a community newspaper serving western Albemarle County

Catholic Mass to Begin in Crozet in March

Diocese of Richmond Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo has authorized Father Joseph Mary Lukyamzi, pastor of Holy Comforter Catholic Church in Charlottesville, to say the Roman Catholic Mass in Crozet on a once-a-month basis. Mass will be held on the second Sunday of the month at the Field School auditorium, 1408 Crozet Avenue, at 10 a.m. The first Mass will be on March 9.

When he was approached over whether he would take on the Mass in Crozet, Father Lukyamuzi promptly said yes, if the idea had the official blessing of Bishop DiLorenzo, and a letter was duly written that proposed the possibility. After the diocese made an investigation into Crozet’s recent growth and its population forecast, DiLorenzo authorized the once-a-month plan.

The Diocese of Richmond is all of Virginia below the Rappahannock River and the Northern Neck. Northern Virginia is the Diocese of Arlington. As a rule of thumb, the Richmond diocese estimates six percent of its area’s population to be Catholic. The Crozet Growth Area, comprising what most would consider the town of Crozet, has a current population of about 6,500. The western Albemarle and northern Nelson population is reckoned at 29,000.

In a Jan. 16 video call with a delegation of area Catholics, Vicar General of the diocese—the second-ranking official—Msgr. Mark Lane said the decision to start a Crozet Mass is not a declaration of the diocese’s intention to create a parish here. That possibility will not be entertained for at least four years, added Msgr. Raymond Muensch, the diocese’s canon lawyer. If a Catholic church were to be formed in Crozet it would first be established as a mission, most likely of Holy Comforter, which is also the mother church of St. Thomas Aquinas, first formed by Holy Comforter as the Newman House at U.Va., and also of the Church of the Incarnation in Charlottesville, near Fashion Square Mall in Branchlands, and of St. George’s Church in Scottsville.

The Crozet Mass will have official standing as a “chapel of ease,” Muensch said.  A chapel of ease is a building used as a church that is within the boundaries of a parish but is not the church of that parish. According to the diocese’s boundaries for local parishes, Crozet-area residents fall under Holy Comforter, in downtown Charlottesville, unless they are affiliated with the University of Virginia, in which case they belong to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic church, which is designated as a university parish. Crozet–area Catholics are also attending St. John the Evangelist parish in Waynesboro and Church of the Incarnation.

Chapels of ease are typically created for the convenience of parishioners and can be in a house. They are sometimes created in advance of a church existing and sometimes when churches are consolidated.

Bishop DiLorenzo conveyed his approval in writing to Fr. Lukyamuzi and wrote about it to the pastors of other local churches as well. Fr. Lukyamuzi is to make an initial report on the Crozet Mass to the bishop in June.

Bishop DiLorenzo said Catholics who attend Mass in Crozet are obliged to continue their customary financial support for their current parishes. The Crozet Mass is under the administration of Holy Comforter.

A 22-person committee of Crozet-area Catholics has formed to support the Mass and is organizing its practical needs, such as assembling a Mass kit, seating, etc. Robin Prudencio, formerly a music minister at St. Thomas Aquinas, will handle music for the Crozet Mass. The committee met Jan. 29 and will meet again at the Field School Feb. 12 at 7:30. They urge any one interested to join them.

The Crozet Mass committee will host an open house at the school Sunday Feb. 16 from 2 to 4 p.m., where the public can meet Fr. Lukyamuzi and learn more about plans for the Mass. Light refreshments will be served.

Fr. Lukyamuzi, 58, is from Uganda and received his university education there. His seminary training included three years of philosophy study and four years in theology. After ordination in 1981, he served as pastor of two parishes in southern Uganda and then was asked to handle youth ministry and schools for the Archdiocese of Mbarara. In 1999, after serving in that post for sometime, he resolved to join the Benedictine Order as a monk and live a contemplative life. But instead the Benedictines sent him to Richmond to serve as the chaplain of Benedictine High School, where he arrived in 2001. In 2011 he began saying occasional Latin Masses at Our Lady of Peace Church in Appomattox that drew Catholics from parishes all over Southside and the Roanoke Valley. In 2012 he was asked by Bishop DiLorenzo to be the parochial vicar at St. Bridget Church, near the University of Richmond in Richmond’s West End, but he was there only briefly. He came to Holy Comforter as pastor later in 2012. He has been given permission by Mary Mother of the Church Benedictine Abbey to become a priest of the Diocese of Richmond. He became an American citizen in September.

Fr. Lukyamzi said he was raised in a very devout family and knew at age 10 that he wanted to be a priest. He has a cousin who is also a priest, Fr. Gerard Musuubire, who is now the pastor at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Palmyra, and a nephew in Uganda who is about to be ordained.

Fr. Lukyamuiz said that because the Crozet Catholic community is forming, his stress will be on Catholic fundamentals, specifically the Eucharist, the Bible and the Rosary.

He told the Crozet mass committee that it is now up to local Catholics to show what they can do with the opportunity given them in the new chapel of ease.



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