| By Jen Cooper |
The whole congregation stands at St. Francis of Assisi church to watch as Father John Heffernan baptizes a young girl, probably no older than 2. She is clad in an all-white dress with ruffles down the front. Her dad holds her in his arms as Father Heffernan dips a shallow bowl into a basin of water and gently pours it over the girl’s head.
“En el nombre del Padre,” he says as he pours. Again, he fills the bowl.
“En el nombre del Hijo.” Once more, water cascades over her thick black hair.
“En el nombre del Espiritu Santo.”
In the name of Father. In the name of the Son. In the name of the Holy Spirit.
This baptism marked a joyous occasion for the more than 200 Spanish-speaking parishioners at St. Francis in Woodbridge, Va. But for others in Prince William County, this scene represents a stark change in the community’s identity.