When St. Andrew first met Jesus, the first thing He did was tell His brother, Simon Peter, that he had found the Messiah. At St. Andrew Apostle Parish in Silver Spring, parishioners are encouraged to follow in the footsteps of their patron.

“I always say, ‘That’s why you are at St. Andrew’s, because you’re supposed to invite people back to Christ,’” said Father Dan Leary, the parish’s pastor, noting the motto “Christ is proclaimed” that is written on the side of the school building.

The many parish ministries, including the women’s group, men’s group, senior’s group, and men’s and women’s nights of reflection, offer parishioners the chance to deepen their faith. With Confession offered every day and Adoration available several times per week, parishioners are “nurtured and fed in the parish,” before being “charged to go out and be disciples in the world,” said parishioner Lisa Longacre.

The parish and school are nestled on a 10-acre property, which includes a fire pit and two gardens. The students in the school represent more than 71 nationalities, and the parishioners represent about 58.

The parish has recently redone the inside of the sanctuary, adding stain glass windows around the periphery, depicting scenes from the Old Testament on the left and the New Testament on the right. Tom Claxton, the chair of the Pastoral Council, has been a parishioner since the parish’s founding in 1960 and is proud of the new church. He carries around a folded piece of paper that shows pictures of the original bare sanctuary and the new sanctuary, which includes a royal blue backdrop with the words “I am the living bread come down from heaven” written in gold.

The appearance of the church is important, said parishioner Carol Corrigan, because that is what draws people into the parish.

“Then it is up to the parish and the pastor to keep them involved once they come,” she said.

It appears that St. Andrew’s has been successful in doing so, because Mass attendance has grown steadily over the past three years. But in addition to the colorful changes in the appearance of the Church, the spiritual life of parishioners has also been renewed.

“Mass has become more meaningful,” said Claxton, because of homilies that “bring you closer to the Eucharist.”

The parish’s monthly Mass with Healing Prayers is another “wonderful opportunity for encounter” with Christ, said Longacre. During the evening liturgy, people who are in need of any type of healing are invited to come in front of the Blessed Sacrament to receive one-on-one intercessory prayer from a priest.  

There are also several priests available for Confession, which Longrace said is “a greater healer even than the prayers.” The parish offers a children’s version of the healing Mass four times per year.

“With so much need for healing – physically, emotionally and spiritually – the Masses with Healing Prayers are an opportunity for people to deepen their love for Jesus Christ through the sacraments and through a personal encounter with the healing mercy of Jesus,” said Father Leary.

The pastor has a bulletin board in his office with pictures of parishioners who are sick and in need of healing, including eight-year-old Lila, who has an inoperable brain tumor. Her mom, Nicole Giroux said the healing ministry and the welcome she has received since becoming a parishioner at St. Andrew’s five years ago has caused her to have a deeper conversion in her faith.

“My daughter, Lila, has been able to be a visible sign of God working through the parish,” said Giroux “…It has been great to be able to ask people for prayer when we need it.”

More than 500 people attended the most recent Mass with Healing Prayers on Divine Mercy Sunday. Giroux and her husband now volunteer to help out with the Mass as a way to give back to the parish for the support they have received.

“It’s just been a journey of placing all of my trust in God and having the support to do so through being at St. Andrew’s,” she said.

During an April 25 school Mass, Father Leary brought the parish’s emphasis on prayer into the school, when he encouraged students to think of someone who God was asking them to be compassionate toward. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, he invited the students to mentally place that person at the foot of the altar.

At the end of Mass, he invited any students who are going through something difficult or who know someone who is to come forward and kneel with him before the altar to pray. At first one by one and then in a crowd, children flowed out of the pews to join him.

During the prayer, the St. Andrew Apostle Children’s Choir sang “Jesus Messiah.” The Children’s Choir, which has grown to have 85 schoolchildren and 10 parish children, sings at one all-school Mass and one parish Mass per month in addition to several annual events, and has made special appearances at Riderwood Senior Living Community and at the Walk with Mary pilgrimage.

“I teach the children that what they do is a part of the ministry,” said Theresa Trigiani, the Children’s Choir director and music teacher at St. Andrew’s. “…Our prayer is that we bring people to the heart of Christ through music.”

The choir’s youthful and reverent music draws people to Christ through the prelude of singing a decade of the Divine Mercy Chaplet before every Children’s Liturgy. Then, during Mass, they draw attention to the Eucharist by singing, “This is Jesus,” as the priest and Eucharistic Ministers are preparing to give the Eucharist to the congregation.

“They are little apostles, truly,” said Trigiani. “They are evangelizing in the way that they can.”

After the parishioners are formed through the sacraments, there are “a lot of opportunities to take the faith and to put it into practice,” said Msgr. Kevin Hart, who is in residence at St. Andrew the Apostle.

“So many people are actively a part of the parish,” said Giroux. “They don’t just come sit in the pews.”

About two miles away, the parish has a mission called “Mision San Andres Apostol” at the McCarrick Center, which ministers to Hispanics, many of whom recently arrived in the United States and come to the center to be connected with immigration services, medical care, or support for mothers in crisis. 

St. Andrew’s parochial vicar, Father Mario Majano, has a special assignment there, where he says daily and Sunday Mass, administers sacraments and provides pastoral assistance to Catholic Charities and other social service programs run out of the center. As of October 2016, about 1,300 people attend Mass there on Sundays.

Through the mission, Father Majano said the people they serve are able to form a new vision of the Catholic Church.

“Here they are encountering how the Catholic Church cares very much and are very much ‘sleeves rolled up,’ working for the benefit of people in need, physically and spiritually,” said Father Majano. “It is a great place at the McCarrick Center where we can make that kind of impact.”

Parishioners of St. Andrew’s have opportunities to collect food and clothes, and to volunteer their time to help distribute them. Father Majano has also had people volunteer to do things like count the Sunday collection, so he has more time to minister to the people.

“It’s building up the community to understand, ‘Hey the Church is bigger than these walls that we have here,” said Father Majano. “…The mission of the Church is other places as well.”

To be reminded of that apostolic mission, parishioners of St. Andrew’s only have to look up as they leave Mass to see the words of Jesus painted above the doorway in the church’s sanctuary: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”