Catholic parish gets a permanent home in Poolesville
Feb. 14, 2001
Sean Sedam
Staff Writer

David S. Spence/The Gazette

The new building for Our Lady of the Presentation in Poolesville has been completed, and the first Masses in the Catholic church were held Feb. 3 and 4.

As the parishioners of Our Lady of the Presentation Catholic Church settled into their new home on Tom Fox Avenue in Poolesville last week, the church's pastor compared the transition to that of any family settling into a new home.

"Everybody who lives in Poolesville at one point has had to rent, and there's nothing like having your first home," the Rev. Y. David Brault said.

The first Masses in the new building were held Feb. 3 and 4 -- a feast day when the Roman Catholic Church honors the parish's namesake. They marked a homecoming for a congregation that since its beginning in 1992 has celebrated Mass in the cafeteria of Poolesville Elementary School.

The new church building means no more services among folded lunch tables, no more rolling out the altar, and no more straining to hear over the deafening blower of the cafeteria's air conditioning unit.

A thoughtful look of satisfaction crossed Brault's face as he thought of how parishioners have embraced their new home. "I knew they would," he said. "I'm delighted. I can see it on their faces. They've had to put up with renting space, setting up and taking down, being locked out because of the weather, the fact that we held Mass in a cafeteria."

The 8,400-square-foot building sits on 15 acres of land that the Archdiocese of Washington has owned since 1977. The building cost $1.5 million and can comfortably seat 400.

The church fits "the ecclesiastical architecture of the town," Brault said. "One of the nice features of this building is that it blends harmoniously with not only the town, but with all the other churches in town as well. The impression is that it's been there for a while."

On Thursday, workers raised a sculpture of "The Madonna of the Streets" on the outer wall of the sanctuary, where it is visible from Tom Fox and Fisher avenues. An eight-foot gold-plated cross already sits atop the church's steeple and a colorful mosaic depicting the scriptural moment from which the church takes its name will soon hang above the entrance doors.

The church's marble altars were made in Carrara, Italy, "where Michelangelo did his work" Brault said.

"It looks like a country church on the outside, but on the inside it's just spectacular," said parishioner Karen Poza, who teaches religious education classes.

The stained glass windows make a real impression, she said.

The windows were created in the mid-1950s and had appeared in three separate buildings at La Reine High School in Suitland. When the all-girls school closed several years ago, the Bernadine Sisters of St. Francis sold the windows to the parish.

"He's a good scrounger," Poza said of Brault.

"I'm a scrounger, yes," Brault said. "I'm a pack rat. The Lord has given me a gift for being able to see something and say 'I can use that.'"

The windows, the pews and other furniture specially designed for the church created a comfortable atmosphere for parishioners. "It was lovely," Mary Ware said of her first visit. "I was impressed. The luxury of the kneelers -- when you get older like I am, you really appreciate these luxuries."

Younger parishioners, some who had never been in an actual Catholic church building, needed a little instruction from Brault. "For all these years, we either sat or stood during the celebration of the Mass," he said. "Some of the little kids thought [the kneelers] were foot rests."

Brault, who is the sole priest in a parish of about 280 families, calls Poolesville "a strong faith-based community. There's an underlying faith bedrock to the town of Poolesville, which is nice."

Other churches have allowed the parish to use their buildings for functions during the week, such as religious education classes, Masses on Holy Days (which often fall during the week when school is in session) and penance services.

"I have nothing but gratitude for the other churches of Poolesville for having accommodated us as much as they have and really welcoming us," Brault said. He looks forward to sharing the parish's new home with other Poolesville congregations when Our Lady of the Presentation hosts the town's annual ecumenical prayer service Thanksgiving weekend.

Parishioners who attended mass in the new building for the first time liked what they saw. "I think it's a fine church," Albert Garofalo said. "I think the money was well spent."

For many parishioners, who worked toward their vision of a new home, the first weekend brought a sense of joy. "It was one of the happiest days of my life," said Marguerite Jefferies, a parish council member. "There were a lot of people who worked very hard to make this happen. It gave flesh and blood to our dream."

The new church will hold its first Easter Masses in April and a first communion Mass in May. In addition, there are four weddings already scheduled.