Spring has at last arrived and driving in West Virginia is again a very beautiful experience, with the sensational views of God’s creation being on display through the car window. As lush green starts to return to the trees and the ground blossoms forth with wild flowers, I am reminded of the silent grace that moves among the mountains and travels through our towns.
Recently my travels have brought me to beautiful parish churches and wonderful faith communities. The renovations at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Stonewood have been completed and I was fortunate to be there and celebrate the blessing of the newly renovated Church. It is a spectacular renovation and I hope you have a chance to see it, especially if you live in the Clarksburg and Morgantown area. Perhaps on one of the beautiful days of this year’s late spring you could make a pilgrimage there, asking Our Lady of Perpetual Help to aid you, your family, and our Diocese. I congratulate Fr. Kent Durig and his planning committee as well as the generous parishioners who made this all possible. It is really beautiful. The completion of this renovation is a really wonderful way for Father Durig to mark his 25th Anniversary of Priesthood.
From Stonewood, I headed into the beautiful southern part of the Diocese for Confirmations and other events. The first was at St. Francis of Assisi in St. Alban’s and then on to St. Francis de Sales in Beckley. The weather added a beautiful dimension to these events and the people were really happy and wonderful. These Confirmations gave me an opportunity to meet alone with the Confirmation Class and ask questions and discuss the sacrament and get to know our candidates. I can tell you these are occasions of grace for me: I am able to meet with young people who have been well-formed in the faith and who have been encouraged by their families. It provides a great sense of hope. I am very aware that behind these beautiful people are families and friends with them from Baptism through Eucharist and Reconciliation and now here to receive the Holy Spirit. There was the added joy at St. Francis of Assisi, whose pastor, Fr. Patrick McDonough, is celebrating his 50th Anniversary of Priesthood. It was plain for me to see that he loves the people of his parish and that they deeply love him. These Confirmations made the weekend a terrific moment for me.
Before the May meeting of Presbyteral Council and the annual Convocation of Priests at Pope St. John XXIII Pastoral Center, I was able to bless the new addition to Charleston Catholic High School with its student Chapel. I was really happy to celebrate the blessing of this new Chapel, hoping that it will be an encouragement to the students of Charleston Catholic, located next to our beautiful Basilica Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston. This new Chapel is adjacent to other classrooms completed at the same time, an additional 4th floor being opened in the High School Building. The School is the recipient of a major gift from the Margaret Krupa Foundation. The gracious donor, herself a Charleston Catholic graduate and a former parishioner of the Co-Cathedral, attended the dedication and was part of the Mass with the students. This Chapel is a truly beautiful place for prayer, dominated by a stained glass window of the Crucifixion in the sanctuary.
As I write, all of our priests are gathering at Pope St. John XXIII Pastoral Center for our annual Convocation. This annual gathering gives me the opportunity to see these men come together in faith and offer each other support and encouragement. It also gives me the chance to thank each of them for all the work that they do on behalf of our parishes and Our Lord, sometimes in very remote parts of the State where they can be somewhat isolated from one another and from important support systems. On Wednesday night, we will honor our priests who are celebrating 25 and 50 years of priesthood, as well as those who will be retiring this year. I am truly grateful for the service these men have provided our Diocesan Church in their many years of priesthood. I am also grateful to those men who have come from distant lands and nations to be a part of our Diocesan Church: without our international and religious priests, I would not be able to provide a priest for every parish.
I ask you to pray for our priests and especially to pray for an increase in vocations to priesthood and religious life within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. Of course, priests are formed in happy families and new vocations are called forth most often by the encouragement of family members and friends. I am certain that in many of our families there are young men thinking about priesthood and I ask you to support them by both prayer and a positive word.