“Here we are assembled on the very fields which not many years ago was the scene of the most bloody battles of the war. When not only man fought against man, but relations against relations, whose blood still, we may say, rests upon this earth.”
With these words, Bishop William Elder dedicated the first All Saints Church on a hot August day in 1879.
The cornerstone was laid by Richmond Bishop John J. Keane on November 29, 1878. Placed in the stone was a relic of the Civil War dug up from the church’s foundation. Silver coins, copies of the Catholic Mirror, Catholic Review, and the Manassas Gazette were also included. The cornerstone was moved to the chapel of the church in 1974.
When All Saints was founded in 1879, the small mission church sat fewer than 100 parishioners, served hundreds of square miles with its jurisdiction extending north to the Potomac River, east to Woodbridge and Triangle, and west to the Bull Run Mountains.
First designated as a mission church, the wooden structure, with a 75-foot steeple and seating capacity for less than 100, was the largest religious structure in the town. The small church served as a parish for hundreds of square miles; stretching north to the Potomac River, east to Woodbridge and Triangle, and west to the Bull Run Mountains. The parish was later split into a number of parishes: St. Francis of Assisi in Triangle (1947), Our Lady of Angels in Woodbridge (1959), St. Timothy in Centreville (1969), Holy Family in Dale City (1970), and Holy Trinity in Gainesville (2001).
For many years, the pastor would travel from Warrenton to Manassas for Sunday Mass. Father Patrick Donelan died of heatstroke while traveling to Manassas in 1866. In July 1929, Father Michael Cannon became the first resident pastor of the new independent parish of All Saints.
The Stigmatine Fathers were invited by Bishop Peter Ireton to take over pastoral responsibility in 1942. The Fathers oversaw the growth of All Saints parish, including the opening of All Saints Catholic School in 1957 and the present church in 1974. In 1993, the Stigmatine requested that the Arlington Diocese take over the parish staffing.
Throughout the history of our parish, the number of parishioners has outsized its facilities. Prior to building our current church, our previous church seated only 860 parishioners.
In 1995, All Saints launched a Building Fund Campaign to raise money toward the day when a larger church could be built. A second building fund, Rooted in Faith – Forward in Hope, was conducted in 2002 and six million dollars was pledged toward the new church and the Diocesan Capital Campaign. Most recently, a New Church Completion Campaign raised five million dollars in pledges. The annual 5 Car Raffle and Parish Festival were instrumental sources of revenue for the building fund.
While the former church built in 1974 seated 800, the size of the church had proven inadequate. It was exciting to see that our nine weekend liturgies were overflowing with so many Catholic faithful. To meet the needs of our growing Hispanic community, Sunday Masses are also offered in Spanish as we celebrate the cultural diversity of the community with love and faith.
To continue serving the growing needs of the parish, a Building Fund Campaign was established in 1995. An addition to All Saints Catholic School was built in 1999 and the school began offering Pre-Kindergarten (for four-year-old students) in addition to Kindergarten through 8th grade.
On November 1, 2008, The Solemnity of All Saints, 800 parishioners and guests gathered for the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the new church. The Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington, presided. The Honorable Harry J. Parrish II, Mayor of Manassas; Senator Charles Colgan, Virginia State Senator; Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Virginia House of Delegates; Dr. John Sparks, Chairperson of the All Saints Finance Council; and Rev. Robert C. Cilinski, Pastor, opened the ceremony with remarks. Parishioners were encouraged to bring a bag of earth from their homes and at the conclusion of the ceremony were invited to place it in the altar area of the new church.
The present church is staffed by four resident priests and provides daily Mass and eight weekend Masses, including Masses in English and Spanish. St. Gabriel Mission, the current Mission church of All Saints Parish, also celebrates two Masses in Spanish on Sunday morning.
All Saints began as a tiny mustard seed but has grown into a very large family where all of God’s people are welcomed. With more than 21,000 registered parishioners today, All Saints claims the distinction of being the largest Catholic parish in Virginia.
*Photos provided from the U.S. Library of Congress.
Historical account courtesy of Rita Koman.