Saint Bernadette

Saint Bernadette Catholic Church

Founding Pastor: Rev. Francis L. Bradican
Parish Founded: 1959
School Opened: 1960
Church Dedication: 1981

Parish History:

With the rapid growth of the Washington, D.C. suburbs after World War II, the Diocese of Richmond established new parishes in northern Virginia, among them Saint Michael in Annandale. By 1959, St. Michael had grown large than on April of that year, Saint Bernadette Church in Springfield was established from the older parish's territory and Rev. Francis L. Bradican was appointed St. Bernadette's first pastor. There were over 500 families within the parish boundaries.

After holding Mass in several ad hoc locations, including a residential garage equipped with extra chairs, St. Bernadette began celebrating Mass regularly at Lee High School, now John R. Lewis High School, on Franconia Road. In the fall of 1959, the first classes of St. Bernadette School took place in borrowed space at St. Leo Parish School in Fairfax. Also that fall, St. Bernadette began planning to build both a parish school with space for a temporary church and a convent for the sisters who would teach in the new school. A parcel of land originally purchased by the Diocese of Richmond was sold, and the present twenty-seven acres on Old Keene Mill Road became the site for the future St. Bernadette Church and School.

In September 1960, the Daughters of Wisdom arrived to teach in the St. Bernadette School which now was fully opened at a temporary site in the Fort Belvoir area. In early 1961, students, sisters, lay teachers, and staff moved into the newly built school and, soon after, the sisters into their new convent. Mother Mary Daniel, DW was the first superior of the convent and the first principal of St. Bernadette School. In April 1961, Most Rev. John J. Russell, Bishop of Richmond, presided at the Dedication Mass in the new temporary worship space in the school. The rectory/parish office was completed in 1966. The School of Religion, or CCD, was organized in February 1961. By the mid 1970's the program had grown to an annual enrollment of almost 1,500 children spanning grades 1 to 12.

In 1972, Rev. (later Msgr.) Edward P. Brown was appointed the second pastor, and in 1974 St. Bernadette became a parish in the new Diocese of Arlington. Fr. Brown's leadership inspired parishioners to realize the original vision of a permanent church. After a period of fundraising, construction began in 1980 and the church was dedication by Most Rev. Thomas J. Welsh, Bishop of Arlington, on October 14, 1981. St. Bernadette was selected to receive the altar used by Pope Saint John Paul II for the Mass on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and in October 1979. In 1983 a 26-rank pipe organ was installed in the church. 

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