Charles Town, West Virginia, has a new city landmark — St. James Catholic Church — believed to be the largest Catholic church in the state.
Bishop Michael Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston will preside at the dedication mass for the new church this evening.
About two years ago, parishioners decided it was high time their growing congregation, currently numbering 3,400, had a new home. The old church seats only 276 people and seven services had to be held on the weekends to accommodate everyone, reported the Charles Town Herald. The parish also has a growing Hispanic population.
The parish had bought 22 acres of land for a future church site in 1999, but plans for the new church were only concretized two years ago.
Parishioners held fundraisers, raising more than $3 million. This was enough to build the church. The complex is being completed in phases. The rectory and the parish school are next on the horizon. They will require about another $14.4 million combined.
Dedication ceremonies for the new church began Sunday. It included a nearly two-mile procession, from the old church to the new one, carrying altar items, statues and other sacred objects.
The new church is decorated with 100 stained-glass windows – including 13 stained-glass windows transferred from the old church — an altar made of Italian Botticino marble, and numerous statues carved by craftsmen in Peru. It also includes a digital organ with four keyboards.
The church is home to 85 ministries, including prayer groups, the Knights of Columbus and ministry to the sick. The old church will still be kept for various functions.