Archbishop Donald Wuerl celebrates a 150th anniversary Mass on Oct. 18 at St. Aloysius Parish in Washington, joined by Jesuit Father Thomas Clifford, the pastor, and by other Jesuits serving the parish and the adjoining Gonzaga College High School.
Archbishop Donald Wuerl celebrates a 150th anniversary Mass on Oct. 18 at St. Aloysius Parish in Washington, joined by Jesuit Father Thomas Clifford, the pastor, and by other Jesuits serving the parish and the adjoining Gonzaga College High School.
Hanging above the altar at St. Aloysius Parish in Northwest Washington is a painting of St. Aloysius Gonzaga receiving his First Holy Communion from St. Charles Borromeo, painted by artist Constantino Brumidi, who is famous for painting the frescoes in the Capitol rotunda. On Oct. 18, Jesuits and members of the St. Aloysius community came together to celebrate that legacy of faith that has endured for a century and a half at the third oldest Catholic church in the nation's capital. Archbishop Donald Wuerl celebrated the 150th anniversary Mass.

Operated by the Jesuits, St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parish has a long history that reflects the history of Washington, D.C. Jesuit Father Thomas Clifford, pastor of St. Aloysius Parish, said the parish has "survived and changed with the city..." He said the parish serves the surrounding Washington, D.C., business community, the poor, students from the adjoining Gonzaga College High School, and people from elsewhere.

During his homily, Archbishop Wuerl said St. Aloysius Parish reflects the larger context of the Church in the District and Maryland. A Jesuit priest, Father Andrew White, landed with settlers on the Ark and Dove in 1634 in Southern Maryland and celebrated the first Mass in the English-speaking colonies, thus beginning the "Catholic presence" in the United States, the archbishop said.

"For 150 years, St. Aloysius Parish [has] carried on that great tradition," the archbishop said. He added, "We're grateful to the Society of Jesus who brought the faith [here, and] sustained the faith." Archbishop Wuerl said since its beginning in 1859, the purpose of St. Aloysius Parish has been to proclaim the Gospel.

St. Aloysius Parish is known for its outreach to those in need, the archbishop said. Below the church is the McKenna Center, a drop-in center for the homeless named for Jesuit Father Horace McKenna, a former priest at the parish who worked for racial justice in Southern Maryland and later dedicated his life to serving poor people in Washington, D.C.
Among those attending the anniversary Mass was Dylan Cunningham, a junior at Gonzaga, who is also a parishioner at St. Aloysius. Gonzaga traditionally holds its graduation ceremonies at the historic church, and students serve the poor in the neighborhood, as Father McKenna once did.

Mimi McKindley-Ward, a parishioner of St. Aloysius for about 20 years, said, "St. Al's has a place for everybody." She added that St. Aloysius is a community that believes in social justice. McKindley-Ward said the St. Aloysius community has a "deep prayerfulness...that spills out to people...[who serve the] poor and needy in our community."

On the parish's 150th anniversary, the St. Aloysius parishioner said she is reminded of the fidelity of the Jesuits and the fidelity of generations of people who "kept [the] parish alive" through various challenges over the years.

Sylvester Judd, who has been a parishioner at St. Aloysius for about 50 years, served as a pallbearer at the late Father McKenna's funeral. Judd said Father McKenna would take off his shirt and coat and give it to the poor. He was a "good Samaritan," Judd said.

St. Aloysius Parish is located right off North Capitol Street in Washington, D.C., near Union Station and within view of the U.S. Capitol. For the parish's dedication 150 years ago, thousands of people from every part of the District and the surrounding area attended the festivities.