Saint Stephen the Martyr and Saint Katharine Drexel Mission


Founding Pastor: Rev. Walter Malloy
Parish Founded: 1975
Church Dedication: 1963
Additional Dates of Importance:  2006 Corpus Christi and St. Katharine Drexel Missions established.

What Makes This Parish Unique?

Like the first parish in our diocese, St. Mary's in Alexandria, St. Stephen's traces its origins to a US President. In 1795 Col. John Fitzgerald, the former Aide-de-Camp to General George Washington, reached out to his fellow Alexandrian to help establish a church. America's first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy, was the inspiration to establish a church in Middleburg when he and his family rented property there. Also, it is interesting to note that both these parishes built on land that was donated by Protestants. The parish is distinguished in a large way by the fox hunting culture that surrounds the church. Although most of the congregation does not participate in this activity, nevertheless they enjoy the surrounding countryside and economy that it provides. The horse farms are the main reason for Spanish speaking members of the parish. Presently they make up about one third of the parish and are unique among the Hispanics of the Diocese. According to the Mexican Embassy there is not a greater percentage of Mexicans in a two-hundred-mile radius of the DC. That is, 90% of the Hispanics of the parish are Mexican, and most come from the same parish in Florencia, Zacatecas, Mexico. The most unique aspect of the parish is not its ministry to Mexicans or the horse-culture of the surrounding area, but rather the fact that the parish birthed two missions. Her former mission Corpus Christi of South Riding is four times the size of both the parish and her other and present mission St. Katharine Drexel in Haymarket. The St. Katharine Drexel Mission is twice the size of St. Stephen's and is a clearly distinct community of many newly arrived families and retirees. The young families are busy with more typical Northern Virginian activities and the retirees enjoy the quieter setting of NoVa's frontier.

Parish History:

In 1957 Fr. Albert Pereia became the pastor of St. John's in Leesburg. In that year along with Purcellville, He established Middleburg as a mission and inaugurated the effort with a Mass at the Community Center. This humble location was the setting because in 1949, Bishop Ireton didn't see the need to develop the land owned in the center of town. The reason was that for most of history in Virginia, we Catholics followed the railroads or canals. Neither were in Middleburg, so the bishop sold the land. Remarkably the nation's first Catholic president would need a Sunday Mass in Middleburg with regularity less than twenty years later. By the time Middleburg was hosting President Kennedy and his family on weekend get-a-ways, the congregation had grown to 200 but was still having Sunday Mass in the Community Center. Fr. Pereira wasted no time. In October of 1961 he launched a capital campaign and amazingly concluded it before the end of the year. Construction of the church began late in 1962 and Secret Service agents had a hand at contributing some of its features. An ushers' closet doubled as a safe room, equipped with bulletproofing, tinted windows, and a direct telephone line to the White House. The First Family attended their first Mass in the church shortly after its dedication April 21, 1963. They attended Mass there four more times before the president's demise in November of that fateful year. In his last Mass with the congregation earlier that same month, Fr. Pereira loaned him his personal missal. Absentmindedly President Kennedy left the church without returning it. On November 22, two hours after the president was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson boarded Airforce One to return to the capital. Before takeoff, the Oath of Office was hastily organized and instead of a Bible the 36th President of the United States was sworn in on Fr. Pereira's missal. In 1975, St. Stephen the Martyr (SSM) became a parish whose boundaries stretched from the Fairfax County line in Chantilly to the Clark County line in the west, it was not to remain tranquil for long. Explosive Northern Virginian development would surpass any sober estimate. The development at the turn of the millennium inundated the little country church. The pastor, Fr. Joseph Biniek, engaged this pastoral challenge on two fronts. The development in Loundoun County of South Riding and that of Prince William County in Haymarket. Rather than respond to this pastoral crisis by enlarging the quaint country church, he brought the Masses to the masses. He established two Masses of Convenience. By eliminating one Sunday morning Mass and moving a Saturday evening Mass, he serviced the respective communities of South Riding and Haymarket. The tree hundred square miles of the parish was served at three different locations. With the help of many dedicated parishioners, Fr. Bineik rode circuit each weekend with a horse trailer from Middleburg to South Riding and to Haymarket. Approximately 135 people attended the first Mass in Haymarket. By the end of 2000, attendance had grown to over 300, and in South Riding the rate of growth was out pacing the Haymarket. The congregation at South Riding would grow to four times the size of the rest of the parish. In June of 2006 Bishop Loverde elevated the Masses of Convenience to Missions. Haymarket was placed under the patronage of St. Katharine Drexel (SKD) and South Riding was to honor the Most Blessed Sacrament as Corpus Christi. In 2010, Fr. Michael Taylor is sent as the Administer of Corpus Christi. In June 2014, Fr. Christopher D. Murphy is assigned as Pastor of SSM and SKD. In November of that year Corpus Christi is elevated to be its own Parish. As founding pastor, Fr. Taylor, along with the help of parochial vicar, Fr. Charles W. Merkle, III, will open the doors to a new church May of 2021. At SKD in 2015, the Diocese purchased land and hopes to build a church in November 2022.

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