Virginia Parish Garners Media Attention for Varied Initiatives

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province


Photo courtesy of St. Francis of Assisi Parish

TRIANGLE, Va. — Over the last year, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in northern Virginia has received attention from several news publications for its people and its programs.

Diverse media outlets — such as National Catholic Register, Arlington Catholic Herald, Patch and The Washington Post have written about the parish’s social justice work, emphasis on faith formation, focus on the environment, and the passion and dedication with which parishioners and staff carry out the Franciscan mission.

Today, the Arlington Catholic Herald published a story titled “A Union of African, African-American Communities” about the third annual Unity Mass held on Nov. 15 at St. Francis Church.

On Nov. 12, a front-page article in the Arlington Catholic Herald titled “A Call to Fight Human Trafficking,” described a Nov. 8 presentation at St. Francis Church that “drew nearly 200 people from throughout the Washington Metro region.”

Earlier this year, The Washington Post published a feature story, “St. Francis Named Wildlife Habitat as Part of Greenfaith Certification,” highlighting many of the parish’s ecological efforts. 

Patch recently posted a story about a similar theme, titled “95 Express Lanes Plants Trees at GreenFaith Church and School in Triangle.”

In October, National Catholic Register published a feature story, “Franciscan Parish Lives Namesake’s Mission,” that began by saying, “If any parish could be a model of the New Evangelization in action, it might be St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in northern Virginia.”

Kevin Downey, OFM, pastor, noted, “It is interesting that in the article in the National Catholic Register, the reporter said, ‘At this Franciscan parish, the friars have inspired their faithful to do apostolic work in their community.’ That may be true to a certain extent because we set the vision, but our partners-in-ministry make that vision a reality. I don’t think our lay partners get enough credit for the impact and contributions they make to our ministries. St. Francis Parish attracted this national attention because of the work, dedication and commitment of Rob Goraieb, coordinator of Franciscan Action and Advocacy, and all of the many dedicated committee members and teams he works with. He has the unique and invaluable skills to organize people and direct their efforts to confront an injustice. We are an awesome parish because I am blessed to have great lay partners who, day in and day out, put their faith into action.

“As a Province, we have always stressed the importance of cultivating and empowering our partners-in-ministry,” Kevin continued. “St. Francis Parish is proof that it is our lay partners in ministry who put us on the map and who enable us to make an impact in the communities that we serve.”

John O’Connor, OFM, guardian of St. Francis Friary, said the fact that the story was published in the National Catholic Register was significant. “It is an incredible complement to the friars and staff of St. Francis Parish,” he said, adding, “When a ministry does outstanding evangelizing, the compliments can cross philosophical and ideological lines.”

Goraieb, a staff member since 2012, said, “It was a surprise and an honor for us to be featured like this. But it’s not about the attention that it brings us. Instead, our hope and prayer is that this will be an encouragement for parishes. There is so much need in our world today, and those of us in parishes can be doing more to put our faith into action to address those needs.”

This summer, the National Catholic Register also featured the Triangle parish in a story about the Catholic Church’s efforts to fight human trafficking. The article says that Hilary Chester, associate director of the USCCB’s Anti-Trafficking Program, “pointed to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle, Va. — a town that straddles the Washington-northern Virginia metropolitan area and rural Virginia — as a ‘spectacular’ model for how parishes that join the Shepherd program can make a profound difference in the fight against human trafficking within their own communities.”

Strengthening advocacy of justice and peace issues through the media was mandated by the Province at the 2014 chapter. This summer, at an annual meeting, ministry representatives discussed ideas for increasing media coverage.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.