A Catholic church is coming to Crozet now that Bishop of the Diocese of Richmond Francis X. DiLorenzo has recognized the Crozet Catholic community as a mission congregation that is on its way to becoming a regular parish.
DiLorenzo made the announcement at a meeting at diocese headquarters in Richmond Dec. 15 that assembled the pastors of the Charlottesville-area Catholic churches, Crozet representatives Michael Marshall and Julie Balik, and diocesan officials who will be responsible for supporting the success of the new parish.
DiLorenzo gave local Catholics and Holy Comforter Catholic Church pastor Fr. Joseph Mary Lukyamuzi permission to begin holding a once-a-month Mass in Crozet in January 2014, a move that was designed to test community support for a church. Local Catholics formed the Crozet Mass Committee and Masses began in March of that year, on the second Sunday of the month, at The Field School and have continued since. They were an immediate success and the first Mass attracted 250 people. The recent Mass in December drew 270.
The elevation to mission status allows the community to begin planning for weekly Masses; to offer all the sacraments, among them baptisms and marriages; to begin a religious education program; and to begin the search for land suitable to build a church on. Holy Comforter will serve as the new church’s mother church and will sponsor it until it is ready for independence. For now the church is known as the Crozet Mission of Holy Comforter Church. The church’s name will be decided later.
DiLorenzo said an additional priest will be assigned to the Charlottesville area, likely to directly support Fr. Lukyamuzi, and to ensure that the staff necessary to cover weekly Masses in Crozet is in place. The new priest is expected to be here by Spring.
Marshall, chair of the Mass Committee, wrote to DiLorenzo in October asking him to say Mass in Crozet and meet the community that has assembled. Crozet Catholics began a petition drive seeking mission status last summer, aiming for at least 200 households as a viable foundation population, and the invitation to the bishop included a summary of the demographic information collected in the petitions, which numbered 184 at the time. That letter prompted the meeting and ultimately the decision to move ahead in Crozet.
DiLorenzo said that the question of Crozet’s status had been under discussion in Richmond for sometime. The meeting discussed two alternative routes for Crozet, one as a mission of Holy Comforter, or possibly the Church of the Incarnation, or as a quasi-parish that would be managed directly by a senior official at diocese headquarters. The meeting also discussed likely territorial boundaries for the future parish and growth prospects for the town. In the end, the path of mission parish of Holy Comforter was the bishop’s decision. The parish boundaries, likely to resemble the attendance zone of Western Albemarle High School, will be finalized when the move to parish status is accomplished.
Petition data show the community has so far registered 249 households that total 689 people and include 233 school-age children. About 55 percent of those families currently attend St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Charlottesville. The next largest group, 25 percent of households, is people with no church affiliation, and the remaining 20 percent of households are divided between those who now attend Incarnation, Holy Comforter and St. John the Evangelist in Waynesboro.
Bishop DiLorenzo is expected to say Mass in Crozet this spring on a date to be announced later.
The Diocese of Richmond incorporates all of Virginia below the Rappahannock River, a large region in which Catholics are about 6 percent of the population. Counties north of the river constitute the Diocese of Arlington.