Six priests from four Catholic dioceses concelebrated the Mass of the Feast of the Assumption at the historic St. John, the Evangelist, Catholic Church in Sweet Springs, Monroe County, Aug. 15.
Coordinated by the Alleghany Highlands Council 8689 Knights of Columbus, the Mass attracted more than 110 residents from throughout southern West Virginia and Virginia with an ice cream social held on the grounds following the Mass, hosted by the Altar and Rosary societies of St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, Ronceverte, and St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, White Sulphur Springs.
Celebrating the Mass were Monsignor John Williams of the Diocese of Raleigh, NC; Father Harry Winters of St. Paul, MN, the last resident priest to serve Monroe County; Father Tom Collins, pastor of St. Joseph’s, Clifton Forge, VA and Sacred Heart, Covington, VA, of the Diocese of Richmond; Father James Conyers, associate pastor of St. Catherine of Siena, Ronceverte, St. Charles Borromeo, White Sulphur Springs, St. Louis, King of France, mission, Lewisburg and chaplain of the Alleghany Highlands Council Knights of Columbus; Father Bonaventure Lussier and Father Emanuel Touvares, both of Christ on the Mountain Carmelite Monastery near Hinton, all three of the Diocese of Wheeling/Charleston.
“This is certainly a record for this church and community,” Father Winters who is the historian for St. John’s, said, adding, “To have six priests celebrating the Mass is the most ever at St. John’s.” St. John’s is the oldest Catholic Church building in West Virginia, dating back to 1859, with some records indicating it was being built as early as 1839.
Music for the special Mass was provided by the “Hymns and Hers,” the choir of St. Catherine of Siena Church, Ronceverte, under the direction of Mrs. Mary Thompson of Ronceverte. Flowers for the Mass were provided by the Altar and Rosary Society of St. Catherine’s and by Mrs. R. L. Carter of Sweet Springs.
The Church houses historical information collected over the years by Father Winters and other “Friends of St. John’s.” This year, a photograph from the 1930’s showing Father David Lord and one of the members of the Lewis family taken at Earlhurst, VA, has been added to the collection by Mrs. V.V. Deolloqui of Lewisburg. Father Lord was president of Boston College during the 1930’s, spent his summers at Earlhurst with the Admiral Ballenger family, and celebrate Mass daily at the nearby St. John’s Church in Sweet Springs.
The Church is now a part of the parish of St. Charles Borromeo, White Sulphur Springs.
The Church is located at the Intersection of WV/Va. 311 and WV 3 and tours of the historic structure can be arranged through the office of the Catholic Churches of the Greenbrier Valley at 304-536-1813.