Story Behind the Photo: Collage- St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, Weirton, WV

StPauls Church Fav No. 1

So I just started my own photography website. http:/// . I picked two of the places that I love to photograph/feature first. This one is of St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in Weirton, West Virginia, my childhood hometown.   I think about why this place means so much to me when I look back at my life and why I felt compelled first to feature it.

My grandparents and great-grandparents were members of this Church when they immigrated here from Italy in the early 1918-20’s. My parents were married here too.  As a kid, the church to me was a constant. Every Sunday. The songs and prayer now so familiar to me. The one time a week my family was able to get together and be together as a family, even with my extended family, my Italian cousins. What a treat it was for me to sit with everyone there, united in the pews, for a common purpose, bellies rumbling because we had to fast before mass, anxious to get to my grandmother’s weekly Italian dinner. I still delight whenever I spot one of my cousins at church. Even though I now live in Pittsburgh, I try to catch a mass at least once a month or so when my children and I visit my mom and relatives.

My memories inside the church are vivid.  My first communion. The bagpiper from my wedding.  My dad and grandma and grandfather’s funeral.  Jack’s baptism.  The giant Christmas trees, the advent wreath.  The excitement as Christmas and Easter drew near.  My new outfits  for every holiday.  Hearing Ave Maria fill up the stairway.  The joyful joyful songs as we exit the Church.  My spirit renewed and ready for the week.  The parishioners that we saw every week and watched their families grow.

As a teen, I always respected priests.  They were intellectual and their homilies drew me in.  I wanted to be articulate and influential like them.  I wanted to be of service.  My foundations for what is right and wrong– all coming from this place.   My earliest memories are from the Children’s Church in the basement, singing songs about not letting anyone blow your light out  (This little light of mine!) and being in the Lord’s Army!

Now, as a parent myself and living in a different town, I feel like I am cheating somewhat on St. Paul’s.  I want to provide my children with the same experience here.  Like churches for so many others, it is definitely a special place for me and I wanted to capture it in photographs.  What are the places that are near and dear to you?

I love this collage because it captures so much of what I remember.  I took these pictures in a single day in about an hour as mass was unfolding on a Saturday evening as the sun was streaming in through the glass windows.   This is my favorite time to be inside the church.   The holy water bowl, the curvature of the stairways, the stained glass, the tabernacle, the statutes, the smiles of the priest in his flowing cloak, the intelligent look on his face, my mom’s smile, the sunlight, the grand architecture of the church on the outside, the bell tower.

So there you have it.  My first collage and blog post about it!  Would love to hear your stories, thoughts.

The full set of photos in the project can be found here.  You can purchase prints via the website also.  All 2015 net proceeds benefit the Weirton Feed for Success Backpack Program, run by my cousin and St. Paul’s Parishioner Shanna Cowan Earley.