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St. Mary’s has rich history but looks to the future

This year, St. Mary Orthodox Church in Westover is celebrating 100 years of serving the community.

The number of people of Eastern European origin emigrating to West Virginia peaked in the first two decades of the 20th century. They came for many reasons, including to find work in West Virginia’s booming extractive industries or to escape ethnic or religious persecution.

According to the 1920 census, over 1,000 of Monongalia County’s 33,000 residents were of Eastern European origin. There was an existing Orthodox church in Sabraton at the time, but in 1922 a group decided to form its own congregation and purchased the land in Westover on which to build a church.

The yellow-brick building with its signature gold-leaf domes at the corner of West Park and Holland avenues was first dedicated as St. Michael the Archangel on Sept. 8, 1923. A few decades later, it was renamed St. Mary’s Orthodox Catholic Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother of God. Mercifully, it is known simply as St. Mary’s for short.

St. Mary’s is a member of The American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese. There are 78 parishes of this denomination in the U.S., and only one other in West Virginia. These churches exude the rich cultural and religious history of the Orthodox faith. The interior of St. Mary’s has beautiful gold leaf, a crowd of religious icons and an elaborate iconostasis, or altar screen, which separates the nave from the sanctuary. The liturgy is bound to feel unfamiliar to those more accustomed to other Christian traditions, but there is a helpful guideline of what to expect on the website,

Father Deacon Thomas Slosky was recently appointed to serve the parish after being ordained on July 2 of this year. Slosky is also a licensed professional counselor, which enables him to preach in a way that marries old-school theology with modern sensibilities. St. Mary’s demonstrates ancient traditions and is an essential piece of local history, but it also looks forward to the future.

EVA MURPHY is a freelance business writer for The Dominion Post. She writes a column on businesses, churches and other entities in the city. To suggest a topic, email her at