About Us

Parish History

In the mid 1950's, Woodbridge was a small town between Bolvoir and Quantico, fronting on the Potomac River. Catholics to offer Sunday Masses for Catholics in the Woodbridge area. For the Masses, parishioners carried a portable altar in their car trunks from Sunday to Sunday. Father Ecker celebrated the first Mass in the school on May 22, 1956. The total congregation was 66.


During that year, the Most Reverend Peter L. Ireton, Bishop of Richmond, and Monsignor Justin McClunn, diocesan chancellor, selected the site, and land was purchased for "a parish on top of the hill."


In April 1956, ground was broken for construction of a chapel on top of the hill. During construction, Rev. James G. Shea, was assigned to the "Woodbridge Mission." He commuted from Manassas, to offer two Masses each Sunday, with Rev. Richard Woodarek, who was studying at Catholic University.


In the fall of 1958, the chapel was completed. Formal dedication was on October 27, 1958.


On February 9, 1959, Father Shea and Father Ahearn moved from Manassas into a small bungalow on the property. The Woodbridge Catholic Men's Club had renovated the bungalow, and the Woodbridge Catholic Women's Club had finished it. A short way down the hill was another tiny bungalow, affectionately referred to as "The Annex." Daily Masses began in the chapel the next day.


A parish census then showed Catholic population in Woodbridge had grown to only 230. But not long after, significant job opportunities opened, especially with the federal government at Fort Bolvoir, Quantico, the Pentagon, and in Washington, D.C. This surge in employment, coupled with a rapid construction of reasonably-priced homes in Woodbridge, turned Woodbridge into a magnet, attracting large numbers of young families quickly.


Fortunately, after several meetings of diocesan and Stigmatine officials in 1959, boundaries had been drawn, and on September 26, 1959, Our Lady of Angels was formally declared a parish. Father Shea was named the first pastor, and Father Ahearn, first assistant pastor. Three weeks later, Saturday morning religious instruction began with two teachers – the pastor and the assistant pastor.


On December 21, 1959, additional property was purchased on top of the hill to build an auditorium. Groundbreaking was on June 25, 1961, and on Easter Sunday, 1962, the first Mass was celebrated in the auditorium.


Weekend and Holy Day Masses were celebrated in the auditorium. Religious Education (CCD classes) were taught there; moveable partitions divided the classes. Weekday Masses, baptisms, weddings, and other functions were in the chapel.


Beside providingspace for celebration of Masses and for religious education classes, the auditorium was the place for decades of parish celebrations, receptions, fund-raising activities such as auctions, and for Christmas bazaars, Fall fairs, Summer family festivals, Mardi Gras dances, Sewing Club.


The rapid growth of Our Lady of Angels' parish prompted the diocese to approve, in 1967, a three-part building program to include: 10 a library and thirteen classrooms on the sides of the existing auditorium (additions were completed in 1969); 2) a new church; and 3) a new rectory-parish office.


In 1970 and 1976, respectively, the diocese established Holy Family parish in Dale City and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Lake Ridge, both within what was Our Lady of Angels' boundaries.


In 1977, the Diocese opened the St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School. The school, Pre-K-8, fully accredited, is housed within Our Lady of Angels' Catholic Center. A wing was added to the building in 1980, and seven rooms were added in 1998.


Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation, of Nashville, Tennessee, and a lay faculty teach students primarily of Our Lady of Angels, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Sacred Heart parishes.


In 1985, Our Lady of Angels church was completed and dedicated, and in 1990, the rectory-parish office was built. These were the last two parts of the 1967 three-part parish construction plan. The Catholic Center, completed in 1969, was the first part.


There was no Catholic church in the Woodbridge area in the mid 1950's for the 66 Catholics. Now there are three Catholic parishes in the area, including Our Lady of Angels, serving more than 42,000 Catholics.

Timeline

Our Lady of Angels, founded in 1956 as a mission of All Saints, was declared a parish in 1959.


The chapel on the property was completed and dedicated in 1958.