History of St. Ambrose Church

The history of Christ’s presence here in the St. Ambrose boundaries includes the persons who have gone before us, and those who are to come. All continue to participate in this eternal work of grace.

St. Ambrose parish was established by the Bishop John J. Russell of the Diocese of Richmond on June 4, 1966. At that time, all of Virginia was one diocese, and remained so until 1974 when the Diocese of Arlington was created by Pope Paul VI. The new parish of Saint Ambrose was carved out of several existing parishes in the area, and had about 400 families at its beginning. Fr. Vincent Sikora was assigned as the first pastor.

On June 12, 1966, St. Ambrose parish celebrated its first Mass at Luther Jackson Intermediate School (located on Gallows Road). A temporary rectory with a daily Mass chapel was established in 1966 at 3718 King Arthur Road (in the Camelot sub-division). However, Sunday Masses and religious instruction classes continued to be held at Luther Jackson Intermediate School until a new parish center could be built.  Under the direction of Fr. Sikora, the parish center was built to provide a temporary parish church and a meeting space for religious education classes. Bishop Russell dedicated this church and parish center on October 31, 1968. Today this building serves as St. Ambrose parish grade school.

In 1972, the parish’s second pastor, Fr. John Rea, oversaw the construction of a new rectory building on site, adjoining the parish church and hall.  But with continued parish growth, permission was quickly given by the diocese for a new and larger church. Ground was broken for the present church in September 1976, under the parish’s third pastor, Fr. Robert Brooks. The church was dedicated in 1977 on December 7, the Feast of St. Ambrose, by Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, the first bishop of the new Diocese of Arlington.

In 1980, Msgr. William Reinecke, the vicar General of the Diocese of Arlington, was appointed as the fourth pastor of St. Ambrose parish. During his ten years as pastor, he worked to establish many new programs in the parish and retired all financial debt from the building of the church. His successor, Fr. Mark Pilon, oversaw the renovation of the church and opened St. Ambrose Catholic School, a school that today is recognized with both diocesan and national awards of academic excellence. 

With the Annandale and Fairfax areas continuing to experience a population boom at this time with the enlargement of local military bases, Fairfax Hospital, and Exxon Mobile Cooperate Offices, the parish was again in need of expansion. In 2001, Fr. Richard Ley, the sixth pastor of the parish, built the new Parish Activities Building / Offices on parish property. This large facility included more offices for a growing parish staff, a parish library, small meeting rooms, a choir rehearsal area, and a large reception hall to host parish dinners and celebrations. Under the guidance of Fr. Dominic Irace, the seventh pastor of the parish, new groups were formed for evangelization and community outreach, and an emphasis was placed on a renewal of sacred music and liturgy.  In October 2009, Fr. Andrew Fisher was named as the Parochial Administrator and in 2011, Father Fisher was installed as Pastor of St. Ambrose Parish.

New Saint Ambrose Church | Arlington Catholic Herald Article | July 20, 2023