CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Parishioners pose for a group photo following a May 1 Mass celebrating Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church's 125th anniversary.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Parishioners pose for a group photo following a May 1 Mass celebrating Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church's 125th anniversary.
A small red brick church sits along 11th and K streets in Northeast D.C. Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, although small in size and number of parishioners, is long on history and is once again growing.

“We’re seeing again a rebirth of this city, and more and more families moving into the parish,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl said reflecting during a May 1 Mass celebrating the parish’s 125th anniversary.

Cardinal Wuerl said Holy Name parish is part of the larger history of the Church in Washington, which has roots that go back to 1634 when Catholics first came to this part of the world. As Catholics, Cardinal Wuerl says, “We remind ourselves that who we are as God’s family goes back even further. In fact our spiritual history as a faith family, as Church, goes all the way back to Jesus.”

Holy Name’s written history shows the parish celebrated its first Mass in a private home on January 12th 1891. The parish’s European roots are clear from the many Irish names on the stained-glass windows. In the post World War II era the parish became primarily African-American.

“We were here when Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement desegregating schools and churches of the archdiocese,” said Holy Name Pastor, Father Michael Briese.

It’s a time in history that 93-year-old parishioner, Lottie Albury remembers well. “It was separated at that time,” she said. “We sat at the back seat until, I think it was Father King, opened it up saying you could sit where you want.”

Albury would end up raising all five of her children at Holy Name parish sending them to the parish grade school. In the decade before she arrived, that school was helping form a young boy who would go on to accomplish great charitable works as a priest. Venerable Aloysius Schwartz received Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation at Holy Name Parish. As a missionary to Korea, he established an order of women, the Sisters of Mary, to care for orphans. He also built a hospital.  He passed away in 1992 after being diagnosed with ALS in 1989

In 2015 Pope Francis acknowledged Schwartz had lived a life of heroic virtue, formally declaring him “Venerable” which is the first step in the process of being declared a Saint.

“I think it would be great for the parish because this would be giving our parish a Saint,” said Albury.

A small memorial with pictures and pamphlets at the back of Holy Name church provides parishioners a place to kneel in prayer for his Sainthood cause as well as asking for his intercession.

The make-up of today’s parish has changed greatly since Venerable Aloysius Schwartz was a young boy. Pastor Michael Briese, who’s led the parish since 2011, said he’s seen the diversity grow right in front of his eyes, as the population of Hispanic and Asian Catholic grows.

Mass attendance has grown from only about 100 people across four Masses to around 240 including a Spanish-language Mass, which began in 2000. Angelica Diaz, a representative for the Hispanic community says there were only a handful of people when they started the Spanish Mass, but now there are 120 to 150 people every Sunday.

In Father Briese’s time the parish has revitalized its food pantry and created a community clothes closet. The newly formed Young Adult group helps to head up these projects on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Eric Gay Sr., parish council chairperson, said he hopes to see the parish continue reaching out to its neighbors. “125 years of this church, I would really like to see it continue to be ambassadors of the community bringing people closer to God and providing a place that can house people no matter what. “

Gay, a second-generation parishioner, added that “I’ll always come here until the day I die, and hopefully then I’m buried in this church.”

It is that kind of fidelity to Christ that Cardinal Wuerl said is to be celebrated – 125 years of “faithfulness to the mission of the Church, to God’s plan, to God’s Word, to God’s sacramental presence with us and the recognition of our calling.”

With 125 years of history it is easy to look back, but Cardinal Wuerl reminded parishioners, “It is our turn to continue that great living tradition of faith and then to ask God’s blessing on the future.”