A Special Six-Part Series on the Diocesan Pastoral Council

Bishop Mark E. Brennan has reestablished the Diocesan Pastoral Council originally created by Bishop Joseph H. Hodges in 1968. In this special series we bring to you a profile of the lay members of this commission. The membership is representative of all six vicariates in the state with three members per vicariate. Each series will highlight a single vicariate.

Boggess, Whelan, Copolo Eager to Work on Diocesan Pastoral Council for Beckley Vicariate

By Joyce Bibey
BECKLEY—Beckley Vicariate representatives for the reestablished Diocesan Pastoral Council are eager to work with Bishop Mark E. Brennan to enhance the work of the diocese in West Virginia.
Gina Boggess, Darleen Whelan, and Jim Copolo were all born and raised Catholic. Each have been very active in their parishes for decades, and each are happy to be part of the advisory group consisting of laity, religious, deacons, and clergy from around the state. Just as a parish council assists a pastor by providing advice and effort in support of the parish, DPC members will assist Bishop Brennan in his pastoral care for the entire diocese.
“This DPC group led by the direction of the Holy Spirit is made up of many wonderful people which include very informed and vocal young people,” said Copolo of the Beckley Vicariate. “From the first meeting one could feel the respect from the total group for individual opinions.”
Baptized and raised in McDowell County, Copolo is proud to represent the southern vicariate and his church, the 136-year-old Sacred Heart Mission in Powhatan.
He has been actively involved in parish life soon after his First Holy Communion.
“I began serving the Latin Mass on this altar at the age of eight years old and continue today as Lector and Eucharistic Minister on this same altar,” he said. “My Catholic faith and church have played an integral part of my personal, prayer and spiritual life. Much of this I attribute to the wonderful guidance and spiritual teaching of the many wonderful Sisters and Priests who have nourished my faith.”
Copolo is a former Parish Council President and Finance Committee Member. He also proudly served as a Delegate to the Ninth Diocesan Synod.
“I am very humbled and honored to be elected to serve a three-year term on the DPC and thank Bishop Mark for allowing important dialog to begin among the members of our Diocesan Church,” he said, noting that the initial meeting in February was more invigorating “than words can express. It provided me an excellent opportunity to begin my Lenten journey, reflecting upon my appointment to the Diocesan Pastoral Council. The beginning sessions were well organized led by Chancellor Mr. Chad Carter and Vicar General Msgr. Eugene S. Ostrowski. Bishop Brennan was present for every session; humbly led Stations of the Cross, morning and evening prayer; and daily Mass with other concelebrants attending.”
Copolo is looking forward to contributing to the Peace and Justice Committee to which he was appointed.
“I must keep in mind what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, ‘To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren (no. 1397).’ Catholic social teaching must be part of my life to be an example bringing about my mission as serving on this committee,” he said. “Pope Francis calls us in ‘Fratelli Tutti’ to be brothers and sisters for all. I look forward to serving on this committee and investigating ways to promote social justice and peace issues in our diocese, parishes, and our local and state government. We must love one another as God loves us all.”
Boggess has been a lifelong member of Sacred Heart Parish in Princeton.
“My parents were married in this church and my grandmother sang in the choir,” she said. “I have received all the sacraments (at Sacred Heart), my three children have received their Sacraments in this church, and my husband (Timm Boggess) became a member through (SH) RCIA.”
Interesting fact, her husband’s dad Ted Boggess, was an architect and one of the first non-Catholics to design a Catholic church in our area “never imagining his future grandchildren would attend,” he said. Boggess is currently the Catechetical leader for Sacred Heart, overseeing youth and adult Faith Formation, including RCIA; and she serves as a Spiritual Director Intern for the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality based in Charleston. Throughout the years other ministries included: parish council, finance council, lector, Eucharistic minister, catechist, bookkeeper, past board member for Catholic Charities state and local, Anchor prayer group, building and grounds committee, women’s prayer group facilitator, and married couples prayer group facilitator.
“I believe in accompaniment – traveling with others on this journey of faith,” she said. “My love language is service – serving others is what gives me purpose and life. The Servants Song is my personal anthem and believe at the heart of everything, this is what we are called to be to one another – to the Bishop as members of the Diocesan Parish Council, to (Pastor) Father Paul Wharton on the Vicariate Pastoral Council, and to our families and people of our parish.
The hymn she referred to includes these poignant words: “Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you, Pray that I might have the grace to let you be my servant too. We are pilgrims on the journey. We are travelers on the road. We are here to help each other. Walk the mile and bear the load.”
Boggess will serve the DPC for one year and is on the Pastoral Concerns Committee.
While each member brings a wide range of experience to the DPC, members acknowledge and focus on the fact that they represent the many faithful of their region, Whelan said.
“My prayer is that the DPC will be a voice – the voice of the laity and their lived faith experience, that will help Bishop Brennan shepherd this Diocese that has been so long without a true Shepherd,” said Whelan, who for more than three decades has been a member of St. John the Evangelist in Summersville. She will serve on the DPC for a two-year term and sit on the Lay Life and Ministry Committee.
“I am a life-long Catholic; I grew up and went to elementary school at St. Ann’s in Louisville, Ky. (taught by Ursuline Sisters),” she said. “I currently serve as the president of the Pastoral Council at St. John’s and the lead catechist for the Family Catechesis Program. During the past 30 years I have served St. John’s as a catechist and/or DRE concentrating primarily on Adult faith formation and catechist training. I hold a DRE certification from Franciscan University of Steubenville. I have served on the parish Finance Council (I am a practicing CPA), the Ladies of St. John women’s group and have been deeply involved in the planning and execution of our yearly Food Baskets for the poor.”
She said serving her church and community is a joy, knowing she is serving as Christ taught us. “St. John’s is a family of families,” she said. “We are called to share our gifts and talents – they are not given to us for our benefit; they are given to us so that added to others’ gifts and talents we can build up God’s people. ‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.’”

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