When people in Washington, D.C., think of K Street, the first thought that often comes to mind is that of lobbyists who, with Blackberry and cell phone constantly at the ready, are running up to Capitol Hill to influence the legislation of the day.

But for many Catholics who work in downtown Washington, this thoroughfare at the heart of the city's lobbying world is also the home of a "spiritual oasis" that provides opportunities for daily Mass, confession and Eucharistic Adoration, along with thousands of Catholic books and a growing schedule of lectures and discussions to help area workers grow in the faith.

Welcome to Washington, D.C.'s Catholic Information Center.

Humble beginnings

Since its inception in 1957, the center has evolved from a modest storefront that offered daily Mass and a small lending library to a 6,000 square-foot facility that includes a chapel able to hold nearly 100 worshippers.

Just a few blocks from the White House and from its original location, the CIC has remained in the same general downtown neighborhood throughout its existence.

Originally founded by priests of the Redemptorist Order, the CIC is part of the Archdiocese of Washington and has been run by Opus Dei for the past 16 years.

Father William Stetson, the center's current director, said the CIC has its roots in the model of "inquiring centers" that were established in the downtown hearts of U.S. cities during the mid-1900s by missionary orders in the United States who "wanted to do this apostolate of being present in the business world."

All are welcome

During any given weekday, just after noon, the center's chapel, dedicated to Opus Dei founder St. Josemaria Escriva, is mostly full of employees in the local area who attend the half-hour daily Mass.

Familiar Catholic faces one might run into at Mass include former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and author George Weigel. Yet, Father Stetson stresses that the center's mission does not focus on the corridors of power, but rather seeks to "support the cultural and intellectual Church in downtown Washington, D.C."

Immediately after Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed. The center also provides confession as well as spiritual direction to between 50 to 70 people who schedule appointments when available.

Throughout its history, the center has also welcomed people into the faith, a practice Stetson says continues with a few converts every year.

Branching out

The bookstore provides ample content for hard-core theologians as well as those people just beginning to explore the faith.

Looking for one of Pope Benedict XVI's books? Got it. Seeking a biography on a famous saint or a classic Catholic literary work? You'll probably find that, too.

Afternoon lectures and discussions, author lectures and book signings, study groups and evenings of recollection for both men and women are staples on the center's growing calendar.

In an effort to broaden its reach, the center's "K Street Catholic" podcasts can be down_loaded from its website.

Getting there

The Catholic Information Center is located at 1501 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. It is easily accessible from several Metro stops, but parking is limited. Hours of operation are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.

Mass is celebrated at 12:05 p.m. Monday-Friday followed by Eucharistic Adoration through 4 p.m.

Visit www.cicdc.org for more information.

Nick Manetto writes from Virginia.