History of St. Stephen Catholic Church
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.