Saint Philip the Apostle

Bishop Russell Dedication 1963

Founding Pastor: Rev. L. Longmire Speight
Parish Founded: May 1962
Church Dedication: December 15, 1963

School Information:

  • Saint Philip Elementary School - 1964-1989
  • Corpus Christi Early Childhood Center - 1989-2018
  • Saint Philip Early Childhood Center - 2018-2020

What Makes This Parish Unique?

Saint Philip Parish is a diverse community with many languages and nations represented among her members. She is truly catholic-meaning universal-not only as a portion of the one Church spread throughout the world, but also in the cultural variety of her parishioners. Two Masses in Spanish are celebrated each Sunday for the active Hispanic community at the parish. Guatemalans, Salvadorians and Bolivians are the largest nationalities, but the majority of Central and South American countries are represented. From the Asian continent, many parishioners hail from Vietnam, including our permanent deacon, Deacon Cong Nguyen, and his family, who has strong ties both to Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church in Arlington and his native Vietnam where his uncle and brother serve as priests. Tagalog can be heard at the well-established Filipino prayer group “Jesus is All.” Other parishioners from Japan, Eritrea, Sicily and Scotland (to name a few), and also many parts of the United States, now call Falls Church and Saint Philip home. Saint Philip's catholicity is one of the hallmarks of this community, a living glimpse of Saint John's vision of the Church “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev 5:9).

Parish History:

The Parish of Saint Philip the Apostle was founded in May 1962 when the Most Rev. John J. Russell, Bishop of Richmond, agreed to purchase 12 to 15 acres of land in the Broyhill Park Subdivision and appointed Rev. L. Longmire Speight as the first pastor. The bishop carved the new parish out of three contiguous parishes: Saint James in Falls Church, Saint Michael in Annandale and Saint Anthony of Padua in Bailey's Crossroads. Since the major portion of the parish was excised from Saint James Parish, the bishop suggested that the parish be named Saint Philip, who is thought to be the brother of James the Apostle.

The first Mass was celebrated on September 9, 1962, in the auditorium of Whittier School (now Falls Church High School). On November 10, 1963, the first Mass in the new church was celebrated, and the dedication was held on December 15, 1963. In September 1964, the school was opened under the supervision of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania. The new school, rectory and convent were completed by February 22, 1967. A major renovation of the church was completed in August 2007.

In August 1965, Rev. John T. Cilinski was appointed as the second pastor of Saint Philip after the sudden death of Father Speight. Father Cilinski remained pastor for 16 years, until May 1981. Rev. Charles A. Ryan was then appointed as the third pastor in June 1981. He served the parish until November 1986, when Rev. Richard B. Martin was appointed that same month as the fourth pastor of Saint Philip. The fifth pastor was the Rev. Richard Martin; he served until 1996. Rev. Joseph Loftus was pastor from 1996 to 1998. Rev. Daniel S. Spychala was appointed parish administrator from 1998 to 2002. Rev. Kevin Walsh was the seventh pastor and served from 2002 to 2010 and oversaw the renovation. Rev. Denis Donahue is the current pastor and has been at Saint Philip since 2010.

In 1989, the school sadly saw the departure of the Sisters of Saint Joseph after 26 years of dedicated service. That year, it also saw a first for the Diocese with the reorganization of the school with neighboring Saint Anthony under its new title "Corpus Christi." The early childhood center (preschool and kindergarten) was located at Saint Philip's campus and grades 1-8 at Saint Anthony's campus. In 2018, the schools separated and Saint Philip Early Childhood Center was created. In 2020, the Early Childhood Center closed.

In 2006, at the invitation of Bishop Loverde, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist (FSE) moved into the long-vacant convent. The FSE sisters have pontifical status and were founded in 1973. They are professional women working in the marketplace witnessing to a Franciscan eucharistic presence in the secular world. The sisters teach at universities, work in hospitals, operate a school in Bethlehem and work at the Vatican. The community has thirteen different centers around the world, including the United States, Jerusalem, Rome and Assisi.

Throughout its nearly 60 years, Saint Philip has been like an oasis in the midst of one of the busiest parts of the Diocese of Arlington. Tucked behind Falls Church High School, in the middle of subdivision and surrounded by trees, Saint Philip Parish's property can easily be overlooked. It is fitting that the parish motto is “come and see” (Jn 1:39), the words of our patron, Saint Philip the Apostle, when he invited Saint Nathaniel to meet Jesus for the first time. Parishioners use Saint Philip's invitation frequently when speaking with those unaware of a Catholic Church in the neighborhood. Those who come and see behold one of the most unique features of the parish: the renovated church.

As was the case with many Catholic parishes, when first founded, the worship space was set in the school gymnasium. In time, that space was used only for worship. In 2007, the space was renovated and now includes a baptismal pool, nine stained glass windows and an altar made of marble from the Holy Land. The four corners of the full-immersion baptismal pool are framed by stone mosaics featuring the images that represent the four Gospels: an image of Saint Matthew, an ox for Saint Luke, an eagle for Saint John, a lion for Saint Mark. Part of the symbolism of the baptismal pool is dying with Christ, so the dimensions are similar to that of a grave: three feet by six feet. Eight of the stained windows each features one of Jesus' parables. The ninth and largest window, called “The Saint John Window,” contains five vignettes from the life of Saint Philip based on passages from the Gospel of Saint John.  

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