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Procession leads to new Catholic church

July 24, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA.

Some carrying statues and other property of the church, hundreds of members of St. James Catholic Church in Charles Town walked nearly two miles Sunday evening to a new church along W.Va. 9 that is believed to be the largest Catholic church in West Virginia.

Church members walked to a new church that could cost up to $14.4 million when all the phases are completed.

Church officials say the new facility was needed to accommodate significant growth in its membership, which stands at about 3,400 people.

Sunday evening's procession, considered to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many Catholics, was the beginning of the dedication of the new church.

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On Tuesday, a dedication Mass will be celebrated at 7 p.m. at the new church.

The dedication Mass is scheduled to begin outside the church with prayer and the Mass will be celebrated by the Most Rev. Michael Bransfield, bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, and assisted by the Rev. Brian Owens, a pastor at the church, and some visiting priests.

During Sunday's procession, church members gathered outside the old church at 311 S. George St., following the last service at the church.

Church members then began their long walk to the new church, carrying statues, items from the altar and the Eucharist to their new home.

One of the items was a large crucifix which held a practically life-size sculpture of Jesus Christ.

The sculpture was separated from the crucifix and was being carried by a group of young people.

"Some of these objects will take a couple of people to carry," said John Sherwood, a church volunteer and coordinator of the dedication.

The procession was draped in formality.

David Galvin, a deacon at St. James, carried a monstrance, which is a gold vessel for carrying the body of Christ. Galvin walked under a canopy being carried by four men and the smell of incense wafted through the air as the party walked past.

"Fantastic," is how church member Colleen Spotts of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., described Sunday's event.

"It's a long time coming," said Spotts, adding that air conditioning in the 116-year-old church on George Street often struggled to keep up with the big crowds in the church.

Church member Hank Happy took pictures of his daughter outside the old church as the procession began to form.

Hank said he was happy to be moving into a church that would more comfortably handle the church's growing congregation.

The procession went up Avis Street and then down Samuel Street to W.Va. 115. The crowd crossed W.Va. 115 and took a break at City National Bank before proceeding the rest of the way up the highway to the church.

Church officials announced two years ago that they intended to build the new church.

Owens said during the last Mass before Sunday's procession that Catholic officials told him that there was no money to build a new church.

Church members decided to tackle the project on their own and raise the money.

By "working together in faith," the congregation was able to make things happen, Owens said.

"If we had Christ on our side, nothing could stop us," Owens said during his Sunday service. "No matter how many trials and tribulations come our way, we can conquer it all," Owens said.

Many of the church members participating in Sunday's procession wore red clothing, which was to symbolize the blood of St. James.

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