In 1787, Father John Carroll, who would later become the first Roman Catholic bishop of the United States, purchased a lot in Georgetown for five shillings with the intention of establishing a place of worship. Today, that lot is home to Holy Trinity Parish and Holy Trinity School in Washington, D.C., where 5,937 registered households take part in the parish life. 

“Like mustard seeds...those five shillings offered those parishioners the faith,” Jesuit Father C. Kevin Gillespie, pastor at Holy Trinity parish, said.

Two hundred and twenty-five years since the construction of Georgetown Chapel -- the original chapel built on the lot which is now named the Chapel of St. Ignatius -- the parish community at Holy Trinity gathered at their church for a celebratory Mass on Oct. 6 in thanksgiving for the church’s history and legacy in the Georgetown neighborhood and its Jesuit tradition.

“This church, for 225 years, has been a place of so much for so many,” Father Gillespie said in his homily at the Mass. 

Anniversary celebrations have been ongoing throughout the past several months, including a lecture series, an anniversary benefit and ending with a Founder’s Day Festival celebration. 

The Founder’s Day festival included programs displaying 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 the Ars Sacra (religious art) of the parish. The exhibit included historical vestments and worship artifacts such as an ornate monstrance and chalice. 

“Hopefully it will allow parishioners to learn more and to see more,” Weber said, noting how many don’t have the opportunity to often look upon religious articles so closely.

A woman views a monstrance on display as part of the Art and Faith Exhibit. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

Weber has served the Holy Trinity parish community in several different capacities during her time at Holy Trinity, including teaching catechism since 2001. Her favorite part of the parish is a “sense of community,” she said, adding that the music ministry is very impactful. 

“It just takes all my cares away,” Weber said.

Another longtime member of the parish, Mary Stump, who has been a member since 1966 when she was a graduate student at the neighboring Georgetown University, said she first came to Holy Trinity at the recommendation of a colleague.

“Someone suggested that I come, and I never looked back,” she said.

The “incredibly wonderful leadership of priests,” is just one thing Stump mentioned as notable about the parish and its history.

“We’ve also been blessed with wonderful homilists, getting 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 classes and RCIA.

“I hope we can maintain our Jesuit, Ignatian identity and that tradition and history won’t be lost,” she said.

One of the festival events was a history panel where six members gathered to discuss how the parish has evolved in the past 50 years through Vatican II adjustments, social issues and other topics surrounding the parish and how the parish went from a small community based in Georgetown to a home parish for so many in the metropolitan area.

Linda Arnold, who was married in the parish and raised her children in the parish community, worked in the 1980s to help grow the parish’s adult faith educational programs, which grew from the parents of children involved in CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) programs. This produced a “Sunday morning experience,” she said, where the community gathered for weekly liturgy and education. She said that this produced a parish with members who were knowledgeable about the faith.

“The only thing I changed was the idea of a year-long program with a theme and then (it) was treated from the point of view of spirituality from Scripture,” she said. “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 the educational programs that allowed it to thrive.

“They were willing to work with be co-laborers in the vineyard,” Arnold said. 

Also included in the Founder’s Day festivities were arts and crafts for children, a five-panel mural that was painted throughout the day that will be installed in the parish center, a social justice fair that displayed several direct service opportunities, and even a play, “Mystery on Holy Hill,” which adapted the history of Holy Trinity through the view of children and showed how the parish responded to events throughout American history. 

A girl paints part of a mural inspired by the Holy Trinity community that was designed by local artist Paco Lane to mark the parish's 225th anniversary. During the Oct. 6 Founder's Day celebration at Holy Trinity, parishioners painted parts of the five-panel mural, which will be installed in the parish center. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)

During the anniversary Mass, a new Holy Trinity icon created by the parish's 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 Mary Louise Bringle with music by Tony Alonso.

Father Gillespie, in the closing of the celebratory Mass, expressed gratitude for the parish community and the work that they invest into Holy Trinity. 

“This community of faith really inspires faith, hope and love,” he said.

People view religious artifacts at the Art & Faith exhibit on Oct. 6 at Holy Trinity as part of the Georgetown parish's 225th anniversary celebration. (CS photo/Mihoko Owada)