Catholic Churches in DC

This January, I had the pleasure of spending an entire month in Washington DC - partially for the inauguration, partially for the Pro-Life activities, mostly to visit my family.

Anyway, this was my visit to my hometown as a Catholic, so going back was an entirely different experience. For the first time, I visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (such a long name!), the Franciscan Monastery, etc…and also, I had the opportunity to attend a few parishes’ masses.

Keep in mind that a lot of the Catholic Churches in the area are far more under the radar than their protestant variations. For instance, there’s a section of DC where you basically can’t throw a rock without hitting some kind of protestant church - Tenth Street Baptist, Metropolitan Baptist (the church I grew up in), Lincoln Temple, Mount Gilead… all of these churches are within a four-block radius of one another. I mention this because for the longest time, I thought that DC was a largely left-leaning area and that its catholic churches would reflect the same.

You can imagine my surprise when I attended a few of the masses in the area and found that they were far more traditional than I would have thought! At every church I attended there, a rosary was said aloud in the half-hour block before the start of mass. EVERYONE bowed at the appropriate part of the Nicene Creed, people kneeled after the Agnus Dei… Even the Gospel Mass that I attended at St. Augustine’s on 15th and V still managed to be reverent.

In conclusion, visiting churches in DC was nothing short of Amazing…but I have to ask. Was I just lucky with the churches I chose to visit? Are there any DC natives on the board that can speak to whether or not this is the norm?

I attended The Sacred Heart on 16th Street (N.W. area), I remember we never held hands during the Lord Prayer and I didn’t see anyone raise their hands up during mass.

I haven’t been back to DC in 8 years. I miss the National Shrine. I used to go to some daily mass at noon there … in the Crypt church.

Much of the Diocese of Washington DC is located in Montgomery County, Maryland. Many of those churches have come under fire for their unorthodox Masses and rampant Liturgical Abuses.

I take the Metro to the Basilica, although I’m registered at yet another parish here. It seems that once you cross into the District you’re going to find the more traditional folks, because the Priests understand that since it’s a town of transients, they need to stick more to the rubrics for the comfort and continuity of the Mass being universal. If I cross the river into Northern Virginia, then it’s even more of a reverent atmosphere.

The Basilica is wonderful because even i a crowded shrine, one may feel most reverent in the quiet atmosphere…even when it’s thronged with tourists.

I also would love to hear from folks in DC, northern Virginia or Montgomery county, MD. My husband and I will be moving to the area this summer, and we’re trying to figure out where to live. Should we avoid Maryland all together? Can anyone offer any parishes to check out on the MD side?

I’ve found some parishes that seem great (by their websites, listing activities, etc.) in Alexandria. I’m really excited!

It blows my mind a little that such a small area would seem to have pretty strict dividing lines by diocese like that, but if we should just stick to northern VA, then so be it.

The Archdiocese of Washington (which includes Maryland counties nearby) has a reputation of being more liberal than the Diocese of Arlington in Northern Virginia. If you went to the National Basilica and the Franciscan Monastery, realize that neither of those would be under the “jurisdiction” of the Archdiocese. And, of course, there can be substantial differences between individual churches; my St. Mary’s in Alexandria, for instance, is very orthodox; Blessed Sacrament down the road a piece (also in Alexandria) is less so . . . and St. Lawrence in Franconia (an Alexandria address, I believe, but in Fairfax County) LOOKS very modern, but is in fact quite orthodox in its liturgy, which came as quite a surprise to me . . .

Hey a fellow mover! I’m actually moving back this Saturday! :smiley: What made you decide to move to the area?

My husband is (finally!) graduating with his PhD, and he got a job there working for the federal government. Not his first pick, but we’re definitely thankful that he has a job at all!

Where are you moving? Are you renting or buying? I’d love to hear more :slight_smile:

What a coincidence, you sound like a couple that I know through my RCIA Sponsor that’s moving for the same reasons. :slight_smile:

Me, for school. I’m entitled to very good tuition rates there since it’s where I graduated HS. As for renting or buying…neither. Crashing family space while I’m there :smiley:

Let me know if you’re still undecided on neighborhoods…I know the DC Metro area very well, and could recommend a few good locations!

I love Holy Trinity in Georgetown. Sometimes I attend Mass at St. Stepehens in Foggy Bottom on my lunch break. The National Shrine is fantastic. I have also attended Mass at St. Charles in Arlington. Holy Trinitys 5:30 Mass on Sundays is my favorite. Both Holy Trinity and St. Charles are filled with lots of young people too and the parish is very vibrant.



Hi, I’m from Falls Church, Virginia so I can vouch for (and warn haha) about several local churches.

There are some great ones in DC but as far as orthodoxy goes, stick to the Arlington Diocese. St. Mary’s in Alexandria is great. Lots of people at my high school went there for grade school and complain about how “old fashioned” it is, so for me, that’s a good thing! St. James in Falls Church is pretty good. The building is amazing and is the most traditional looking church I’ve seen in the Diocese but in recent years, I’ve found the liturgy to be lacking…this is a shame because I attended there in grade school when I didn’t appreciate my Catholicism, it was extremely orthodox back then.

Holy Spirit in Annadale is also a good one. The building looks rather protestant, but the Priests there are amazing, especially Fr. Vacarro. I’d definitely check that parish out. Avoid Our Lady of Good Counsel AT ALL COSTS!

Hope you find a good Church!

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