By RICHARD F. BELISLE
5:37 PM EST, December 30, 2012
Question: What does St. Peter’s Church in Rome and St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Hedgesville have in common?
Answer: The stained-glass windows in both churches were made by the Franz Mayer Co. in Germany.
The St. Bernadette windows were made around the turn of the 20th century by Munich artisans. They were donated to the church by an anonymous donor, the Rev. George Pucciarelli said.
Pucciarelli only would say that the donor was someone he knew while he was a U.S. Navy chaplain. He served his 30-year hitch assigned to the Marine Corps.
“The Navy provides chaplains to the Marines,” said Pucciarelli, who retired with the rank of captain in 2002.
Ground for the new church was broken in the fall of 2011 and the first Mass was celebrated in June. The Rev. Michael Bransfield, bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese, officiated at its formal dedication on Dec. 13.
The stained-glass windows depict the Joyful and Glorious Mysteries. The three windows behind the altar illuminate the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit.
“You don’t find windows with colors, intricate designs and life-like details like these today,” Pucciarelli said. “They’re at least 100 years old. We could never have afforded to buy them.”
The windows weren’t the only recycled materials from the anonymous donor that went into the new church.
The benefactor also donated artifacts from the chapel in the now-closed Saint Vincent’s Catholic Hospital in New York City, said Patti Maerten, executive assistant of the church.
Among them were the marble altar, the marble wall behind the altar, marble under the altar and front foyer, candle holders, water fonts, a couple of carved doors, the tabernacle and the large painting of the “Image of Heaven” that hangs over the sanctuary door.
“Now, they all have a new life in West Virginia,” Pucciarelli said. “People come here to admire them, be lifted up and to pray.”
Refurbished statues of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph came from the old Saint James Catholic Church in Charles Town, W.Va.
“We love our new church. It’s so traditional,” said Barbara Loefler of Spring Mills, W.Va., a parishioner for nine years. “It’s so much more peaceful and spiritual than the old building. We just sat around in chairs in there.”
Before the new church was built, the congregation celebrated Mass in an adjacent converted restaurant building.
Penny Stritch is the music director. “The acoustics are so much better here than in the old room. It only had two speakers. It was horrible,” she said.
Luz Dolly Benavides has been a member for 10 years.
“What I love about this church is that it makes you feel welcome and warm,” Benavides said. “It’s a beautiful place that really moves you.”
Saint Bernadette began life as a mission church of Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Martinsburg, W.Va., in 1978. A few families began attending Mass in a private home. In 1981, the Diocese bought three properties including the Country Kitchen Diner, a stone house and a run-down frame house that was demolished.
The diner was converted into a multipurpose center for Masses, education and socials. Equipped now with a modern kitchen, it serves as the church’s banquet hall and community center.
Today, the congregation numbers about 175 families.
Pucciarelli, 64, came to the church in 2007. He grew up in Boston, and trained for the priesthood at Boston College and Saint John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. He was a parish priest for seven years before enlisting in the Navy.
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