Saint Leo the Great

Saint Leo the Great Catholic Church

Founding Pastor: Fr. Herman J. Veger
Parish Founded: 1957
Church Dedication: 1966
School: St. Leo the Great Catholic School, founded in 1955 by Fr. Herman J. Veger

School History

The history of Saint Leo the Great Catholic School dates back as early as 1952 when the Saint Mary's Parish, in Fairfax Station, started a program to transport students to established parochial schools in the Metropolitan Washington area. Parents formed carpools to travel the long distances for students to get to the bus stops.

In September 1955, Saint Leo's moved closer to being a school when a classroom at the 'new' Saint Charles School in Arlington set aside a room for Mrs. Rita Hurley to teach first and second graders from St. Leo's parish.

A year later, the Benedictine Community of Bristol, Virginia committed sisters to take over the administration of a separate school for St. Leo's Parish. Sister Mary Anselma was the first principal of St. Leo's School.

In September of 1957, the nave of St. Leo's Church was converted into four temporary classrooms. In the following year, the tow room Kindergarten Building (school annex) was built, the fifth grade and kindergarten were added to the curriculum, and the convent at Spring Lake Terrace was acquired.

As the school began to grow, the founding parishioners continued to make many sacrifices to see that their children had a fitting environment to learn about the world and, more importantly, about their Catholic faith. Many of the parents were janitors, cooks, and all-around workers for the school. In early 1959, construction on a ten-room building was completed for kindergarten through sixth grade.

Throughout the 1960s, the school fluctuated with available grades due to growing number of students and a shortage of nuns available to balance lay faculty.

In 1966, the Benedictines were replaced by the Sisters of Notre Dame from the Baltimore Mother house. The Sisters of Notre Dame continued the sense of order, good academics, and discipline, all rooted in the teachings of the Church.

Mrs. Diane Drews was the first lay principal in 1993, and she continued the values and worked hard to enrich the school to the point that it was awarded the Blue Ribbon of Excellence by the United States Department of Education in 2006. At the beginning of her tenure, Mrs. Drews also helped establish the school motto, “Together in God's Light.”

St. Leo the Great Catholic School has continued to be on the forefront of innovation and providing education for all children. In the 1990's, the school was the only elementary school in the diocese to have a student-run tv production studio. The St. John Vianney Center was established in 2003 for students with special needs. The support and generosity of the entire parish to make the school a place of excellence has continued through the history of the school.

Parish History

For 65 years, Saint Leo the Great parish has served the Catholic residents of Fairfax City and the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as being a witness to the good news of Jesus Christ in the larger community.

In 1953, the current property was acquired in Fairfax City for the building of a church. The first Mass at Saint Leo the Great was celebrated in 1956, and the Parish was founded in 1957, with Father Herman Veger as the founding pastor.

Before it was officially founded as a parish, Saint Leo the Great was a mission of Saint Mary of Sorrows in Fairfax Station. At the time of Saint Leo's founding, there were 450 families.

Mass was first celebrated in what is now the parish hall, which was originally intended to be the lower level of a permanent church. Construction of the upper church was abandoned and the cornerstone of our current church was laid in 1965. The Church was dedicated a year later in 1966.

In 1964 and 1965, Saint Leo's parish boundaries were redrawn, and Saint Mark in Vienna and Holy Spirit in Annandale were carved out of Saint Leo's boundaries.

The dedication and generosity of our founding parishioners permitted the construction and expansion of Saint Leo School and the completion of our church in a relatively short period of time. Saint Leo parishioners have always been generous through their prayer, offertory gifts, sacrifice of time, and other gifts as well.

The stained glass windows of the parish are unique in style and are prominent features of our beautiful church. The windows resemble man's early efforts at glassmaking, which was difficult to cut and not very transparent.

For Saint Leo, the artist, Jean Jacques Duval, selected warm colors to create an atmosphere conducive to worship, and coupled the stained glass images together to tell the story of our redemption.

So the six stained glass windows represent creation, the four major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel), Pope St. Leo the Great, the Four Evangelists (Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the Immaculate Conception, and the Resurrection.

Today our 'great' parish continues to be guided by the Holy Spirit as a thriving parish in the Great Diocese of Arlington. We are blessed to still have many original families active in our parish, and blessed as well to be the home for many new families from all parts of the country and the world.

Today there are more than 3,300 households representing nearly 9,700 souls registered in our Parish. Over 400 students are enrolled in our pre-K through 8th grade parochial school, with around 550 students in religious education.

Saint Leo the Great Parish is a place where the gospel is proclaimed, faith is formed and enriched, and the poor and the needy are served. The City of Fairfax and surrounding communities have changed a lot over the past 65 years. The responsibility and challenge of our parish community is always to respond to these changes and challenges courageously and enthusiastically. We are always rooted in and dedicated to the eternal truths of our Catholic Faith. Through the celebration of the sacraments and the preaching and teaching of the Gospel, many have grown closer to Jesus Christ.

What Makes This Parish Unique?

St. Leo the Great Catholic Church is the only 'Great' Parish in the Arlington Diocese (named after Pope St. Leo the Great.)

Our parish is home to so many beautiful people and many ministries. St. Leo the Great is a place where everyone can find a home in God's house. Throughout the year, the parish is alive with different ministries and events that exemplify our Catholic Faith: 

  • Simbang Gabi and Las Posadas at the beginning of the liturgical year
  • Hosting the Diocesan Project Rachel Holy Hours for healing of families throughout the year and the Divine Mercy Care/Tepyac OBGYN Interdenominational Service for families who have lost children
  • Our parish picnic each Fall
  • Knights of Columbus fundraisers
  • Father Diamond Counsel
  • Youth Group retreats
  • Nationally recognized blue ribbon school where our children receive formation of the whole person as they grow in faith, in mind, and in body 

And of course our church is grounded in our beloved Catholic Faith. Our Christmas and Easter celebrations are the high point of Parish celebrations each year.

Our parish truly reflects the rich diversity of the people of God from young to old, and from so many different nationalities and cultural backgrounds, all unified in the Eucharist, as one body in Jesus Christ Our Lord. Our doors are open for all to encounter our Lord. Our mission is always to bring souls closer to Christ and to His Kingdom. 

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