…not because we did not want to visit War, WV, but rather, we simply ran out of time. On Sunday, Srs. June Fitzgerald, Pat Dual, and I drove to Powhatan, WV, to visit Dominican Sister of Peace Binh Nguyen, OP, who ministers in McDowell County, WV, in four parishes that share one priest. We wanted to see what kind of work she does and to see what the possibilities are for some of the women who are discerning with us to spend a week or two in ministry with her.
We had a delightful day on Monday visiting Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Sr. Binh’s ministry site at Catholic Charities of West Virginia, meeting a teacher, Gwen, in one of the Adult Basic Education Centers in the local area, visiting St. Peter Catholic Church in Welch, meeting Fr. Tony, Janet, and Amy who also minister in the parish. We also traveled to Gary, WV, where we visited with a local parishioner, Cecelia and her brother Walter, and two of her neighbors, Sue and Bill who shared one of their angel trumpet plants and some of their rooster’s comb flower seeds with us.
We stopped at the Five Loaves and Two Fishes Food Bank where we met the Methodist minister, Bob and his wife Linda, who have been present and in assistance to the people of the area for the past 27 years. Finally, we stopped to visit Nancy, a parishioner of Sacred Heart. We also wanted to go see the parish in War, WV, where Sister Binh also ministers, but the day was just not long enough! We still had to have time to celebrate Sr. Pat’s birthday!
I was touched by the kindness of the people and the lives they have built in an area that is challenged economically because of the lack of employment opportunities. The coal industry is still alive there, but fewer and fewer workers are needed because of the improved technology in mining the coal. I found myself pondering the question – how do the people in an area that was once economically sound, transform itself so that new generations can have life giving, healthy, and good employment opportunities? Answering this question creatively here and in many parts of our country and world seems to me to be one of the biggest challenges of our time and one that requires the best energy and insights of the people who live in these places with support and encouragement from all of us. Some of the local people are quoted on the posters in the windows of an empty store front in Welch and are included in the photos.
Today as I reflect back on the visit, what stays with me is the beauty of the people and of the place. What also stays with me is hearing of the needs of the people, the water, and the land and praying for hopeful resolutions for them. I will long remember this experience. Please click here for some photos of our visit.