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 corner 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 “Missionhurst Fathers” of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (C.I.C.M.) based in Arlington, Virginia. The first pastor was Father 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 World War II 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. 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. The convent has been home to the Youth Apostles Institute ever since.
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 200 students.
While Father Jerome Daly was Pastor from 1994 to 2000, Carlin Hall underwent renovation and the gymnasium was constructed. In his five years at the helm of St. John the Beloved, Father Ed Hathaway transformed Carlin Hall into the Parish Office. He also made significant improvements to the church sanctuary, continuing the church renovation that Father Daly had implemented, and hired Mr. Peter Schultz to be Headmaster of St. John Academy.
In 2005 Father Franklyn McAfee became Pastor. That same year a Rodgers hybrid three-manual organ was built and installed in the church. The reverent liturgy for which St. John was already known augmented to include a weekly Mass in Latin at Noon on Sundays. Father Paul Scalia came to St. John in 2009 with Father McAfee becoming Pastor Emeritus.
Father Christopher Pollard arrived in 2012 and was installed as Pastor in 2014. In recent years St. John the Beloved has seen the ordination of several sons of the parish: Rev. Mauricio Pineda, Canon Benjamin Norman, I.C.R.S.P., and Rev. Charles Pavlick. We pray for those still in formation for priestly ordination: Mauricio Portillo, Charles Wilton and Elder Maldonado. At the same time several daughters of the parish have entered religious life: Hana Simon, Olivia Mason and Miriam Steenson.
The Academy, now under the direction of Mr. Jeffrey Presberg, former Head of the Lower School of The Heights and founder of Western Academy in Houston, Texas, provides a solid Catholic liberal arts education rooted in a rich tradition of academic excellence and spiritual formation reflected in the school’s motto, “Faith, Knowledge, and Joy.”