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Monday, January 24, 2011

Catholic Church in Chester Owes Part of Its Existence to RSP

If you grew up in Chester, WV, or visited the firemen’s carnival on 4th Street, then you are sure to remember Sacred Heart Church on the hill. Perhaps you went there.

Research shows that Rock Springs Park played a part in the construction of this beautiful Catholic Church in town.

According to the publication The Catholic Church in the United States of America, Volume 3, in response to the appeal of seventeen Catholic families from Chester in 1902, a Bishop Donahue sent Father O.H. Moye and Father Galway, of the cathedral, to Chester to investigate the possibility of sending a permanent priest to the new town at the top of the northern panhandle

“Although their report was favorable,” cites the volume, “the Bishop hesitated in sending a priest to so small a parish.” He eventually did send pastor, Rev. Wm J. Sauer, on December 16, 1902.

Prior to that time Mass had never been celebrated in Chester, consequently the new pastor borrowed chalice, missal, and altar stone from the Cathedral and bought vestments, “on credit,” from the Tabernacle Society of Wheeling.

The first Mass was celebrated in the home of Patrick Burns on December 21, 1902. At that time there were only two boys at the proper age to serve at the altar. A fair was held for the benefit of the church at Rock Springs Park Pavilion in January 1903 and “over $1800 was cleared." During the following summer Mass was celebrated in the Hotel Chester, where Father Sauer was staying. By August 1903 a new rectory was built and a little over two years later, in October 1905, the first floor of the new rectory was completed.

When I was younger I visited the street fair along 4th street and rode the Ferris wheel many times that was set up in front of Sacred Heart. While rocking at the top of the ride above the church rooftop but not nearly as high as the steeple, it never occurred to me that Rock Springs Park helped build this wonderful structure.

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