History

Air ShotResting atop a mountain overlooking the Ohio River, Paul VI Pastoral Center occupies a 149 acre plot of what once was rich farmland with great history.

The earliest recorded settlers were John and Rebeca (Abrams) Wilson. They came to West Virginia from Amboy, New Jersey in 1773. Thus, the area became known as the Wilson Homestead. Carved into the sandstone on the side of the farm house standing just north of the Center, which now serves as the Saint Joseph of Leonissa Hermitage of the Capuchin friars, is the date and name of its original owner, J. Wilson, 1855. Over time, ownership of the Wilson Homestead passed to other families of prominence in the history of the region. The record of ownership lists family names and dates as follows:

Located in an upper field near the southeast corner of the property, along Stone and Shannon Road, is a small cemetery of the Short Creek Methodist Church where early settlers of the area are buried. The grave markers are a true testament to the pioneer struggles in those early days.

After its purchase in 1946 by Dr. and Mrs. Webb, the property was known as “The Webb Farm.” Dr. Webb, a prominent Wheeling physician and surgeon, practiced medicine in the area from 1909 until his death in 1952. His wife Elizabeth (Ahart) was a graduate of Wheeling Hospital School of Nursing. Married in 1937, they shared common interests in medicine and flowers. Dr. Webb was widely known in the floricultural circles. The purchase of the property enabled him to consolidate his flower growing in one location. Dr. and Mrs. Webb hybridized several types of peonies, gladioli and roses. Some of their flowers, such as the Eleanor Steber peony and the White Symphony gladiolus became world renowned.

Bishop Joseph H. Hodges, purchased the Webb Farm on April 23, 1963 for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, but it was not until 1980 that ground would be broken and construction begun on Paul VI Pastoral Center. Bishop Hodges dedicated the Center on October 28, 1981.

? James McColloch
1879 William McColloch Magee and his wife
1889 Jacob Ziles
1900 W. M. Dunlap
1900 Ophelia Pollock and Cecilia Yost
1925 Inherited by the Cresap family, a brother of Cecilia Yost
1927 transferred to the Cresap Improvement Co., WV Corp.
1935 Charles and Lena Cresap
1946 W. S. Webb and his wife, Elizabeth
1963 Bishop Joseph H. Hodges and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston

The history of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston includes support from the Capuchin friars of the Province of Saint Augustine. From its earliest days, the Diocese has called upon friars to establish and maintain many parishes and missions throughout the entire State of West Virginia. In 1999, the red brick farmhouse adjacent to Paul VI Pastoral Center and dating back to 1855, was dedicated as the Capuchin Hermitage of Saint Joseph of Leonissa and serves as a center for contemplation not only for the friars who form its small community but for many others. From time to time, the friars shared in the ministry of Paul VI Pastoral Center. It seemed a natural fit then, in the fall of 2001, when Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt, invited the Capuchin friars of the Saint Augustine Province to assume directorship of Paul VI Pastoral Center.
Pope Paul VI2003 was a year of transition for Paul VI Pastoral Center. The building underwent considerable renovation, with the expansion of the main lobby to twice its original size, as well as many other improvements. It was fitting enough then, for a rededication ceremony to be held on August 3, 2003. But even more importantly, 2003 marked the fortieth anniversary of the election of Pope Paul VI and the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death. In paying tribute to Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, in his general audience of June 25, 2003, said: “A strong and humble apostle, Paul VI loved the Church and worked for its unity and to intensify its missionary activity …. He wanted the ecclesial community to open up to the world, without giving in to the spirit of the world.” The rededication of the Pastoral Center by Bishop Schmitt signified a recommitment on the part of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to the ongoing implementation of the Second Vatican Council and the work of Pope Paul VI.

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield’s visit to the Center in the fall of 2006 to celebrate the Center’s twenty-fifth anniversary, and another series of renovations completed in 2008 confirm that commitment by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

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