual parishioners’ efforts to help our community, a number of organizations supported by or sponsored by St. John’s also reach out to those in need.A few examples are SHARE, Inc., a coalition of religious and civic institutions meeting the emergency needs of the less fortunate in surrounding areas, Christ House in Alexandria which feeds homeless families and individuals, a parish outreach to area nursing homes, and the St. Peter Claver Society helping children in Kenya and Zambia orphaned by AIDS.
Learning the Faith. Worshipping the Lord. Being Apostles.
Long before St. John’s became a parish in October 1951, the church had a history of its own. Mr. John Carlin dreamed of a church on the western boundary of his own property in rural El Nido, Virginia. In 1912, his son, William M. Carlin, gave a half-acre of land for the site of a mission church.
The Most Reverend Denis J. O’Connell, Bishop of Richmond, approved the building of a church on the site as a mission of St. James parish in Falls Church and laid its cor- ner stone on the afternoon of 21 September 1913. Father Amadeus J. Van Ingelgem, the pastor at St. James, looked after the needs of his little flock in El Nido.
The builder, E. P. Carlin, constructed the church in two stages. Masses were said in the basement until the sanctuary on the upper level was completed. A small group of pioneer families–fewer than ten–gathered there for Mass.
The Carlin and Peyton families, who lived near each other in Chesterbrook, were major contributors to the upkeep and maintenance of the little mission. For many years, Mr. Carlin also kept a vigil each evening at the mission so that the Blessed Sacrament could be reserved in the tabernacle. Father Van Ingelgem served the mission until October 1931 when he was succeeded by St. James’ fourth pastor, Father Edward V. Mullarkey.
In October 1951, St. John’s became a separate parish and was entrusted to the pastoral care of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (C.I.C.M.)—the Missionhurst Fathers in Arlington, Virginia. The first pastor was Reverend Paul R. Cauwe, C.I.C.M. A native of Belgium, he had served as a missionary in China for 11 years and was imprisoned in Manchuria for five years during WWII before his release in 1946.
With the expansion of the population in the surrounding communities, the parish grew rapidly producing an urgent need for a larger church and a school. In 1954, construction of the current eight-sided “church in the round” began under the leadership of Father Cauwe. Architect-parishioner Francis Koenig designed the church and Richmond’s Bishop Peter L. Ireton dedicated the new church on 21 October 1956. With the continuing surge in the number of parishioners at St. John Parish, St. Luke’s on Georgetown Pike in northern McLean was formed in 1961.
In September 1954, St. John’s Grade School (kindergarten through 4th Grade) opened its doors to 150 students in a one-story building also designed by Francis Koenig. The new school had eight classrooms. The following year, 259 students were enrolled. The Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (R.S.H.M.) sisters, commuting from their convent at Marymount College in Arlington, staffed the school.
In 1956, a new addition to the school helped ease the crowding, and approximately 150 additional students enrolled. A new grade opened each year as the students entered their next year, with kindergarten through eighth grade in place in 1958. By 1965, 1200 students attended the school.
In 1967, the parish’s second pastor, Father Henry E. Hammond, built a convent at 1600 Carlin Lane for the sisters—within walking distance of the school. Since 1979, the convent has been home to the Youth Apostles Institute. In July 1973, the Sisters of Notre Dame (S.N.D.) took over the running of the school and remained at St. John’s until their departure in June 1993.
In 1993, the pastor, Father Ley, appointed Mrs. Christine Wells as the first lay principal. Today, the school–renamed St. John Academy in 2006 and awarded the Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2008–offers classes from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and a student body of nearly 300 students.
The Academy, under the direction of its new headmaster, Mr. Michael Busekrus, provides a solid Catholic education rooted in a rich tradition of academic excellence and spiritual formation reflected in the school’s motto, “Faith, Knowledge, and Joy.”