New Catholic church caters to growing congregation

July 24, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Four hundred tons of steel.

Roughly 12 miles of wiring for telephones and computers.

The exterior is strengthened with 350,000 bricks, the roof is covered with 66,000 pieces of slate and there are 100 stained-glass windows.

The altar, fabricated in Italy, is made of Botticino marble and the church is expected to have numerous statues carved by craftsmen in Peru.

If you haven't been able to guess what this new Charles Town landmark is, it is the St. James Catholic Church that now rises predominantly in the western edge of the city's skyline along W.Va. 9.


About two years in the works, the new church - believed to be the biggest Catholic church in West Virginia - was built to give a new home to the church's growing congregation, which stands at about 3,400.

Dedication ceremonies for the new facility began Sunday and the events included a procession in which church members walked and carried altar items, statues and other church property to the new church adjacent to the Crosswinds subdivision about a mile away.

The old church at 311 S. George St. seats 276 people and about seven services had to be held on the weekends to accommodate everyone, church officials have said.

The congregation decided that a new church would be built and church members began raising money for a new facility. Church officials decided to construct the facility in four phases and move to each succeeding phase as the prior one is paid off.

Church members have probably raised more than $3 million, which was enough to get started on the main worship facility, said John Sherwood, a church volunteer and coordinator of the dedication ceremonies.

"It's incredible what we have been able to do as a parish church," the Rev. Brian Owens said in his last service Sunday night before the procession began.

It is estimated that up to $14.4 million might be needed to finish the project, which will include a rectory and possibly an elementary school or high school.

It is too early to determine when the remaining money will be raised or when the project might be completed, Sherwood said.

"We're going to have a mortgage, and we would certainly like to pay the mortgage off sooner than later," Sherwood said Sunday.

The church is being built on 22 acres the church bought in 1999.

The architectural firm of O'Brien and Keane Architects of Arlington, Va., which specializes in design of public buildings like churches and schools, designed the church and the construction firm was March-Westin Co. of Morgantown, W.Va., Sherwood said.

Features inside the church include a digital organ with four keyboards and a marble altar.

The marble that was used to construct the altar is known as Botticino marble, and its name originates from an area in Italy of the same name.

Quarrying of Botticino marble dates to Roman times and the material has been used for centuries for important buildings and monuments, according to the Web site, Marble and More.

"This is a large altar. I've not seen one in a parish church this size," Sherwood said.

Although there are 100 new stained glass windows in the church, there are also 13 stained glass windows which were transferred from the old church, church officials said.

The 13 windows now line a hallway that leads to a fellowship hall in the new church, Sherwood said.

But Sherwood emphasized that there is more to the church than its physical appearance.

The church will be home to 85 different ministries that specialize in areas such as prayer groups, the Knights of Columbus and groups that help families deal with funerals and other concerns.

"We have a growing Hispanic ministry as well," Sherwood said.

The stained glass windows that were taken out of the old church have been replaced with clear windows, and church officials plan to keep the old church for now for various functions, Sherwood said.

Built on bricks and faith

The construction of the new St. James Catholic Church in Charles Town, W.Va., included a lot of material:

· 66,000 pieces of slate on the roof

· 350,000 bricks on the exterior

· 400 tons of steel

· 62,000 feet of wiring for phones and computers

· 100 new stained-glass windows

· 13 stained-glass windows transferred from the old church

· Several statues carved by craftsmen in Peru

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