In June 1980, Bishop Joseph H. Hodges of Wheeling-Charleston asked Rev. Larry Dorsch to lead the formation of the Catholic Church in Ona. The first gathering of the Catholic Mission of Ona was June 22, 1980 in the Parish House at 2488 James River Turnpike, Ona.
The first Mass was celebrated on Sunday, June 29, 1980 in the Malcolm Springs community building at 10:00 a.m. Bishop Hodges accepted St. Stephen as the offical patron and namesake of the community. The mission was raised to the status of Parish on April 1, 1981. Architech Anthony Dorsch of Pittsburgh was hired to design plans for the new parish.
On August 23, 1981 the groundbreaking for St. Stephen Catholic Center took place at noon on the future site of the church as part of the Sunday Eucharist. As a sign of commitment from the Parish, everyone brought a shovel to the ceremony and turned spades of dirt together. Debcon, Inc. of Ashland, Kentucky was the general contractor.
St. Stephen Catholic Center’s dedication was May 28, 1982 with Bishop Hodges and more than 20 clergy participating in the celebration. The 11,000 square foot building is designed to serve as worship, educational and social center for the community. All facilities are contained in one building. Everything in the sanctuary can be moved easily and quickly so the main space can be converted to a multi-purpose room.
Former Blenko Glass designer Don Shepherd designed the mobile glass Altar. The Stations of the Cross, designed and woven by Culloden Master Weaver and parishioner, Beatrice Bannerman, adorn the walls of the Chapel.
Parishioners of St. Stephens are involved in many areas of social services and believe that giving the tradition of faith is by sharing with others. The church helped establish E.C.C.H.O. (Eastern Cabell County Humanities Organization), which provides food and clothing to those in need. Other community projects are the monthly City Mission dinners prepared by the parish and served at the facility located downtown. Visits to the homebound and the people in the nursing homes are other areas where parishioners reach out to others.
Doing things together spiritually and socially is another goal of the parish of St. Stephen. Sunday worship, bible study, adult and children’s religious education classes, music ministry, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, confirmation and first communion classes are the foundation of the church.
Sunday, June 24, 1990, Rev. Larry Dorsch celebrated the 10th anniversary of St. Stephen Catholic Center and installed Rev. Robert L. Herrick as the new pastor for the community. In the fall of 1993, Fr. Herrick resigned his pastorate. February 11, 1993, Rev. M. Gerald Gordon, T.O.R. was appointed to St. Stephen Catholic Center until 1996. Then, Msgr. Lawrence Luciana was appointed to St. Stephen Catholic Center from 1996 to 1997. In 1997, Rev. Bert W. Valdes resided as St. Stephen’s new pastor for the next 10 years. In 2007, Rev. James Sobus was assigned to St. Stephen Catholic Center until 2013, at which time Fr. Babu Joseph Elamturuthil was assigned until 2015 Rev. Paul Yuenger was assigned, until June 2016 when Fr. Jeeson Venatu Stephan, M.C.B.S., was appointed administrator of St. Stephen Parish in Ona and Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Wayne, with residence at the parish rectory in Ona. In June of 2017 Fr. Jeeson was reassigned to Sacred Heart Parish in Chester, WV and Rev. Prakash Sebastian, H.G.N. was appointed pastor of St. Stephen and Nativity of Our Lord in Wayne, with residence at St. Stephen.
***We now have Adult Catechesis sessions on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. These sessions begin right before mass at 9:15 in the main church. All are welcome!
Adult Catechesis – The Beatitudes
Jesus issues the eight Beatitudes as the opening of the Sermon on the Mount. Scripture records the Beatitudes in two versions, differing slightly, in Matt. 5:1-12 and in Luke 6:20-26. We will follow here the version in Matthew. Commentary comes in part from Saint Augustine’s commentary on the Sermon on the Mount,” written in 393 a.d.
(As a personal note, I like to tie the Beatitudes to a powerful verse in Gal. 5:6, “What matters (most) is faith that works through love.” In other words, if we want our faith to be ALIVE, we must practice love—love of God and love of others. Learning to live in the spirit of the Beatitudes is one important way to love God and our fellow human beings and thus exemplify “faith that works through love.”)
St. Augustine (in his Sermon 53 on the Beatitudes) sees the Beatitudes as exemplifying the heavenly dispositions that lead to our becoming holy.
- “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” St. Augustine suggests that this Beatitude has to do with a person’s being humble, not “puffed up,” and detached from worldly possessions and status. In other words nothing we own, including a title or position, should be more important to us than our fidelity to God and God’s will.
- “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” True meekness, according to St. Augustine, involves “self possession ordered to Christ.” So a disciplined will that puts adherence to Christ as primary should be our goal.
- “Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted.” God does not bless every form of mourning, especially not self pity or despair. Ideally we should mourn for our sins and the sins of others in the world and pray for the overcoming of sin and sinful habits.
- “Blessed are they who thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.” The Holy Spirit will show us what right thinking and right action are, if we ask in humility. Then we can champion the cause of those who may suffer from unjust treatment by others (abuse, discrimination, unfairness.)
- “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” St. Augustine reminds us that we are beggars at God’s door. If someone is begging mercy or pardon from us, Augustine entreats us that “as you treat your beggar, so will God treat (you).”
- “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.” Cleansing sin and a disposition to sin from our hearts will purify us and gives us the spiritual eyes “to see God.” A Godly heart is fixed on God as the supreme good and rejects anything that opposes God’s directions.
- “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.” God’s peace is complete only when a soul has everything in its proper order and oriented to God. Souls filled with God’s love are souls capable of promoting peace among their fellows.
- “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven.” The first seven Beatitudes are free will choices on our part. The eighth Beatitude is what is done to us as a consequence of our practicing the first seven. Count it all a joy!
Faith Outreach Committee and Patrick Grace
Adult Catechesis – The popes’ role in the church
Ours is a church governed by a hierarchy, with one man, the pope, at the helm, acting as what theologians call “the Vicar of Christ.” A vicar would be someone assigned to act in place of a ruler; therefore, we understand Jesus Christ himself to be the head of the church, and the pope, as vicar, as “the visible head.”
The Catholic church traces the papacy straight back to St. Peter as designated by Christ as “the rock (petrus—rock) upon whom I will build my church” (Matt 16:18). Following Peter’s governorship of the first-century church, there is an unbroken line of successors—266 thus far—reaching right up to Pope Francis.
Currently we have two living popes, Francis (the former Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina) as the pope in charge of governing the church, and Benedict XVI (the former Cardinal Josef Ratzinger from Germany) as “pope emeritus.” Benedict resigned in February 2013 for reasons of frail health and Francis began his papal reign in March 2013 Pope Francis is now 80 years old.
Here are the popes in the lifetime of those of us who are now in our 70s and 80s: Pius XII, pope during World War II, who died in 1958. John XXIII, who convoked the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council which ushered dramatic changes into the church (such as switching from Latin to vernacular languages for the Mass and allowing lay people to function as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist), Paul VI, who promulgated the decrees of Vatican II and among other things, facilitated priests who wanted to be relieved of their vow of chastity to become “laicized” and remain in the Catholic church, John Paul I, whose reign lasted just a month before his sudden death; John Paul II, a Polish prelate formerly Archbishop of Krakow, the first non-Italian pope in 400 years, who held the Chair of St. Peter for nearly 28 years, survived an assassin’s bullet in St Peter’s Square, and died in 2005 of Parkinson’s disease. John XXII and John Paul II were canonized as saints on April 27, 2017 by Pope Francis.
The Faith Formation Committee and Patrick Grace