In 1787, Father John Carroll, who would later become the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States, purchased land in Georgetown for five shillings for the purpose of establishing a place of worship there. Today, this land is home to Holy Trinity Parish and Holy Trinity School in Washington, DC, where 5,937 registered households participate in parish life.
“Like mustard seeds…those five shillings offered faith to these parishioners,” said Jesuit Father C. Kevin Gillespie, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish.
Two hundred and twenty-five years since the construction of Georgetown Chapel — the original chapel built on the land now called St. Ignatius’ Chapel — the parish community of Holy Trinity has gathered at their church for a celebratory Mass on October 10, 6 in thanksgiving for the history and heritage of the church in the Georgetown neighborhood and its Jesuit tradition.
“This church, for 225 years, has been a place of so much for so many,” Fr Gillespie said in his homily at Mass.
Anniversary celebrations have continued over the past several months, including a series of lectures, an anniversary benefit, and culminating in a Founder’s Day Festival celebration.
The Founder’s Day Festival included programs showcasing the different ministries and interests of members of the Holy Trinity Community, historical presentations and discussions, and activities for children.
Alicia Weber, a member of Holy Trinity Parish since 1971, is a retired historian who worked to put together an art and faith exhibit for the celebration. She spent months cataloging Ars Sacra (religious art) of the parish. The display included historical clothing and cult artifacts such as an ornate monstrance and a chalice.
“I hope this will allow parishioners to learn more and see more,” Weber said, noting how many don’t often get to look at religious items so closely.
Weber has served the Holy Trinity parish community in many capacities during his time at Holy Trinity, including teaching catechism since 2001. His favorite part of the parish is a “sense of community,” he said. she stated, adding that the music ministry is very impactful. .
“It takes all my worries away,” Weber said.
Another longtime parish member, Mary Stump, who has been a member since 1966 when she was a graduate student at nearby Georgetown University, said she first came to Holy Trinity on the recommendation from a colleague.
“Someone suggested I come, and I never looked back,” she said.
The “incredibly wonderful leadership of the priests” is just one of the things Stump mentioned as remarkable about the parish and its history.
“We were also blessed with wonderful preachers, who were able to learn from them,” she said.
Stump has been involved as a Eucharistic minister for the parish, and she and her husband have taught marriage preparation and RCIA classes.
“I hope we can maintain our Jesuit and Ignatian identity and that tradition and history will not be lost,” she said.
One of the events of the festival was a history panel where six members came together to discuss the evolution of the parish over the past 50 years through Vatican II adjustments, social issues and other topics. surrounding the parish and how the parish grew from a small community based in Georgetown. to a welcoming parish for so many people in the metropolitan area.
Linda Arnold, who married into the parish and raised her children in the parish community, worked in the 1980s to help develop the parish’s adult faith education programs, which grew out of parents of children involved in CCD programs (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine). This produced a “Sunday morning experience,” she said, where the community came together for weekly liturgy and education. She said it produced a parish with members who knew the faith.
“The only thing I changed was the idea of a one-year program with a theme and then (it) was treated from the perspective of the spirituality of Scripture,” said- she declared. “People were just hungry.”
Arnold noted that it was the parish’s excitement with the Second Vatican Council as well as the support of various pastors and priests for educational programs that allowed it to thrive.
“They were willing to work with us…to be collaborators in the vineyard,” Arnold said.
Founder’s Day festivities also included arts and crafts for children, a five-panel mural that was painted throughout the day and will be installed in the parish center, a social justice fair which featured several direct service opportunities, and even a play, “Mystery on Holy Hill”, which adapted the story of the Holy Trinity through the children’s perspective and showed how the parish has responded to events in American history.
During the anniversary mass, a new icon of the Holy Trinity created by the parish iconography guild was displayed beside the altar, and the liturgy featured the premiere of the hymn, “Come and be fed, come and be filled”, written for the occasion by Marie Louise Bringle with music by Tony Alonso.
Father Gillespie, in closing the celebratory Mass, expressed his gratitude for the parish community and the work it invests in the Holy Trinity.
“This community of faith truly inspires faith, hope and love,” he said.