A Beautiful Expression of Faith

This past weekend was an historical moment for me as your Bishop: I was blessed to be able to consecrate and dedicate the beautiful new Church of St. John’s Parish in Benwood, West Virginia. The weather was really beautiful and the sun shone through the beautiful stained glass windows salvaged from the former parish Church, destroyed by fire two years ago, restored and fitted for placement in the new Church. The Church was packed with the loyal parishioners and their families who were serene and excited to see their parish Church come to life in front of their eyes. During the Mass, it was a joy for me to see the enraptured looks on the faces of all gathered, and the awe and wonder that filled their eyes when all the lights in the Church were illuminated during the service. I hope some of you throughout the Diocese get a chance to visit this wonderful house of God. There are evocative elements from the old Church woven seamlessly into the new and precious elements of the new Church. The real treasure are the faith-filled people in the pews. They are the reason for this new Church. Benwood, like many of our communities, is an older steel and coal town, populated largely by the descendants of Italian and Eastern European immigrants who came to work iron and steel, to mine anthracite, and to coke coal. In the middle of this town is a new and beautiful expression of Faith “strong as Steel, rich as coal” which leads to the love of God and love of neighbor in this tight knit community. That captures what I hope to be the true spirit of the Church in the 21st Century in a real way. At the same time that we were enjoying such a beautiful day for the dedication of this Church, our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean were facing the ravages of Hurricane Irma. Coming close on the heels of Harvey and the damage it brought to Houston and along the Texas and Louisiana coasts, Hurricane Irma has caused so much suffering and worry for so many. Caribbean islands were decimated, some losing more than 90% of their housing, while Florida faced storm surges, extensive loss of power, and mandatory evacuations. These storms just took over conscious moments and brought great worries for so many young and old. It was truly a vexing time. Personally, I worried for Bishop Herbert Bevard, the Bishop of St. Thomas, VI, who was out of communications for many hours. I was relieved when he finally found sheltering in the basement where he had brought a neighboring family to join him and ride out the storm. I know that in our parishes and our families, we have all been praying that God would spare those who are so vulnerable in their daily lives. These prayers must continue. So many in West Virginia are very aware of what flooding means to the daily lives of average people let alone those who are challenged every day by other difficulties and worries. Indeed, there is just so much that invades our world as difficult and challenging. Please keep up the prayers and, along with them, please keep up the charitable gifts, no matter how small. Our American people are a very good and generous people who value human life and truly love their neighbors, even those they do not know at all. God bless you and our Nation for being so giving to those in need. In the midst of the natural disasters that have filled the news, including the very serious earthquake in Guatemala and Mexico, we must also remember the plight of our immigrant populations, especially those who sincerely just want to be one of us in this beautiful country. Please pray in particular for those young people, brought to our nation as children, really only seeking to live here in the only country they have ever known and to contribute to the richness of our culture and our American dream. We must be aware of the needs of others, especially those who have been honest with us about their own situations which are not the result of their personal choices. Indeed, there is a great deal to pray for at the present time, and I know our Churches are filled with prayers of petition and with words of praise and thanksgiving to God, the giver of every good gift.