By Steve Neill, Of The Catholic Virginian

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo has given approval for the established Crozet Catholic Community to take steps to become an official mission parish of the Diocese of Richmond.

He gave this permission Dec. 15 after meeting with Father Joseph Mary Lukyamuzi, pastor of Holy Comforter in Charlottesville, Father Gregory Kandt, pastor of Church of the Incarnation in Charlottesville and two lay representatives of the Catholic Community. Also at the meeting held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center were Msgr. Mark Richard Lane, the Diocese’s Vicar General, and Msgr. R. Francis Muench, Judicial Vicar.

Bishop DiLorenzo originally gave permission for a representative group of Catholics in Crozet, once a largely rural community 15 miles west of Charlottesville, to have Mass once a month beginning in January 2014. He named Father Joseph Mary as priest-chaplain for the group. Local Catholics formed the Crozet Mass Committee and scheduled Mass to be held monthly at the Field School on the second Sunday of the month beginning in March 2014.

The Field School, built in 1924 by the Albemarle County government as an elementary school, is now a private middle school for boys. It is leased to the private school by the county.

The first Mass in 2014 attracted 250 people. The recent December Mass drew 270.

With mission status, the Crozet Catholic Community (its official name) can begin planning to hold weekly Mass, offer the sacraments and begin a religious education program. In addition, the community will begin a search for a site on which to build a church.

Holy Comforter will continue to serve the people until the community becomes independent as a separate parish. Michael Marshall, chair of the Crozet Mass Committee, said that there are 249 registered households which have 689 people and include 233 school-age children. In addition there are 20 people of college age.

“There are a few older Catholic families in Crozet,” Mr. Marshall told The Catholic Virginian. “But approximately 200 of the 249 registered families are new to Crozet in the last four or five years.”

He estimated that the current population of 7,500 in Crozet will likely rise to 10,000 by 2020. Approximately 100 houses a year are being built.

About 55 percent of the families currently worship at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Charlottesville. The next largest group — 25 percent of the 249 households, have no parish affiliation.

The remaining 20 percent attend either Incarnation and Holy Comforter in Charlotteville, or St. John the Evangelist in Waynesboro.

Mr. Marshall, who is editor and publisher of the Crozet Gazette, had written to Bishop DiLorenzo in October and asked him to celebrate Mass and to meet the Crozet Catholic community.

Crozet Catholics began a petition seeking mission status this past summer, aiming for at least 200 Catholic households as a viable foundation on which to build.

Bishop DiLorenzo told the Crozet representatives that an additional priest likely will be assigned to the Charlottesville area to assist Father Joseph Mary. He is expected to be assigned in the Spring.

The parish boundaries, likely to resemble the attendance zone of Western Albemarle High School, will be finalized when the move to parish status is accomplished.

One of the benefits of official status as a mission parish will be the approval to organize religious education classes for the 233 school-age children, Mr. Marshall said.

He explained that parents will no longer have to drive their children for religious education classes in Charlottesville which often are scheduled at times which will conflict with Mass in Crozet.

As part of its outreach to the local community, Crozet Catholics regulary help needy families by bringing canned goods and other food items to Mass which are then delivered to the Food Bank operated by Crozet United Methodist Church and to Holy Comforter which has a large community outreach.

“The Protestant churches have been very encouraging and supportive to us,” Mr. Marshall said. “They see establishment of a Catholic church as a positive sign in the community.”

The Crozet Catholic Community is eagerly anticipating a visit by Bishop DiLorenzo or Msgr. Lane, Vicar General, for Sunday Mass.

“They will find us a very happy and loving and welcoming community,” Mr. Marshall said.