Shrinking Jesuit population forces closing of D.C.’s St. Aloysius Gonzaga parish

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a 153-year-old Jesuit parish known for an eclectic congregation of students, homeless people and social-justice activists, will close this summer, a casualty of the country’s shrinking Jesuit population.

The announcement that the Jesuits could no longer staff the 300-family parish known as St. Al’s officially came last weekend, but rumors had percolated for months. The parish, at I and North Capitol NW, is attached to Gonzaga College High School — also run by the Jesuits — and will remain part of the school for various services.

The congregation will merge with Holy Redeemer Parish, another Catholic congregation a few blocks away. The Father McKenna Center, the drop-in center for homeless men that has been in the St. Aloysius building for nearly 30 years, will continue to operate there.

In a statement read at Masses last weekend, the Rev. James Shea, head of the Jesuits’ regional office, said St. Al’s “will continue to live on through the people and the legacy of faith and service that long has been a hallmark of the parish.”

“I ask you to join our Province in prayer for a renewal in priestly vocations to the Jesuits, and especially for the parishioners of St. Aloysius during this difficult time,” he wrote.

The closing of St. Al’s is part of a shrinking of Jesuits from the area where they created the country's first Catholic parish, in 1641, in St. Mary’s County. They were the first Catholic priests in the Colonies. Today, they are merging three East Coast branches into one.

Some of Washington’s most esteemed institutions are Jesuit: Georgetown University, Georgetown Preparatory School, Gonzaga College High School and the 10,000-member Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown.

The transition for members of St. Al’s, most of whom do not live near the parish, will begin July 1 and continue through the summer.

Michelle Boorstein is the Post’s religion reporter, where she reports on the busy marketplace of American religion.
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