19 December 2010

St. Peter's on Capitol Hill

I've been visiting the Library of Congress a lot recently, both to study and to do research. Every time I'm around the Capitol Hill neighborhood, I run into St. Peter's Catholic Church and I always make a mental note that I still have to go there. I figured it would be an appropriate place to visit for my last D.C. church visit of the year. It's located about a block away from the Capitol South Metro Station, located at 2nd and C Streets, Southeast.

St. Peter's is sort of a sister parish to St. Joseph's, which also gives itself the suffix, "on Capitol Hill." Both have similar architecture, and they're located just a few blocks away from each other on opposites of the Capitol building (St. Joseph's for the Senate side, St. Peter's for the House side, I was once told). St. Peter's has the same pseudo-Gothic style found in other downtown D.C. churches, and I found it remarkably similar to St. Mary, Mother of God. Above the columns of the church, extending all the way around the church, was what appeared to be a banner, with gold letters and a Latin and English message. I couldn't understand the Latin, but the English, at the front of the church, said "Christ has died. Christ is risen."

The church appears to have a pretty young parish, with lots of 30 and 40-somethings and plenty of young families. The Capitol Hill neighborhood, after all, is known for being a haven for young professionals and Hill staffers. The "folk" choir group, made up of about six singers accompanied by two guitars, had some soothing interpretations of familiar Advent hymns. Father Carter was offering confession with a group of other priests after Mass, and in his sermon, he talked about why confession was a necessary part of our relationship with God. He said that the great thing about God's love was that it was unconditional, and that we don't need to live up to his standards to accept his love. The important part of our relationship with God, he said, is how we respond to God's love, and we can help to heal that relationship by going to confession. He said that fear of shame or embarrassment was what kept most people away from confession, and then quoted Jesus, saying "Be not afraid."

St. Peter's on Capitol Hill


Here's my list of Churches that I've visited in Washington so far. My goal for 2010 was to visit over 40 in both California and Washington, I ended up getting to 27...not bad!

View Churches I've Been To So Far in a larger map

05 December 2010

Holy Trinity Catholic Church

After coming to St. Anselm’s, I asked Kate’s friend Richard to pick a church for this Sunday. He picked Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown, a parish that I’ve been looking forward to visiting for a while. The same group, Richard, Kate, John, and I, headed over to Holy Trinity from the Rosslyn Metro Station. We crossed the Francis Scott Key Bridge, and walked up a strangely placed set of stairs to get to the church at 36th St. NW. John pointed out that the stairs looked like the ones featured in a famous scene from the horror film, The Exorcist. As it turns out, they were.

            Holy Trinity is another one of the churches in contention for the title of “oldest parish in Washington.” It was formed in 1794 by Jesuit missionaries, the same year that St. Patrick parish (located downtown) claims to have been formed. I’m certainly not one to settle these kinds of disputes, but there appear to be two important questions: 1) which parish was formed earlier in 1794? and 2) should Holy Trinity be removed from contention since Georgetown was not considered to be part of the city of Washington at the time?  I think St. Francis De Sales can also throw its hat into the ring because of its claim of descending from the Queen’s Chapel, where Catholic worship started in 1722. Anyone have a good answer to this question?

            The church itself was built in the early 19th century, and it certainly doesn’t feel much like a Catholic church. Both the inside and outside of the building feature tall Corinthian columns, indicative of the “Greek Revival” style of architecture popular during the early 19th century. The outside looks very much like the White House, the Treasury building, and many other federal buildings. Because of its large, overhanging balcony, the interior felt a little like Ford’s Theater.

            The mass was very crowded. We were a little late and had to stand at the back of the church. There were lots of families there with small children, and we heard plenty of the whining, shouting, and crying that usually comes with such an environment. I quite enjoyed listening to the choir perform. There were about eight singers accompanied by three guitars and a pianist. They performed some of my favorite Advent hymns, including “O Come, O Come, Immanuel,” and “Soon and Very Soon.”

            In his homily, Father Murray discussed the calls for reform that were presented in today’s readings. Jesus left his apostles to do his work of bringing peace on earth. Since the world has not changed, some claim that he was not the Messiah. Father countered this argument by saying that the world has not changed because we have not taken Christ’s message upon ourselves. He told the parish to care for the poor and to “exclude no one from our love.”

Also, at the end of Mass, I realized that Speaker of the House (soon to be House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi was in attendance. I managed to snap a picture of her as she left. This is my third major politician sighting while visiting Catholic churches around the country. This summer, I saw Arnold Schwarzenegger at church in Santa Monica and this fall, I saw Joe Biden, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas at the Red Mass in Washington, D.C. I wonder who’s next?!



View of the Interior of the Church from the Upper Balcony

Speaker Pelosi Leaves The Building:

Churches That I've Been To So Far (The list is getting big!)

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St. Anselm's Abbey

I visited St. Anselm’s Abbey a couple weeks ago, but I’ve been far too busy with school work to write about it. I’m glad I’m doing it now, because it was such a wonderful experience. I asked my friend Kate to pick the church that week, and she chose St. Anselm’s. St. Anselm’s is a small monastery on the very northeastern edge of Washington, D.C. It was not particularly easy to get to, but I trekked over there with Kate, her friend Richard, and John one of GW’s FOCUS missionaries.

The abbey was a 40-acre property which was beautiful on a mid-November morning. The church was actually one of the smaller buildings on the campus. It was a tiny brick building that looked like it couldn’t hold more than 40 or 50 people. There was a wooden roof and some brilliant stained glass, which lit the church beautifully as the sun started to shine through. The monks were seated in front of the congregation, facing each other, with the priest and the altar in the very rear. A crucifix was hung from the ceiling near the middle of the building; I thought it was interesting because the vertical and horizontal parts of the cross were of the same length. The whole thing felt very much like an old Protestant church in rural England. I learned later that the Benedictines, who built St. Anselm’s, are an order that hails from Scotland.

            The mass was very low-key, but I thought that was perfect for such a peaceful setting. One of the brothers served as a cantor, accompanied by a small organ. He wasn’t a particularly good singer, but I don’t think any of the monks were. Each week, the monks who have been ordained as priests (the “Brothers” who are also “Fathers”) trade off leading the Sunday services. This week was Father Phillip’s turn. He talked about our concept of time, particularly the “end times.” He said that since, according to God, history ended at the crucifixion, we are really living in the “end times.” He said that the “end times” could be quiet and peaceful, like the feeling of waking up on Christmas morning.

            After Mass, John, Kate, Richard and I talked to Father Phillip and asked him to show us around the grounds. After taking some time to start preparations for the day’s lunch, he took us around for about two hours! I was particularly impressed with the numerous historical artifacts of the Abbey. He showed us furniture from the Middle Ages, a first edition of a book by Renaissance scholar Desiderius Erasmus, and my personal favorite, a bunker constructed on the property to defend Washington, D.C. during the Civil War era. I eagerly climbed over a fallen tree to get into the ditch where the bunker was located, nearly causing Father Phillip to have a heart attack. Father Phillip also showed us the small cemetery where monks and friends of the monastery were buried. It was beautiful to see men buried in the same area where they had committed so much of their lives. In such a peaceful wood, it was hard to imagine that I was still in Washington, D.C. 



Civil War-Era Bunker

Shrine to Mary

Latin Inscription "His Mercy Is To Those Who Fear Him"

01 November 2010

St. Stephen Martyr Church

After an exhausting Saturday at Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity," I felt like staying close to home for church on Sunday. I decided to go to St. Stephen the Martyr Church, located very close to the GW campus. I've been there many times already for Masses held by the GW Newman Center, but I've never written about it, and I was curious to see what their 1:00 PM "Filipino community" Mass was like.

As I walked in the church, two greeters handed me plastic folders with the words to the hymns that would be sung during Mass. Thankfully, they were all in English. I was worried that the Mass would be in Tagalog, or one of the other Filipino languages (My knowledge of Tagalog consists of "Kumusta ka?", meaning "How are you?," "Mabuti," meaning "Good," and "Bastos," the word my grandmother would use to describe rotten children like myself.).

St. Stephen's is a small, odd-looking church. It has a large stone belltower, and a large, arching piece of stained glass at the front of the church. The interior is also quite unconventional. The walls are almost pure white, with a smooth, rounded, arched ceiling. The white, adobe-like walls make it look like someone's set up a Catholic church in Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen's house on Tatooine. (This is a Star Wars reference. For those of you not galactically inclined, you can educate yourselves here.)

The choir, made up of a couple dozen male and female singers, did a nice job. Accompanied by one fellow playing the keyboard, their voices resonated strongly through the echo-prone church building. Though their style seemed to be a mix of modern church music and Filipino folk music, the echo and the many voices made them sound like Gregorian chanters. I was particularly struck by their rendition of the pop song "You Raise Me Up." I guess my grandmother isn't the only Filipino who likes Josh Groban.

The priest today introduced a Indian nun from the Sisters of Christ the Light, who cater to the needs of rural communities in India. She told several stories about their work, including that of a man who tried to kill her in a forest, but later came to her asking for forgiveness, and about a little boy who was grateful to receive an education from the Sisters. The thing that I found most interesting was that these Sisters work in areas that are 80% Hindu.

What I loved about this Mass was just how many people were participating in the Mass. There were probably 20 choir members, and 6 altar servers (think about it! That's a lot!) as well as ushers, greeters, and eucharistic ministers. It seemed like it was truly the product of a proud Filipino community, in which everyone was eager and willing to participate.

St. Stephen Martyr Church


28 October 2010

St. Teresa of Avila

It’s been a while since I’ve gone church-exploring, so this week I got right back on the horse. I brought two new friends to church this week, John and Kate (Plus Michael! Get it?). John is a missionary with the Fellowship Of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) and is busy spreading the Word at GW. Kate is a student at Gallaudet University, a college for deaf students, (she can hear, but she’s studying deaf education) who hangs out a lot at the GW Newman Center. I decided to bring them to St. Teresa of Avila in Anacostia, in the Southeast part of Washington, D.C.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to “STA” was that it was close to a little-known D.C. landmark called the “Big Chair.” It is, as its name suggests, a 19-foot tall chair, created by a furniture company in 1959 and cherished ever since by local residents, it even made an appearance in a recent Wale music video (here, around 1:49). It was very cool, but not nearly as cool as the Mass we were about to attend.

The church had a pretty simple design, a pentagonal fa├žade with few architectural flourishes. The walls of the inside of the church were bare white for the most part. As I walked in, the first I thing I noticed was the large painting of Jesus on the wall behind the altar. He appears to be seated on a throne in the middle of space, with stars, the Earth and the moon in the background. On second glance, Jesus is actually engulfed in yellow light, and is thus shown as being separate from Earth, space, and the moon. Quite frankly though, it was still the strangest-looking piece of art I’ve ever seen inside a church. Also behind the altar was a red, bush-looking statue that John guessed was a representation of the burning bush.

As we walked in, the church was about half-full, and some of the parishioners were praying the rosary together. Things quickly livened up, however, as the young adult choir started belting out the opening hymn. The choir got everyone moving (see video below) and I soon found myself clapping my hands and moving from side to side. They were led by a fantastic piano player, who also served as the choir director. My favorite choir moment was when they stood on the church’s balcony (in the rear of the church, where many churches have their organ players) and performed a brilliant a cappella rendition of the Negro spiritual “I Opened My Mouth To The Lord,” with the choir director furiously directing them from the front of the church.

The Mass was similar to many of those I’ve seen at other D.C. Black Catholic parishes, but STA had its own unique sense of emotion and enthusiasm. These folks all seemed to be very much part of a community, with their own traditions and shared memories. John liked that the readers of the Word would make sure to announce which specific books, chapters, and lines they’d be reading from, and the parishioners would all pull out their Bibles and follow along.

John, Kate, and I had a very warm welcome into the STA community. Just like in many other black parishes, all visitors were asked to stand up and introduce themselves. Once the three of us did this, we sat down, but the people sitting near us told us to remain standing. After standing for a minute as the other visitors introduced themselves, I asked the man in front of me why we were supposed to stay standing. He then stood up, and said, “We’ve got a gift for y’all,” as he opened his arms to give me a hug. The rest of the parish stood up, and the hugs didn’t stop for about five minutes. It was a tremendous way of welcoming folks into the church. Kate was a hit with the whole parish because of something that she did later in the Mass. When the pastor, Monsignor East, heard that she was from Gallaudet, he asked her to pray the “Our Father” in American Sign Language for the rest of the parish. He told the parish to follow along, and it was great fun watching people try to copy Kate’s signs.

Monsignor East, the pastor, was a fantastic man. He came into the church smiling and didn’t let up for the whole Mass. When the choir began to sing the “Hallelujah,” before the Gospel reading, he stopped them mid-song, and reminded everyone that “Hallelujah” means “Praise the Lord,” and encouraged everyone to sing louder! His sermon was very colorful, and he used a mix of humor and seriousness to speak to his audience. In the day’s Gospel readings, Jesus contrasts a Pharisee who brags of his holiness in his prayers to God, and a tax collector who merely asks forgiveness for his sins. To illustrate this, he brought Tasha, a choir member to the back of the church with him. He pretended to act out the part of the Pharisee, talking about how he was holy and righteous and Tasha said, referring to herself, “unlike this heathen!” In his sermon, he talked about the struggle many people have in coming back to church and asking God’s forgiveness for their sins. He talked about people who had left the church, and cited Tasha as an example of someone who had come back after falling away from the church. He referenced Tasha multiple times, and the sermon became very emotional for her. He eventually brought her back up, and she received hugs from several members of the parish. In this way, Monsignor East demonstrated the deep connection he had with his parishioners and the meaningful effect that his work has had on their lives. Sunday was his 60th birthday, and the three of us were happy to sign birthday cards for him.

After a tremendously moving Mass, we finished the trip off with a quick visit to the Frederick Douglass National Historical Site, just a few blocks away from STA. It was Douglass’s former home, and although we didn’t get to go inside, we got to see his terrific view of Washington, D.C. Just another reason to love this city and this project.



The Big Chair

St. Teresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church

Video of the Choir Singing the Closing Hymn

Frederick Douglass National Historical Site

Churches I've Been To So Far (The count is 19, I'm almost half way there!):

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20 October 2010

Congrats to Archbishop Donald Wuerl!

The Vatican announced this morning that Archbishop Donald Wuerl of the Washington Archdiocese was named to be a Cardinal. He's a great, down-to-earth guy, and I think he will do an excellent job in his new position. Congratulations and God bless, Your Excellency!

Archbishop Wuerl's Remarks this morning:

19 October 2010

Chapel of the Sacred Heart- Los Angeles, CA (LMU)

I have been off my game recently, but I'll be back on the trail next weekend. Here's some photos of the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, located on the campus of Loyola Marymount University, a Jesuit university in West Los Angeles. I was there visiting a friend two weekends ago, and I made sure to snap some pictures. Pretty little church, looks to have some Middle-Eastern/Levantine architectural influence.

Also, my post on the Red Mass seemed to be a hit all around the Catholic blogosphere. I read some interesting things, none more so than the remarks from an enthusiastic poster at Angelqueen.org. (Click the link and then scroll down to the last comment.)

03 October 2010

Red Mass- St. Matthew's Cathedral

So, I’ve already visited St. Matthew’s Cathedral, but I went back today for a very special occasion. Today was the date of the annual “Red Mass,” a special Mass offered every year at the start of the Supreme Court session. Bishops and other Catholic dignitaries gather to ask the Holy Spirit to guide the nation’s justices and others involved in law. It often draws high-ranking federal officials, including Presidents, Vice Presidents, and Supreme Court Justices, and is hosted by the John Carroll Society, a fellowship of Catholic business, legal, and community leaders.

I’m not sure why, but it wasn’t easy to find information about the Red Mass. I eventually emailed St. Matthew’s Cathedral, asking what time the Mass would be held at. I got a response back from Maureen, an assistant to the Rector of St. Matthew’s, who told me it was a 10:00 AM Mass, and then asked me if I was interested in ushering! I said yes (because I knew it would make an interesting blog post! Or rather, a less uninteresting blog post).

Ushering wasn’t too much work, and I’m glad I got to take part in such a special Mass. Archbishop Donald Wuerl was the principal celebrant, and he was joined by several other Bishops, as well as a representative from the Vatican. Vice President Joe Biden sat in the front row, and across the aisle was John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the United States, as well as Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, Associate Justices of the United States Supreme Court.

The actual service was incredibly special. It started off with a large procession of dozens of bishops and priests, accompanied by incense and the powerful organ and brilliant choir of St. Matthew’s Cathedral. Members of the Knights of Columbus proceeded to the front of the church with the American flag, and the choir led the national anthem. It was fascinating to see the flag raised in the very classical-styled Cathedral; it was an interesting moment of church meeting state. I also enjoyed seeing Vice President Biden and Chief Justice Roberts walk up at the same time to receive communion.

The homily was given by The Reverend J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P., who is the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Don’t worry, I didn’t know what it was either. After doing my homework, I learned that it is a Vatican “congregation” dedicated to the regulation and promotion of liturgy, sacraments, and many other aspects of Catholic life. In his homily, Reverend Di Noia recited parts of the Latin poem “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” in between comments on the importance of the Red Mass. He said that the Holy Spirit was asked to make sure that the justices maintained their “personal integrity and spiritual equilibrium” in light of contending interests and political pressures.

All in all, this was a very cool Mass and something to remember if you’re ever in Washington on the Sunday before the first Monday in October. I also got to shake Archbishop’s Wuerl’s hand for the second time this semester. I didn’t bother to tell him to read this blog again, but I did get a picture with him!


Pictures (click to enlarge)
Vice President Biden enters the cathedral, he's the fellow in the red tie. He's taller than I thought he'd be.

The choir, and the musicians that accompany them, were spectacular today.
Myself and Archbishop Donald Wuerl. Glad I ran into John, a FOCUS missionary, and James, another GW student, who took this picture for me!

Questions? Comments? Interesting Dreams? Were any blog readers at the Red Mass today? Share your thoughts in the comments section! 

20 September 2010

St. Francis de Sales Church

This week I headed out to St. Francis de Sales Church in Northeast Washington. It’s a little church with a very interesting story. It claims to be the “oldest continuing congregation” in Washington, and can trace its roots back to the Queen Family Chapel, which Catholics started worshipping at in 1722. The chapel was burned down three times, once during the Revolutionary War, once during the War of 1812, and once by Union soldiers during the Civil War (I found it bizarre that Union soldiers would burn down a building in Union territory. It was a regiment from New York, so my guess is that they were motivated by the anti-Catholic sentiment of the time, which was very strong in New York because of the influx of Irish and German Catholic immigrants.). In 1908, the original church of St. Francis de Sales was built on the location of the old Queen’s Chapel. It moved to its new location on Rhode Island Ave in 1927, to the anger of many parishioners. Now, on the original Queen’s Chapel location is Langdon Elementary School, near Queen’s Chapel Road. The St. Francis parish started by building a lower, basement church, but then the Great Depression hit, and they never had funds to start building the upper church. St. Francis de Sales remains the same small church that it was in the 1930’s, a proud descendant of the first generation of American Catholics.
On the outside, St. Francis de Sales appears to be an incredibly small church. That’s mostly because it’s built to be the basement of a much larger building, and a good portion of the worship area is underground. The worship area felt a lot like the lower church at St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a modest but adequate space. As I walked down the center aisle towards the altar, I realized that I was walking on a downward slope.

The parish was mostly African-American, and I began to recognize the same patterns of behavior that I’ve seen at other African-American churches. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. A woman named Linda decided to introduce herself to me and give me a hug before Mass even started. For the hymns, there was a man on piano and a female cantor. For a few of the songs, they seemed as if they were not on the same page, but they did a nice job overall.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us that we cannot serve both God and mammon (money). In his homily, Deacon Bert said that someone once told him, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy the Cadillac you can drive around to look for it.” He then dissected the question, “Is money evil?” No, he concluded, for we need money to feed the poor, clothe our children, and give back to the community. It is endless desire, a “bet you can’t have just one” attitude, which brings us further from God. He told the congregation to take all that they had and put it at the service of God. 

Here's some info on the history of St. Francis de Sales, both of which can be found on the Saint Francis de Sales Website. This document is a basic history of the church, and this is a copy of a 1908 Washington Herald newspaper which has an article discussing the dedication and history of St. Francis de Sales. 


Churches I've Been to So Far (I'm up to 19!)

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14 September 2010

St. Mary Mother of God Church

On the way back from New York, I asked my roommate Allen to pick out a church for me to go to the next day. He looked at my list of churches and suggested St. Mary, Mother of God church in Chinatown. I got my two reliable church-going partners, Dan and Loreto, to come with me on another adventure.

St. Mary, Mother of God is an interesting parish. They play host to the Our Lady of China pastoral mission, which hosts an 11:30 Mass in Cantonese. They are also the only church in the Washington Archdiocese who performs a Tridentine Latin Mass, which is the mass which was celebrated in Catholic churches before the Second Vatican Council in 1962. I decided to go the Cantonese Mass this week, I’ll probably go see the Latin Mass another time.

The church building was very nice, with a single tower in front and a dark stone exterior that reminded me of St. Patrick Church. The interior was pretty standard neo-Gothic architecture, with pretty marble columns and a light color scheme that reminded of me of St. Monica’s Church.

As for the Mass, I really didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. There were some prayers we were able to pick up on, but some, like the Nicene Creed, we were lost on. We were able to follow along during the readings in the English missal, but were lost again during the homily. It seemed like the priest took an awful long time to give his homily, but perhaps it just seemed that way because we couldn’t understand him.

They did a couple more odd things that I found intriguing. One was that the choir, or what I believed to be the choir, was not standing up near the front of the church, or even standing at all. They were seated in the first two rows of the church and they stood and sat just like everyone else. Where most parishes either sing or recite the responsorial psalm, this parish appeared to do a combination of the two: a lector read the verses, but the choir sang the refrain. I also found it a little amusing that they had two very short women going down the aisles collecting the contributions; normally that’s done by Knights of Columbus members or older parish men.

After the mass, we talked to some regular parishioners, Paul and Margaret, who told us a little more about the church and the Cantonese service. I asked them what the priest said in the homily. Paul said he couldn’t understand the priest’s sermon, because the priest was speaking Mandarin, but Margaret told us that he was talking about the story of the prodigal son. While the father’s rejoicing may not have seemed fair to the “good” son, he said, his actions were based on love, not fairness. Margaret told us that she was moving to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, but she told us to look her up and that she would cook us some delicious Chinese food if we wanted it. I’ll probably take her up on that. 


Archbishop Donald Wuerl gave mass at the GW Newman Center this past Sunday night, and I got the chance to hear him speak. (I also shook his hand and told him about this website...Are you reading this, Father?) He spoke about the New Evangelization, a call for Catholics around the world to bring others into the fold or back into the fold. He summarized his ideas in his new Pastoral Letter, which you can read in a PDF here or in neat-o flipbook form here. Enjoy!


Churches I've Been To So Far

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12 September 2010

NYC (New York Catholic)

My roommate Allen and I decided to make a quick trip to New York this weekend. It was a lot of fun. As we scampered around the city to see the big sights, i.e. Central Park, Times Square, Chinatown, I managed to find a bunch of New York's Catholic churches. I've discovered that I'm getting better at determining if a church is Catholic or not just by looking at it. I was about 65% accurate this trip, I'm hoping to get a little better as I study more churches. In any case, here's what I found.

St. Francis of Assisi Church (W 31st St.)

St. Patrick's Cathedral (Undergoing some renovations)

Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua (Grenwich Village)

Capuchin Monastery of St. John (Midtown)

Sts. Cyril & Methodius, St. Rafael - Croatian Catholic Church
I found this church as we left New York on the bus...wish I had some better pictures!

06 September 2010

St. Gabriel Church

This morning I visited St. Gabriel Church in the Petworth neighborhood with my friend Loreto. We had a little trouble waking up in the morning, as well as some trouble using the D.C. Metro system, but we managed to only be a few minutes late for 11:00 AM Mass (I’ll get better, I promise.)

St. Gabriel was a large stone church that reminded me of St. Ann’s in Tenleytown. On the inside were large stone columns, stained glass windows, and a very pretty wooden structure which held the tabernacle. Mass was fairly well-attended, with mostly African-American parishioners. I was expecting to see more Hispanics at the Mass, because of the large Hispanic population in the  Columbia Heights/Petworth area. Perhaps I would have seen more if I had gone to one of St. Gabriel’s two Spanish-language masses.

There was an interesting choir in Mass today. It featured about a dozen singers, a piano player, a drummer, and a trumpet player. They had some really nice moments, despite a male soloist who was a little flat. At the end of the Mass, a woman who appeared to be the choir director sang a particularly passionate hymn. St. Gabriel’s pastor, Father Mateo gave a nice homily about distinguishing which things in our lives are taking us away from God. Whether they be people or habits, he encouraged us to get rid of things that take us away from Him and to love God first.

After Mass, I told Father Mateo about my project and he introduced me to Sister Regina, one of the Sisters of the Holy Name who resides at St. Gabriel Parish. She told me a little about the church, and gave me a book detailing the history of the parish. As it turns out, the parish started out worshipping in a hut in 1920. They built the St. Gabriel Catholic School in 1924 (it is now a public charter school) and broke ground on their current structure in 1930. I also learned that Michael Steele, former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland and current Republican National Committee Chairman, attended St. Gabriel School as a child. Thanks so much, Sister!

St. Gabriel Parish Website (Not much and not updated recently, but it has their contact info.)
Washington Post Article which makes mention of the former St. Gabriel Elementary School, which was sold off by the Archdiocese and made into a public charter school a few years ago.  


Churches I've Visited in Washington, D.C.

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