The Foundation and the Founders: 1945-1960
Our Lady Queen of Peace is an appropriate name for a parish that was born in 1945 at the end of World War II. Although African Americans had fought equally with other Americans during the war, racial segregation prevailed both in the wider society and in the Catholic Church. Black Catholics in Arlington went to Mass and attended school in Washington, DC or St. Joseph's, a Black Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia, established in 1915.
In the early 1940s, a group of devout and determined Black Catholics began plans to build a Catholic Church where they could worship in dignity. By 1945 they were able to obtain a meeting with a representative of the Richmond Diocese, then responsible for Arlington County, to discuss establishing a parish for Black Catholics. The meeting took place in the home of Edward and Alice Moorman. The group became the founders of Our Lady Queen of Peace. They were: Joseph Bowman, Clarence and Selena Brown, Alice Butler, Lawrence and Jessie Butler, Irma Carter, Hattie Ellis, Mary Fernanders, Edward Marshall, Grace McGwinn, Edward and Alice Moorman, Constance Spencer, Sophia Terry and Thaddenia West. Today all of the founding members are deceased, except for Thaddenia West, who is a living tribute to the founding of Our Lady Queen of Peace.
Bishop Ireton granted the request of the Black Catholics to establish their own church in Arlington County. He asked the Holy Ghost Fathers to minister to the parish and they appointed Fr. Joseph Hackett as the first pastor. On Pentecost, May 20,1945, 40 people and Fr. Hackett celebrated the first Mass in the home of Lawrence and Jessie Butler, located on South Barton Street. Subsequent services were held at the residence of Fr. Hackett, a home rented for him by the Holy Ghost Fathers. A new location was sought when it became obvious that the priest's residence could no longer accommodate the increasing number of parishioners. Through the efforts of Mr. Maurice Coates, a parishioner and manager of Dunbar Homes, the site of the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Homes in the Green Valley (Nauck) neighborhood became a temporary location for church services. He provided a small auditorium where Fr. Hackett began offering Mass. Later, a site was found for the new church on South 19th and Edgewood Streets. Mr. Solomon Thompson, a Black real estate agent, and Mr. Clarence Brown negotiated and purchased the property (under the auspices of the Diocese of Richmond), and plans were begun to construct a new church building.
During the first year of Our Lady Queen of Peace parish, the Holy Name Society, the Sodality and Junior Sodality were established. Holy Name officers were Clarence Brown, John Phoenix Sr. and Joseph Bowman. Sodality officers were Alice Moorman, Ruth Phoenix and Roberta Wilson. The first altar boys, organized and trained by Edward Hicks, were Clifton West, George Marshall, Leonard Lewis, Thomas and Bernard Fernanders, and Reginald Carter. On February 3, l946, Cleo Butler and Guy Wills were the first couple whose marriage was recorded in the sacramental register at Our Lady Queen of Peace. The parishioners held many activities such as dinners, bake sales, lawn parties, rummage sales and teas to raise money for the parish.
After overcoming several bureaucratic obstacles, one year and four months after celebrating their first Mass, parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Peace were granted approval to construct their church. On September 20, 1946, Alice Moorman, representing the Sodality and Clarence Brown, representing the Holy Name Society, along with Fr. Hackett, turned the first shovels of soil marking the groundbreaking for the new church. Father Stephen, of St. Mary Church in Alexandria, preached the sermon. On Pentecost Sunday, June 15, 1947, Bishop Peter Ireton dedicated Our Lady Queen of Peace Church. The Knights of St. John, a Black honor society, attended the Bishop. Joseph Thomas, organist and founder of the first choir, played for the dedication.
Many rituals and observances of a Christian community occurred in the new parish. Nuns from St. Mary's Academy, Alexandria, taught Sunday school. In June 1947, a summer school was started for 26 children, 6 of whom received First Communion on July 13, 1947. The first Confirmation took place in April 1948, with 30 candidates receiving the sacrament from Bishop Ireton. Patricia Lumpkins was Queen of the first May Procession in 1948.
In April 1948, Fr. Hackett was called to a new ministry and was succeeded by Fr. Michael Kanda. By the time Fr. Kanda arrived, the membership of Our Lady Queen of Peace had grown to approximately 75-100 families. He provided transportation to Sunday School and organized a basketball team for church and neighborhood youth. Fr. Kanda was also instrumental in the integration of the boys' basketball teams of the diocesan Catholic Youth Organizations. He opened his heart and home to all boys and girls regardless of race or religion and as a result, many people in the neighborhood converted to Catholicism.
OLQP did not have an elementary school. Children attended Catholic schools in Alexandria or Washington, DC. As a result of the 1954 Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education decision, Cardinal Patrick O'Boyle desegregated parochial schools in the Archdiocese of Washington. Two OLQP parishioners, Marguerite Thomas and W. Cassell Butler, both active in the Arlington NAACP, negotiated the entry of Black children into Arlington parochial schools in the early 1950s. The Thomas children (Keith, James and Cecilia Thomas) integrated St. Thomas Moore School and the Butler's child (Johnella Butler) integrated St. Charles. In the late 1950s, other schools desegregated by Black children from the parish were St. Mary's Academy (Jackie and Veronica Alfred) and Archbishop O'Connell High School (Shuford Hill Jr. and Ronald Ricks).
From 1952 to 1958, a number of Holy Ghost Fathers served the parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Peace. Fr. Kanda was succeeded in 1952 by Fr. Thomas Jones, who was pastor until his death in 1955. Fr. James White was assigned as pastor for two years and in 1958 was succeeded by Fr. Francis Smith. Later that year, Fr. David Ray was assigned and became the sixth pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace.
A Time of Change: 1960-1975
By 1960 the world was changing. In America, an Irish Catholic President was elected. People talked about the role of the Church and individual Catholics in political and social life. Mass was celebrated in Latin with the priest's back to the congregation, and choirs sang most songs in Latin. Pope John XXIII convened Vatican II in 1962 and when it ended in 1965, the Church embarked on change that included new perceptions of the role of women, the family and the liturgy. There was also a mandate for the Church to recognize the value of the cultural identities of all its members. It was during this period that OLQP began offering Mass in English and developed its folk Mass.
Developments in the United States were fueled by the growing Black Civil Rights Movement, led by a young, charismatic Southern Baptist Minister, Martin Luther King, Jr. Responding to Dr. King's call for "equality for all people", Father Ray and several OLQP parishioners boarded a bus from the church parking lot on August 28, 1963 to participate in the March on Washington where they witnessed Dr. King deliver his famous "I Have a Dream” speech. Fr. Ray and members of the parish established the Catholic Interracial Council of Northern Virginia to work on issues of poverty, employment and fair housing. Some of its members included Connie Latier, John Phoenix, Dixie Rigdon, Joe Wholey, Emerson Hynes, Frances Kelly, Patricia Bonbrake, and Marguerite Thomas.
In 1963, OLQP was designated a territorial parish for all Catholics in its boundaries, regardless of race. Later during the decade of the 1960s, a modest number of whites began to attend services at OLQP. Fr. Ray's prior station at a military installation resulted in many military families attending and eventually becoming members of OLQP. Under the leadership of Fr. Ray, the community-oriented programs increased. Central to his philosophy was Mt. 25:35, "I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink; a stranger and you welcomed me." The concept of helping others less fortunate was embraced by OLQP. Rather than solely handing out food baskets at Christmas and Thanksgiving, or sponsoring used clothing drives, OLQP inaugurated the Family Activities Center (FAC), a child care center for low income people and a federally chartered credit union. This was all accomplished in 1964 and 1965. Alvin and Mary Batiste were founding members of the Family Activities Center, and Alberta Thurmond served for 25 years as its third director. The initial Board of Directors of the FAC was Father Ray, John Reed, Arthur Roehrl, Daniel Morrisey, Ethel Camp, Elise Smith, Carol Tuttle, Raymond Jay, Sylvester Puryear, Floyd Agostinelli, and Susan Cooney. During the 1960s, Bishop John Russell allowed the parish to utilize a farm, Our Acres, in Penola, Virginia as part of OLQP's child development program. The first officers of the OLQP credit union were Cornelius Vahle (president), Jack Casey (treasurer), and Jackie Alfred (secretary).
The decade of the 1960s ended as tumultuously as it began with assassinations, the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement and the women's movement. Meanwhile, the parish, in partnership with local anti-poverty groups, continued to respond to the needs of the less fortunate. In 1972 a separate building was erected to house a Matthew 25 Bazaar, which offered used clothing and household goods at moderate prices. The parish also initiated a ministry for the homeless that provided shelter and food.
In 1974, the Catholic parishes in Northern Virginia were organized into the Diocese of Arlington under the leadership of Bishop Thomas Welsh. Dramatic changes in the demographics of OLQP had occurred during the 1960s making it one of the most ethnically diverse parishes in Northern Virginia.
The Influence of the Hispanic Community on Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz
Fr. Terencio celebrated Mass in Spanish from 1980-1985. During this period many new members joined the leadership of the Hispanic community including Mario and Mercy Quijano, Nidia Amaya, Amparo Salazar, Betzabe Londono, Lolita Parra, Daysi Ramirez, and Clarisa Perez. In 1982, an annual Christmas activity called “Las Posadas” was begun. It commemorates the search of the Holy Family for an inn, and participants go door-to-door, where they are welcomed in the spirit of Christmas hospitality. The present 1:00 p.m. Spanish liturgy began in 1985 and a choir was established by Henry Gutierrez, Leslie Gutierrez, Edgar Estrada, and Augusto Nagarro. The choir used musical instruments such as tambourines and maracas, which are characteristic of the Hispanic culture. Fr. Harold Bradley, S.J. of Georgetown University was a regular celebrant at OLQP because of his ministry to Central Americans. Many parishioners who joined the OLQP's Hispanic community during the latter part of the 1980s and early 1990s are active in the leadership of the parish. Carmen Elena Rios started the first Spanish-speaking religious education program in 1998.
The rich mosaic of the Hispanic culture is celebrated through a Multicultural Festival at Pentecost; bilingual masses at Epiphany, Easter, during the parish end of summer picnic and on other special occasions. The Hispanic members of Our Lady Queen of Peace, or Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz, have participated in interracial dialogues, as well as in promoting intercultural understanding through their participation in the Multicultural Festival, which has become an annual event in the parish.
At the request of Fr. James Healy in 1990, Fr. Joseph Nangle, O.F.M. became the third priest to serve the Hispanic community of OLQP. Under his leadership, the community has expanded tremendously and presently comprises approximately twenty-five percent of the parish. John Wright Rios became music director for the Hispanic choir during this period. Over time, an increasing number of OLQP informational materials have been translated into Spanish, and by 1989 the Parish Advisory Board requested a board representative from the Hispanic community. Mercy Quijano, Sandra Villanueva, Teresa Saavedra, Teresa Diaz, Orlando Aleman, Angel Feliciano, Jose Melara, and Lucy Ruiz have all served on the OLQP Parish Advisory Board. In 2001, 46 children from the Hispanic community received their First Communion, constituting the majority of the largest First Communion class at OLQP.
Evolution of a Multicultural Parish: 1985-2002
During Fr. Healy's tenure several ministries were formed to improve administration and management, expand community outreach and offer all parishioners an opportunity to participate in the life and growth of the church. In 1985, a Parish Advisory Board was established, with officers: Cecilia Braveboy, (president), Dan Morrisey, (vice president); and Richard Herbst, (secretary). Other members of that first Board included: Tom Kenefake, Ann Felker, John McMakin, George Peyton, Edward McCamley, Dorothy Rigdon, Art Sullivan, John Reed, Gertrude Amos, Fr. Healy (pastor) and Fr. Dirk Zwetsloot (associate pastor). That same year, a Social Action Committee was established from the Hunger Study Group, and a Social Services Office was opened, with Sr. Mary Healy, R.S.M. acting as counselor. Also in 1985, a Parish Finance Committee was established, with officers: Barbara Kenefake, (chair); Alice Lockett, (vice chair) and Tim Felker, (secretary). One year later, the Parish Advisory Board approved the Mission Statement for Our Lady Queen of Peace.
Fr. Healy's vision for the parish was one of full and active participation of everyone living out their faith, and through his dynamic preaching and a new way of seeing things, he called people to be involved in the parish as well as in the community. With his powerful way of presenting the Gospel that attracted many new people to the parish, he challenged and created opportunities for them to put their faith into practice. The parish began “Ministry Sunday” on Pentecost 1986 to assist parishioners in choosing ministries that suited their various talents. This was followed by “Commitment Sunday” in September, when parishioners pledged to be a member of their chosen ministry. These Sundays have become annual events. A Queen of Peace Refugee Office was also established in 1986 to "…serve especially (though not exclusively) those in our Salvadoran and Latin American community in facing the most immediate and basic social problems which confront them here in Northern Virginia." During that same year, the church sanctuary was remodeled in order to elevate the altar, baptismal font, and choir space, thereby allowing for increased visibility and congregational participation. The front row pews were also remodeled to make them handicap accessible.
The number of staff and ministries continued to grow in 1987. The appointment of Gene Betit as permanent deacon for the parish was a momentous occasion in the history of OLQP. The parish Capital Improvement Fund also began in 1987, and in that same year, the Social Justice/Human Rights Committee replaced OLQP's Social Action Committee. The newly formed committee was chaired by Bob Corolla and Stacy Collins. It is an important manifestation of the parish's commitment to human rights and responsibilities, and to a whole range of national and international social needs. For example, the rectory basement had served as a shelter for homeless people from as early as 1979. In 1987, Fr. Healy and the Parish Board agreed to discontinue the shelter and instead help the homeless with referrals and funding for motel rooms, as well as challenge local governments to respond to the increasing needs of the homeless. Other ministries for social justice have developed to address specific needs. Since 1989 the parish has participated in the “Christmas in April” program, which helps lower income people fix, clean, and refurbish their homes.
A Black Dimensions Committee was established in 1987 to reflect the special commitment of the parish to remember, reverence and celebrate the faith and gifts of our founders. It was later renamed the Ujamaa Committee, meaning familyhood and mutual cooperation. Since 1992, Ujamaa has awarded 117 scholarships worth $65,225 to support educational endeavors, especially tuition for Catholic schools. Over the years, the Ujamaa Committee has cooperated with the Arlington diocesan chapter of the National Black Catholic Congress (NBCC) to become more aligned with other African American Catholics locally and nationwide. OLQP delegates and representatives attended national NBCC conferences in Washington, DC, New Orleans and Baltimore, and will attend the next conference in Chicago later this year (2002).
A number of important events took place in 1988, including a census of residents in the parish boundaries. It was conducted by Fr. Frank DeSiano, a Paulist who also led a parish Evangelization Committee. This resulted in several evangelization programs. A parish newsletter (the Advocate), was established and the Office of Refugee Services was opened. In September, the first parish summer picnic was held at Barcroft Park, in Arlington. In October, the Social Justice/Human Rights Committee began: (1) a "Start Fund" program (1988-90) to assist low income families with up-front housing costs (e.g., security and utility deposits) and low interest loans. Fr. Terry O'Connell and Fr. Lenny DePasquale initially staffed the "Start Fund" with a grant from the Holy Ghost Fathers and, (2) Brown Bag Sundays which were the first Sunday of each month when non-perishable foods were brought to Mass for later distribution. In 1988, a joint plan was developed by Fr. Healy and Fr. Tuck Grinnell (pastor at St. Charles) to work together in order to welcome Spanish-speaking residents, and to address the problems of homelessness and the need for low income housing. In 1989, Fr. Kelly (associate pastor), along with Richard Herbst, formed the weekly Bible study group “Share the Word”, and continued to evangelize to parishioners.
In 1990, the Gospel Choir celebrated its 10th anniversary in concert, "Let Us Rejoice", with George Stewart (director) and Lena Alfred (president). The youth choir music ministry for children ages 5-12 was established in June 1993, as a means of encouraging youth participation through the celebration of music. The youth choir sings at Sunday Masses as well as on special occasions (the Family and Christmas Masses), and for special groups ( the elderly and shut-ins). In 2001, a teen choir was started for ages 13-18. There is also an active teen and youth group at OLQP.
In 1994, the Vatican approved female altar servers at the discretion of diocesan bishops. However, Bishop Keating decided not to permit female altar servers in parishes of the Arlington diocese. This decision still stands today under Bishop Paul Loverde, and remains of great interest to OLQP where equality is very important. In 1996, under Fr. Jeff's pastorate, the Child Development Program became the Queen of Peace Early Learning Center. The following year, in 1997, Floretta Ramseur became the director of the Early Learning Center and continues as its present administrator.
The Minkisi group of OLQP, formed in 1997, promotes faith formation and social action. In January 1998, the parish participated in a National Day of Dialogue on Race Relations, honoring Dr. King, and co-sponsored by the parish ministries of Ujamaa, Minkisi, Social Justice, and the Credit Union. Since 1999, OLQP has celebrated an Interfaith Service with Mt. Zion Baptist and the Unitarian Universalist (2000) Churches of Arlington commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This service is held on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and is a celebration of interdenominational prayers and worship.
One of the important ministries of OLQP is the cooperative relationship with St. Joseph parish in Medor, Haiti, a remote village in the mountains, about 50 miles north of Port au Prince. Parishioners concern for the Haitian people began under the leadership of Fr. Healy, who was one of the founders of the Washington Office on Haiti. Fr. Jeff Duaime continued this ministry and began the Haiti Committee at OLQP in 1996. OLQP has raised money to build a granary, construct homes, a school building, new church pews, and renovate the church. Several delegations of OLQP parishioners have traveled at least once or twice a year to Medor. One delegation presented a quilt made by members of the OLQP Women's Faith Sharing Group. Returning delegations report to the congregation, and occasional visitors from Medor also speak at Sunday Masses.
In 1999 a Seasoned Christians group was formed, led by parish founder, Thaddenia West. The seniors are an active fellowship program that conduct numerous community service projects such as collecting blankets for the homeless and school supplies for children. They also prepared a thank you luncheon for fire fighters who assisted during the September 11, 2001 tragedy.
Several staff assignments to parish ministries have been necessary to keep pace with OLQP's growing administrative requirements. In 1989, Sr. Irene Alexander, O.S.B., became the first salaried Religious Education Director at OLQP. In 1990, Christina Kozyn was hired as the full-time parish office manager, a role she continues to perform. In 1991, Juan Pablo Ordoñez became the full-time director of the parish Office of Social Ministries. Recent assignments include Derek Campbell in 1999, as Coordinator of Parish Music Ministries, and in 2000 Aldophe Gervais, as full-time Director of Religious Education. Deacon Gene Betit became the full-time Social Justice and Outreach Director also in 2000.
OLQP has evolved as a multicultural parish with a rich spiritual heritage that shows positive signs for the future. As Fr. Jeff departs for his new ministry in Philadelphia, Our Lady Queen of Peace is continuing to grow through the construction of a new building-a Parish Ministry Center. Parishioners have pledged over one million dollars for its construction. Upon its completion, it will provide additional space and facilities for the 55 ministries maintained by OLQP. We thank Fr. Jeff for his outstanding leadership, and with God's help, we look forward with confidence to the future with Fr. Leonard Tuozzolo as pastor, spiritual director and guide.
The history of Our Lady Queen of Peace parish is about dreamers and doers. Sixteen Black Catholics, with determination and faith in God, transformed their dream into reality. Their dream of a church where they could worship in dignity has evolved into a spiritual community for dreamers of all races and cultures. Today, Our Lady Queen of Peace is a beautiful tapestry reflecting the divine possibilities of dreamers and doers. It is a community fortified and committed to bringing the reign of God's peace and justice to our neighborhood, our city, nation and our world.
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