by Mary Moran
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
St. Dominic’s Parish, Washington, DC:
A Sesquicentennial Celebration
Dr. Mary E. Moran, a very talented activist and thoughtful resident of Washington DC sent me the above documents from St. Dominic, her parish. She approached the writing and research of the history of the parish as a retreat. She used writing as a means of gaining new insights, exploring the significance of faith, and trying to become a better person. Writing as Mary points out, helps to discover new ideas, explore issues, develop deeper friendships and gain new friends. Research for this book helped her to learn from the past and be inspired by how people met challenges.
The delicacy and gentleness of the words Mary uses, helps one to have a glimpse of the true relevance of a parish. “The church is a place of prayer, contemplation, comfort, inspiration and a sanctuary in which one can put things in perspective. It has influenced people’s everyday lives for one hundred fifty years. Uncounted parishioners have celebrated major passages of life here: baptisms, first communions, confirmations weddings, ordinations and funerals.” The history of St. Dominic’s is a story of the, any forces: special, economic, religious and cultural that have shaped the parish, the city and the nation that surrounded the area. Founded in 1852, St. Dominic’s is the only Dominican parish in Washington DC and is the city’s sixth oldest Catholic Church. The beauty of the art is manifest in the stained glass windows and the richness of their faithful. The detail of this history reads like a fascinating tale of early history. Moran tells about the beginning of the parish established by Nicholas Young who joined the Dominican Order in 1810. He became the first pastor of St. Dominic’s. There were maps of the land as it began to evolve as a part of the parish. Being close to the Capitol gave the parish the ability to work with Congress. The administration was able to have a law passes that allowed the Dominican Order to buy and sell property in the District of Columbia. Father Wilson one of the first pastors signed a deed assigning the church’s real estate to the St. Thomas Literary Society, which has held title for the St. Dominic’s Church property ever since.
There is a plentitude of ‘take your breath away’ detail especially her recognition that a parish is a spiritual community. ”The report of the consecration services- twelve white candles were placed along the north and south walls to symbolize the twelve apostles present at the Last Supper, at which Christ initiated the Eucharist. These candles are lit only once a year—for Midnight Mass each Christmas Eve when they glow brightly in commemoration of the generosity and support of the parishioners and friends of St. Dominic’s.” The picture of Patrick Keely, the architect who has many of his structures in and around Washington, does not have plans left behind as a priestly historian of St. Joseph Province reports because many designs were discarded at the very institutions they depicted by conscientious custodians in fits of good housekeeping! Earlier, the historian confides, Keely drew plans on sheets of linen which frugal nuns laundered and recycled.
Further report of the detail about the fire, the celebration of theatre through Helen Hayes and other actors as well as work in social justice and the inclusion of a program for the Hispanic population are so carefully and thoughtfully stated. The words of Mary are so delightful to read. She states “A parish is, at heart, the place where the love and mercy of the Father, by the saving work of Christ and in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, are made present to us. In accepting this love and mercy, we parishioners are charged to make them also present in our society at large.”
It is not an easy book to purchase but it is absolutely worth the time and effort. It is movingly holy!