Holy Spirit


Founding Pastor: Fr. Paul Cauwe, CICM
Parish Founded: May 23, 1964
Church Dedication:  1967
Additional Dates of Importance:  1966: School construction completed. 1981: Departure of Missionhurst priests.  1991: Rectory construction completed. 2021: Renovation of sanctuary/new Narthex building under construction, to be completed in 2022.

School Information:

Holy Spirit Catholic School
Founded: September 1967
Founding Pastor:  Fr. Paul Cauwe, CICM

Holy Spirit Parish was established on May 23, 1964, by a decree of Bishop John Russell of Richmond. Initially, while plans for the construction of the school and church buildings proceeded, arrangements were made with Fairfax County to rent Woodson High School on Sundays for Masses and for religious education classes. Since there was such a tremendous need for a facility for religion classes, the school was built first. Construction of the parish school was begun October 1965 and was completed in 1966. CCD classes were transferred from Woodson High School. Holy Spirit School opened first grade and kindergarten with 210 students; the following September, the school grew to 315 students with the addition of a second grade. In fall 1968, an east wing was added to the school, allowing for greater expansion of grades and students. In the intervening years, a school gymnasium was built. Today, 440 students attend preschool through eighth grade, with two classes for each grade.

What Makes This Parish Unique?

Holy Spirit came into being at the time of the Second Vatican Council and of the explosive growth in population beyond the Beltway, then still under construction. The Missionhurst priests, who had pastoral care of the parish until 1981, harnessed these twin energies to create a parish that remains dynamic, family centered and faith-filled. Holy Spirit is a happy parish, one in which young and old find spiritual nourishment and enrichment in the celebration of the sacraments and other devotions. Recent renovations to the church sanctuary have added to this. A host of groups, programs and activities makes for an active, giving and involved community of faith. Holy Spirit School has consistently excelled in academic performance and personal discipline, and it continues to emphasize wholeheartedly its Catholic identity. The latter can be seen in the school children coming to Mass weekly and to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament monthly. A further point of pride is the school's resource program that supports more than 30 students who have mild-to-moderate disabilities.

Parish History:

Holy Spirit Parish was established on May 23, 1964, by Bishop John Russell of Richmond. Fr. Paul Cauwe, CICM, was appointed the first pastor. A church was to be built on a 15.3-acre site located at 8800 Braddock Road in Annandale. The Diocese of Richmond set the boundaries, which included some 500 families from the parishes of Saint Leo and Saint Michael. Until the church could be built, Father Cauwe made arrangements with Fairfax County to rent Woodson High School on Sundays. Parishioners attended Sunday Mass at Woodson and daily Mass in the rectory chapel for the next three years. Founding parishioners recall fondly those beginning years when Sunday Mass was celebrated at “Saint Woodson.”

Architect Robert Calhoun Smith was appointed to design the school and the church. Because there was such a tremendous need for a facility for religion classes, the school was built first. Construction of the parish school was begun in October 1965 and was completed in 1966. Church construction was completed in the summer of 1967. It was dedicated in September 1967 by Bishop John Russell. The church and the architect won the Merit Award of the Liturgical Conference for its design in recognition of the church's adaptation to the new spirit of Catholic worship. The cost was $450,000.00.

The geographic area of Holy Spirit grew so fast that in June 1966 it was divided, with 100 families assigned to the new parish of Saint Ambrose. Father Cauwe retired on October 1, 1974, and was succeeded by Fr. Paul DeWolf, also a Missionhurst priest, who had been serving as an associate since 1971. Father DeWolf was pastor from 1974 to 1981, when Missionhurst informed the Diocese of Arlington that they could no longer staff Holy Spirit.

Beginning with Msgr. Richard Burke, Holy Spirit has been under the pastoral care of diocesan pastors and priests. On May 18, 2014, Bishop Paul Loverde was the celebrant at a special Mass in celebration of the parish's 50th anniversary. In recent years, physical improvements have continued to the parish campus. Most notably, a major addition to the school created new space for a kitchen and cafeteria, a science and an art room, and meeting rooms. The church interior and sanctuary were renovated this year, creating more beauty, more light and better sound. A new narthex building is currently under construction and is due to be completed in spring 2022.