Centennial History Book of St. Francis de Sales Parish & Commemorative Christmas Ornament – On Sale Now!

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Historian Eugene Scheel tells the story of the historical progression of the Catholic faith in Loudoun County, beginning with the 24 ‘papists’ or ‘Catholicks’ in 1748, continuing with the first Mass on Main Street in 1921 up to today’s church on St. Francis Court. This is a limited 1st edition printing of 250.

An early review  “… I want to let you know that book is sensational … I couldn’t put it down … a wonderful accomplishment! …” – a parishioner

From the author …

Sure, I wrote this book, but it is really not mine. It is the work of hundreds of people, mostly Catholic, whose writings I used, and whose conversations I took down for forty-eight years. I began researching and writing the history of Saint John the Apostle Church in Leesburg in 1977. Even before that, in fall 1973, my history classes of teachers entered little Saint Francis de Sales Church on Purcellville’s Main Street and listened to Marie Constance Lyon tell us about the church and town’s history.

“Moncure, you know [she always called her husband by his first name] brought electricity to town in 1914, but the war meant there was a copper shortage and the lights didn’t go on until, I think, until 1919. And then every night at eleven o’clock they were turned off, at ten sometimes, and turned on again at five so the milk could be safely unloaded from the wagons, and boarded on the train.

“And, oh, Father Van, we always called him Father Van because of his long Dutch last name, Ingelgem [and a couple of my teachers would raise their hands and ask Mrs. Lyon, ‘how do you spell Ingelgem.’] He built this church, you know, and named it after his favorite saint, Francis de Sales. . . .” And she would go on––into this world of the past, fascinating us all.

For me Catholic history begins in 1748, nine years before anyone even heard of the name Loudoun. Amazing that the papers of a very troubled man would survive at the Library of Congress. This womanizer and cattle rustler, responsible for listing the living in what is now western Loudoun, decided to redeem himself by noting that 24 people were “papists,” because that would please the Virginia government, always wary of Roman Catholics in colonial times.

And so to the hardships of the priests on horseback, braving weather, disease, and the crossing of swollen streams in an era of no bridges. Days of hard travel to minister and celebrate Mass for a few families, two or three times a year, so they might be renewed in The Faith.

And on to the working Irish, builders of the canals, railroads, and roads that formed the infrastructure of our county in its early decades of settlement. “You’ve heard the phrase, “With a mule and an Irishman you could build anything”? Slave owners would not let their property do such dangerous building––‘Let the Irish do it’; they were expendable.

Back to Mrs. Lyon. “Let me tell you about the Ku Klux Klan. Right on that lawn and she points to the west window] they burned a cross, and I knew every one who did it. They didn’t like Catholics. But let bygones be bygones. . . .”

And did you know that in the sixties a Catholic priest at Saint Francis was the catalyst for integrating both Loudoun County Public Schools and restaurants?

It is all in this book. But remember, I am of the Asa Moore Janney school. This homespun Quaker historian I knew so well would say to me if I were not sure of something:

“Put it down. Put it down. It’ll bring ‘em out of the woodwork.”

Eugene Scheel (Gene) August, 2021



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