By Colleen Rowan
WEST VIRGINIA—The collection for the Priests’ Health and Retirement Association (PHRA) will be held in all parishes and missions of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston March 7-8, giving the faithful the opportunity to help provide support for retired diocesan priests.
The collection provides a way, said Msgr. Anthony Cincinnati, S.T.D., V.E., to help bring that support to the priests who have served God’s people so faithfully throughout their lives. Even in their retirement from active ministry, he said, diocesan priests continue to serve the people of West Virginia wherever and whenever they are needed.
One of those priests is Father Leon Alexander, who has retired from active ministry. “I was so fortunate in having retired priests come in and sub,” Father Alexander said. “One of them was Father Joseph Mascioli who just died a few years ago. He was retired and living in Morgantown and was great for coming in for me as were many other retired priests. I feel I have a personal obligation now to provide that kind of coverage for priests who are active in parish ministry to be on hand to help them out whenever I can and whenever I’m available. That’s very important for me.”
Father Alexander was ordained May 14, 1966, by Bishop Joseph H. Hodges. He first served in Montgomery and Boomer, then at Sacred Heart Parish in Bluefield. He served as pastor of Blessed Sacrament in South Charleston for 20 years and then spent his last four years at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Morgantown. In addition to that he served on Presbyteral Council, the boards of Wheeling Jesuit University and St. Francis Hospital in Charleston and served as chair of the Priest Personal Committee and as a diocesan consultor—so having retired priests fill in when he needed them, he said, was very helpful.
Father Alexander is scheduled to fill in to celebrate parish Masses from now until mid-March in Bluefield, Princeton, Logan, Chapmanville, Man and Elkins. “I enjoy it very much,” he said. “… I love to celebrate liturgy, I love to preach.”
“I’m scheduled to do more weddings now than my last full year in parish ministry,” he said. “Two of them are for relatives but the others are for young adults who were kids in parishes that I served and they have honored me by asking me to officiate their weddings.”