Crozet-area Catholics will soon gather where citizens once deposited cash and applied for loans. Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church plans to close this month on the building that formerly housed the Bank of America, next to the post office in downtown Crozet. The Catholics submitted the winning bid, $1.72M for the building and nearly one-acre lot, but the sale is ultimately dependent on a successful closing in September.
It’s been a decade-long dream for the growing congregation, meeting now at Crozet Baptist Church every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. The journey has been a long and difficult one with many twists and turns, said the building committee’s chairman Frank Cerrone. It began in 2013, when in response to local requests, Fr. Joseph Mary Lukyamuzi, pastor of Holy Comforter Catholic Church in Charlottesville, requested permission to hold a monthly Mass in Crozet to gauge community support.
In 2014, permission was granted, and Masses were offered the second Sunday of the month at The Field School, with the first Mass drawing 250 people. By 2015 a church council was established, followed by the formal designation of the Crozet congregation as a mission church. In 2017, the congregation formed a building committee, and weekly Masses were offered. In October 2020, the bishop officially promoted the mission to a parish, and named it Our Lady of the Rosary.
Cerrone outlined the problems involved in finding an appropriate site in Crozet. There were many, mainly the Diocese of Richmond’s requirement for 10 acres for the site and the shortage of land in the growth area that hadn’t already been bought up by developers.
“We sent out more than 75 letters to landowners,” Cerrone said, “and looked at an endless number of properties.” The committee received permission to downsize their search to five acres, but for one reason or another, none of the sites explored was deemed suitable. There were more options in rural areas, but Cerrone said the main goal of the committee was to serve the people of Crozet. He’d inquired about the bank building a number of times, he said. Finally, the building was up for auction and Our Lady of the Rosary submitted the winning bid.
“There’s been a lot of pain, some failures, some controversy, but finally success,” he said. “We can’t wait to get in there.”
The pandemic had limited parishioners to remote worship until July 2020, when weekly Masses returned, this time at Crozet Baptist Church. This partnership had some benefits for the Crozet community, said Our Lady of the Rosary Pastor Msgr. Timothy Keeney. In their three years of sharing space, the two churches have reflected the growing ecumenical spirit of Crozet’s faithful, with Our Lady of the Rosary participating in the ambitious Thanksgiving “Share the Blessings” program and other charitable efforts begun by the Baptists, as well as an ecumenical Lenten observance of the stations of the cross. The two churches are also part of Crozet’s Interfaith Outreach Council, where representatives from the social outreach committees of Crozet-area churches meet to discuss the unmet needs of the community.
“The Baptists, and David [pastor David Collyer] could not have been more gracious,” Keeney said. “They’ve been flexible and considerate of our needs.”
He said the bank’s interior space is adequate to serve 300 attendees, and Crozet’s downtown allows a variety of parking options. Many parishioners will be able to walk to the new church location. He warned that nothing is final until the final document, but both parties are in agreement and a 10 percent deposit on the purchase has been paid.
Keeney and Cerrone said the first priority is simply to begin services at the building once the teller stations are removed. Keeney told his congregation that at times they’ll be meeting in what might look like a construction site. Future improvements will make the 42-year-old building look more like a church. Cerrone said he envisions that, over time, the church will provide space for a variety of events and gatherings for all Crozet citizens.
The first Mass in the building is expected to be on Saturday, Oct. 7, the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary, which commemorates the 1571 naval Battle of Lepanto in which outnumbered Christian sailors entered the fight praying the Rosary against their Ottoman foe and credited their victory to the intercession of the Virgin Mary.