The St. Aloysius building, which is owned by the Jesuits and is part of the Gonzaga College High School campus, will continue to be used by the school. Holy Redeemer will also use it for special services, weddings and funerals, parish officials said. The parish’s Father McKenna Center for homeless men will continue to operate.But the eclectic congregation of about 250 households will cease to exist. Many who attended Sunday’s Mass hugged each other and dabbed at tears, saying the city has lost a parish heralded for cultural diversity, vibrant services and an unusually devoted service to the poor.“We have White House staffers and people who are homeless worshiping in this church,” said Lynnly Tydings, of Takoma Park, who attended St. Aloysius for 21 years.The parish, Tydings and others said, attracted many Catholics who felt uncomfortable elsewhere. About 90 percent of its parishioners came from other parts of the District and the suburbs, parish leaders said.“This is a place where all of us who want to be Catholic can be, even if we don’t follow everything the church says we should be following,” Tydings said.
Since 1965, the number of Catholic priests in the United States has dropped from about 58,600 to 39,000. The subsect of “religious priests,” which includes Jesuits and other religious orders, now numbers about 12,300, down from 22,700, according to the Center for Applied Research In the Apostolate at Georgetown University.The Rev. Thomas Clifford, St. Aloysius’s pastor for the past six years, said he’s seen the number of Jesuits in the Mid-Atlantic region drop from about 750 priests and students to roughly 320 over his four decades in the priesthood. Nearly half are now older than 70, he said.
Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Jesuits, said St. Aloysius was closed because it was the smallest parish in the Mid-Atlantic. Because the church building is part of the high school campus and attached to the Jesuit teachers’ residences, the diocese could not put a non-Jesuit priest there, she said.
Several St. Aloysius parishioners said they felt abandoned by the Catholic Church. Teddi Ann Galligan, of the District, said she found it “heartbreaking and astonishing” that the parish where she’d been married and had two children baptized would close because of a shortage of priests.If the Catholic Church allowed women and married people to be ordained, she said, “They’d never have to close a church for lack of a priest.”