The oldest standing Catholic Church in West Virginia, St. John, the Evangelist, Church in Sweet Springs, Monroe County, less than one mile from the Virginia border, will be the site for the annual Mass on the Feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15, at 6 p.m. and the public is invited to attend.
Father James Conyers, associate pastor of St. Charles Borromeo in White Sulphur Springs and St. Catherine of Siena in Ronceverte, will officiate at the Mass which last year saw some six priests from four dioceses participating. Father Conyer, who is chaplain for the Alleghany Highlands Council 8689 Knights of Columbus which coordinates the special service and tours of the historic church, notes that since the Mass is on Saturday evening, it will fulfill the Sunday obligation for Catholics participating.
The Church, built by slave labor from the Lynnside plantation for the benefit of the daughters and wife of former Virginia Governor John Floyd who owned the plantation, was completed and in full use by 1859, though some records indicate the church was already under construction or in use as early as 1839. Records of the church burned when the plantation house was gutted by fire in the 1930s.
Historically, the Sweet Springs church has ties to the Catholic communities in Tazewell and Wythe counties, Virginia, as well as the Greenbrier and Nicholas County Catholic communities. A limited number of a history booklet about the Chapel, written by Father Harry Winters of St. Paul, MN, the last resident priest in Monroe County, will be available on Aug. 15 at the Chapel.
As was the custom in the 1800s and early 1900s, there will be an ice cream social on the grounds following the special Mass, arranged by the Altar and Rosary Society of St. Catherine of Siena and the Altar Society of St. Charles Borromeo and the Knights.
The church will be opened at 4 p.m. for those who wish to tour the historic church and will remain open during the ice cream social. The cemeteries connected with the church are expected to be available to visit, as a result of recent restoration work by Gov. and Mrs. Floyd’s descendants from the Fayette County area.
St. John, the Evangelist, is now a part of the St. Charles Borromeo Parish.
Located at the intersection of WV/VA 311 and WV 3, the church is easily reached from the south on US 219 to Union and WV 3 east to Sweet Springs; from the north and west, via Interstate 64, using the Crows Exit 183 and following WV/VA 311; from the east, use the Callaghan, VA, Exit and follow VA 159 to Route 311 and south on 311 to the church.
For additional information, contact the office of the Catholic Churches of the Greenbrier Valley at 304-536-1813 or the Knights of Columbus at 304-645-1373.