West Virginia Historical Summary
The Passionist ministry within the state of West Virginia began in the mid-1970s with the arrival of the Passionist Volunteers under the direction of Father Jerome McKenna.
In 1981, Father McKenna was asked to assume the pastoral duties in Preston County, West Virginia, an area of 640 square miles with six Catholic churches. Father McKenna was installed as pastor in 1981 and was joined at different times by Fathers Richard McLaughlin, Thomas Ruhf, Morgan Hanlon, Columkille O’Grady, Charles Dougherty, and William Davin. The present pastor, Father Mark Ward, and his associate pastor, Father Vincent Segotta, are joined in their ministry by Deacon Arnie and Pat Lipscomb, Mr. J. Francis Imgrund, Sister Claude Vitale, CSJ, and Sister Priscilla Wiedenschlager, CSJ. In addition to the ministry staff, the parishioners participate in a variety of the parish’s ministries: pastoral council, the diocesan Koinoia Program, youth ministry, catechetics, social concerns, the Altar Society, and the St. Vincent DePaul Society.
In the past 20 years, the unique vision of ministry, Passionist presence, and lay involvement has evolved into a model of church ministry that is strikingly effective. In addition to the administration of the sacraments, the celebration of Mass, and the education of the young, there is a strong emphasis in the area of social concerns. A unique aspect of a countywide ministry is the home repair program. Parish groups from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and North Carolina, numbering several hundred adults and youth, spend a week among people of the county who require repairs to their homes. About 120 families are assisted.
Of approximately 29,000 people in the county, 1,500 are Catholics and are widespread throughout Preston County. At present there are three worship sites, a funeral chapel, and a devotional chapel for the spiritual needs and sacramental life of the people.