The first church I was able to visit this year was Sacred Heart Catholic Church, located on route 52 in Powhatan. Emily and I went on Thursday, January
Sacred Heart was dedicated in Powhatan in 1895, making the church 118 years old! The land was donated by the Crozer Coal and Land Company. Sacred Heart will celebrate their 100th parish anniversary next year, as they became an official parish in 1914.
Mr. Jim Copolo met us there to give us a tour. We walked up the many stairs to the front entrance and into a vestibule. I did not notice the stained glass windows in the vestibule doors at first; however, they are beautiful. On each one, there is an angel. Under each angel is a dedication. The one on the left says: “In Loving Memory of Annie Fortuna Brant By Her Family”. The one on the right: “In Loving Memory of Giustina B. Simplicio By Her Family”.
Sacred Heart is deeply tied to the McDowell County coalfields. Mr. Copolo brought my attention to the stained glass window in the back of the church to the right that says: “Donated by J.J. Tierney and Family”. J.J. Tierney was president of the Crozer Pocahontas Company and Powhatan Coal and Coke Company. Tierney had also been a partner of Jairus Collins, one of the Bramwell millionaires. On the other side of the church is a window that bears the name of L.E. Tierney. L.E. Tierney was Treasurer of the Elk Ridge Coal & Coke Company, President and General Manager of Eureka Coal & Coke Company, and Treasurer and General Manager of the Powhatan Coal & Coke Company. These two men donated these windows to Sacred Heart, and were a great influence to the coal mining of our county.
We walked up a small set of stairs that led to the balcony. On the balcony is an organ that sits in front of another beautiful stained glass window. From the balcony, one can ring the church bell and look out over the sanctuary.
The sanctuary has been enlarged and remodeled as the years have passed. There are two long rows of wooden pews. To the right, at the front, sits a piano and organ. To the left, are the prayer candles and then a small chapel. An entrance to the small chapel leads to the back of the church, which is handicap accessible. At the front is the altar. On the altar is a beautiful picture of the Lord’s Supper. On the back wall is a stained glass window of the Sacred Heart. Beneath the window hangs a large wooden crucifix, carved by hand in Vietnam.
Because our visit coincided with the Epiphany of the Lord, the church’s Christmas decorations were still present. There was a nativity scene in front of the altar, as well as Christmas trees on either side.
Mr. Copolo showed us the rectory that is attached to the church and the fellowship hall underneath. The fellowship hall has a large room for dinners and gatherings, a kitchen, and rooms for the children for religious education classes.
It is evident that the people of Sacred Heart genuinely care about their beautiful church. As all churches in McDowell County have experienced a decrease in attendance, Mr. Copolo told me that the church started praying. As a result of those prayers, the church is once again growing! Parishioners who had to move out of the county due to the flood, but are
close enough to attend, have remained loyal to their parish. During the flood, Sacred Heart was able to deliver food prepared by Sacred Heart of Bluefield to those in need in the county. Because there were so many displaced after the flood and in need, Sacred Heart was a blessing to those in the Powhatan and surrounding areas.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.
Thank you, Mr. Copolo, for the tour and history of your beautiful church.
**Note: God answers prayer. There are a couple more churches in McDowell County that I am aware of that are growing, also!