By Bob Clark
Father Ready was replaced by Father Sal Ciullo, who served as Nativity’s Pastor from 1984 to 1996. He was assisted at different times during these years by Father Daniel Spychala (1984-1985), Father Vincent Sikora (deceased in 1989), Father Christopher Buckner (1985-1990), Father John Cregan (1991-1993), Father David Martin (1993-1995), Father Robert Lange (1990-1991), Father Richard Dair (1990-1991), and Father Christopher Mould (1995-1997), as well as by Deacon Nicholas LaDuca (1985-1989).
Father Sal was born in 1930 in Orange, New Jersey. He spent several years in seminary in the United States and then went to Florence, Italy, where he studied at the Covento Dei Cappuccini Theological Seminary. He was ordained a Capuchin Friar in 1960 and had several assignments in New York and New Jersey before coming to Virginia. While at St. John Bosco Parish in Woodstock (1968-1976) he founded Our Lady of the Shenandoah Mission Church in Bayse in 1974. In the Arlington Diocese he served at St. James Parish in Falls Church (1976-1979) and St. John the Evangelist Parish in Warrenton (1979-1984). In 1984 he came to Nativity. He left Nativity in 1996 to be the founding pastor of St. Raymond of Penafort Parish in Fairfax Station. He died in July 2004 while visiting family in Italy.
The Church Bulletin from July 29, 1984, provides many details about the life of the parish during a typical week. There were six weekend Masses, including two Saturday Vigil Masses (5:00 and 6:30) and four on Sunday (8:00, 9:30, 11:00, and 12:30), and Daily Mass Monday through Saturday at 9:00 am. The choir sang at the 9:30 am Mass, and the folk group sang at the 5:00 pm Vigil Mass on Saturday. More than $6,200.00 had been collected at the Masses the preceding week (suggesting a rate about double that of the 1977-1978 period cited above). Scheduled events for the coming week included a Monday-night prayer group, a Tuesday-morning Bazaar Workshop, a meeting of Al-anon on Wednesday night, and a meeting on Thursday night to discuss an upcoming trip by the Boy Scouts. On Friday morning at 9:30 am, following Mass, volunteers were to gather to clean the church and prepare it for the weekend Masses. An announcement noted that the deadline for registering children for religious education classes would be August 12, and “TEACHERS ARE STILL NEEDED”. The Knights of Columbus would be hosting a blood donation drive at the church on August 25. There were three advertisers: a lumber yard in Alexandria, a Fairfax printing company, and two parishioners who sold Amway home care products.
This metal refrigerator magnet distributed by the parish in the early 1990s provides the Mass schedule as well as other important information. The magnet measured 1 ½ inches on each side. Note that this was before the use of area codes in local phone numbers became standard practice.
Almost immediately after he arrived at Nativity, Father Sal began to lay the groundwork for the building of a school and religious education center adjoining the existing worship center and administrative offices. By December, 1985, he had an ambitious multi-stage site plan for the new construction already at the drawing board stage. This site plan, much of which was completed by 1990, is discussed in detail in the section on church buildings. A building fund was established and an annual garage/yard sale was launched to begin to raise funds for this project. Originally the contents of the sale were housed and offered for sale inside one large portable container. Under the leadership of the Knights of Columbus, the sale has expanded to become one of the principal summer-time activities of the parish. Its contents offered for sale occupy virtually the entire ground floor (parish hall and school) of the Nativity school building.
As previously noted, the church was built and dedicated without a permanent sanctuary. The altar, tabernacle, and all furniture were movable, both to save money and to permit the multiple uses of the interior space that such flexibility provided. In the fall of 1984, however, Father Sal had installed a permanent sanctuary, altar, and tabernacle against what had been the rear wall of the church during most Mass celebrations. This news photo from July 1986 shows the altar and tabernacle that were installed. The large statue of the Risen Christ was acquired by Father Ready, and given this permanent installation site by Father Sal. It continues to be in use today except during Lent, when it is replaced with a Crucifix.
In February 1986, 196 teenagers were confirmed, marking Nativity’s largest Confirmation class up to that time. Nearly 1,000 families and friends attended the evening service. The Director of Religious Education at that time was Sister Angelina Intelisana, shown in the newspaper photo below with Father Sal and two of the evening’s confirmandi, Brian McNeill and Jeannine Bellemer, both of Lake Braddock High School. Totals of Confirmandi in other years during Father Sal’s tenure as pastor were as follows: 1988, 193; 1993, 57; 1994, 180; 1995, 164; 1996, 165; 1997, 175
In May 1990 the Parish celebrated the tenth anniversary of the dedication of the worship center with a four-day-long celebration that included a youth social, a dinner dance, a special Mass, and a parish picnic on Sunday, May 20. By this time, more than 2,500 families were registered in the parish, and 1,647 children were enrolled in weekly religious education classes.
On May 27, 1993, Nativity was the subject of a “Parish Profile” article in the Arlington Catholic Herald, written by A.M. Tuttle. The title of the article was “Nativity Parish in Burke Mixes Tradition, Openness”. Excerpts of that article follow:
Though its 13 years make it a relatively modern building, the Church of the Nativity in Burke somehow reflects a much older tradition. Perhaps it is the stone Franciscan altar and sacristy. Perhaps it is the stained glass depicting the narrative of the Nativity. Perhaps it is the numerous statues in the parish complex or the prominent baptismal font in the vestibule. Perhaps it is the fact that almost everything in the church has some special meaning or symbolism.
For all that, however, the focus of the parish and Father Salvator Ciullo, pastor, has little to do with emphasizing traditionalism. “The constant thing is building a sense of community and family,” Father Ciullo said.
This can be a challenge, however, because 65 percent of the parish is made up of military families, creating a high turnover each year. [The article then discussed some of the steps the parish took to connect parishioners to each other, and to foster this sense of community.]
Among the social and service groups at Nativity are a Knights of Columbus council, the Women of Nativity, CYO, ministry to the elderly, sick and homebound, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, a charismatic prayer group, a Cursillo chapter, Holy Name Society, altar guild society, Hispanic prayer group, pro-life committee, Legion of Mary, and several support groups.
“We’ve tried to carry the theme of being a family-oriented parish,” said Dorothy Lamoureux, parish secretary and a parishioner since the mid-1970s.
There are approximately 125 volunteer teachers assisting with the parish’s religious education program. It is among the largest catechetical programs in the diocese with 1,600 students. The presence of three religious Sisters, Handmaids of Reparation from Steubenville, Ohio, who are ministers of religious education at Nativity, “give a tremendous witness, with their prayer life, their dedication, and love of their ministry,” Father Ciullo added.
Through the mid-1990s, Nativity celebrated a daily Mass Monday through Saturday, at 9:00 am, attended by 60 to 80 people. There were two Masses on Saturday: at 5:00 pm, attended by 800 to 900, and at 6:30 pm, attended by 400 to 450. There were four Masses on Sunday: 8:00 am, attended by 700 to 800; 9:30 am, 1000 to 1125; 11:00 am, 1000 to 1125; and 12:30 pm, 825 to 900.
In the spring of 1995, Father Sal initiated the practice of sending a donation from Nativity to two of the Arlington Diocese mission churches in the Dominican Republic, in Banica and Pedro Santana. When his assignment as Nativity pastor ended the next year, this practice did not continue. In a slightly different geographic setting, however, his successor pastor would carry on the tradition, and to a much greater extent.
Father Sal left an enduring legacy to the parish with his emphasis on our buildings, statuary and art work, in other words, the physical setting for the spiritual life of the parish. The principal item on this list was the Spiritual Formation Center and School, planning for which began in 1984.