Washington’s Salesian Community Relocates

07 Feb 2019

Story and photos by Fr. Mike Mendl, SDB

 (College Park, Md. – February 5) –  It was long time coming, but—finally—on Saturday, January 26, the five Salesians who make up what is termed the Washington community relocated 6.7 miles from their residence in Silver Spring, Md., to a new one in College Park, Md. The new house (at 6801 Baltimore Avenue, College Park, MD 20740) is 2.3 miles closer to Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Md., where they serve as teachers, administrators, or volunteer staff.

Note that there is no landline telephone in the house. The confreres may be reached by their cell phones.

A fine little ranch-style house in the working class Burnt Mills section of Silver Spring had been the SDBs’ rented home since mid-2013 when the province withdrew from ministry at Nativity Parish in Washington after ten years there–hence its designation as the “Washington community.” From mid-2013 to June 2017, the community was a three-confrere community, and the house served its needs well.

But in a reconfiguration of the province in 2017, the community grew to five men. That summer Two confreres were given new assignments, four were freshly assigned, Fr. Mike Conway remained as director and president of DBCR. He solemnly advised the new arrivals to unpack only what was essential “until November” because the community was about to move to new, larger quarters.

Which didn’t happen as quickly as anyone hoped, either in New Rochelle or in Silver Spring. At last, in March 2018 the province settled on and purchased a 1930s boarding house on U.S. 1 in College Park, about a mile south of the University of Maryland campus. Ten months of design, debate, permitting, and renovations followed before the house was ready for occupancy at the end of January 2019. There’s still some additional work being done.

 

Chapel of the new residence in College Park

The new house features a roomy chapel, a large dining room, and a large, modern kitchen. The original living room got some updating but is much the same as it was. A third bathroom was added upstairs, leaving seven modest bedrooms (or in the present arrangement, six bedrooms and an office for the confrere who works for the province—one for each of the five confreres and a guest room).

In the basement another bedroom is being renovated as a guest room, the laundry has been upgraded, and an existing bathroom is being renovated. Most of the basement is being left open as future meeting space, but it also serves as a second TV room.

One way of measuring the difference in the morning commute to school is this. regularly could say five decades of the Rosary along New Hampshire Avenue between Silver Spring and DBCR. Now on Baltimore Avenue (U.S. 1) and East-West Highway, it’s just two decades or maybe three.

The house was already graced last week with three distinguished visitors: Fr. Dominic Tran, the province’s vocations director, Cardinal Joseph Zen (see separate article), and Fr. Joseph Ng, provincial of the SDB China Province. Neither of our two guestrooms is ready yet, though, to receive visitors. As we did in Silver Spring, we have to put up our visitors at a nearby hotel.

 

The landing on the second floor, showing access to some of the bedrooms and a bath.

The renovated Salesian residence in College Park, seen from the Baltimore Avenue sidewalk.