Blacksburg’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church celebrates 75th birthday
St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Blacksburg has roots expanding from as far north as Wheeling, West Virginia, as far east as Richmond and as far south as Wytheville.
It began within the Diocese of Wheeling, West Virginia when Catholics in Montgomery County were served by priests from Wytheville or Roanoke on a very irregular basis. The first mention of Blacksburg appeared in 1911 as a station of St. Mary’s of Wytheville. Eventually, a small church was erected on North Main Street in Blacksburg (the site of Wendy’s Restaurant) and was named Sacred Heart Chapel which was listed in the Catholic Directory as a mission of Wytheville in 1918.
The first official church was dedicated in June, 1924 and was named St. Mary’s. It was deemed necessary to serve the needs of the Army and Navy officers and veterans located at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI) and the growing Catholic population of the New River Valley.
On September1, 1938 St. Mary’s was large enough to become a parish in the Wheeling Diocese. The parish originally consisted of Montgomery, Floyd, Giles, and part of Craig counties.
With the end of World War II, the surge in veterans attending VPI and the increase in the number of faculty members created a need for a larger worship space. The classic Carolina granite building on Progress Street was finished in 1948. The old parish church on Wilson Avenue became the “new” parish hall.
As Blacksburg and Virginia Tech grew it was determined that a new building was again a necessary. The 1980 construction began on a new church on Harding Avenue and was dedicated in October 1981.When St. Mary’s parish celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1988, it had about 375 families.
In 2000, the parish had grown to about 700 families and served many of the 4,500 Catholic students at Virginia Tech. At that time, Father Jim Arsenault arranged for the purchase of thirty-five acres of land and a house on Old Mill Road. The house would become the rectory and a new building would be built.
On June 28, 2008 the first Mass in the new church was said. Bishop Francis DiLorenzo dedicated St. Mary’s on July 29th. The following June, Father Arsenault was transferred to Richmond and Father Remi Sojka came to the parish from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Salem.
On Sept. 8, St. Mary’s Catholic Church is honoring the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and celebrating 75 years in the New River Valley.
The day will include lunch beginning at 11:15 a.m. followed by a variety of games, activities for all ages and door prizes.
For more information, go to www.stmarysblacksburg.org.
– Submitted by Terry Robinson