This is the busy and sacred time of Lent here in our wonderful Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. The season of Lent really touches our hearts and appeals to the human mind, making a new creation possible if we only cooperate with the grace that is available. Indeed, the Holy Spirit, who is so present to us in the Sacraments, guides us even more closely if we just turn to the grace He wants to give us as we prepare for the celebration of the Easter Sacraments. Please open your hearts to the Lord especially here and now. As St. Paul says, “now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.”
I was very fortunate to be involved in the Rite of Election in all three cities in our Diocese. The First Sunday of Lent, we started our Rites of Election at the Basilica Co- Cathedral in Charleston. There was a good attendance of priests and people. Again being blessed with good weather, people were able to come to the Basilica from towns and cities in the Southern part of the Diocese without great hardship. I always enjoy these celebrations of the Rite of Election, during which I get to see our pastors enjoying their people and to experience our Diocesan Church growing by attracting many new, wonderful members. Last Saturday, I was in the Eastern Panhandle of the Diocese, visiting St. James in Charles Town for the Rite of Election. In recent years, I have travelled to the Eastern Panhandle for this celebration and there has been a great response, with many catechumens and candidates, accompanied by their sponsors and priests, turning out for this important moment in their journey to full membership in the Church. I am thankful to be able to travel there for the celebration. This past Sunday, I returned to Wheeling for the celebration of the Rite of Election at the Cathedral of St. Joseph. It was a full house and a beautiful celebration. There were many priests from the parishes in the Morgantown area and throughout the Northern Panhandle, as well as great music to support the liturgy. There were receptions following the services so many of us could greet each other. The personal encounters were enjoyable. I was able to see the joy of the flock of Jesus Christ working closely together as a believing community. You can see smiles of good people who are really happy to be together and a great place for your Bishop. I do thank all of them. Our journey through Lent has been enhanced by witnessing these faith-filled candidates and catechumens looking forward to the Easter celebrations and watching their sponsors, who are filled with pride in these members of the Elect whom they support and encourage on their pilgrimage through Lent to the fullness of the faith. As you will read in this issue of The Catholic Spirit, our Holy Father announced new Papal Honors, recognizing members of our Diocese in the witness of their lives. I am very grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge these individuals and each of their unique contributions to the mission of our Diocese. I know there are many more who should be acknowledged: there are so many wonderful people in our Diocese who work so hard in our parishes, outreach centers, and related institutes serving those in need and making beautiful moments of grace within the life of our Church. I am grateful to these Papal Honorees and to all those volunteers who are laboring throughout our Diocese.