The Path That Brought US Here
St. Leo Parish was founded in 1982 by Bishop Joseph H. Hodges, of the Diocese of Wheeling - Charleston. Bishop Hodges always held special interest in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia due to his own roots in Harpers Ferry. The 6.5 acre lot was purchased from Dr. Frank Fisher out of the newly forming Inwood East subdivision. The new church was one of the first buildings in what had formerly been pasture land. The original building still stands and is owned today by the Inwood Family Worship Center/Church of God.
The Parish boundary and early family membership was taken from St. Joseph Parish in Martinsburg. The boundaries include most of southern Berkeley County. When Father Mark Angelo, the first parish administrator, took over leadership, there were about 100 active people in the parish. Two years later, the first pastor, Father Paul Tedesco, began an active ministry and work with the people. The parish grew to 200 families. Unfortunately, after six years Father Tedesco left the priesthood and was replaced by Father Steve Joyce. He maintained the parish, helped to remodel the CCD complex and built the new rectory. Father Steve also took a leave of absence from the priesthood and was eventually replaced by Father Earl Jennings. Fr. Jennings was appointed administrator until June of 1991. On June 23, 1991, Father Brian Shoda was appointed Pastor. Fr. Shoda served St. Leo for 22 years and facilitated the move to the new church complex. Fr. Shoda left the priesthood in 2013. Fr. Paul Wharton was appointed as St. Leo’s pastor in July of 2013. Fr. Paul made many liturgical improvements to the parish including a proper baptismal font and Tabernacle. In October of 2015, Fr. Paul was transferred to St Francis DeSales in Beckley West Virginia. Fr. Alfred Obiudu was appointed Pastor. Fr. Alfred had been at St. Leo as a seminarian and an associate pastor and, as he puts it, "I am now home" . Indeed he is home!
In June of 1991, the Parish had 232 registered families. Today, the Parish has nearly 800 families and has moved into its new home situated on 139 acres. The church complex includes the sanctuary, office space, a conference room with a kitchenette, a library, our Fellowship Hall, and the Religious Education wing with classrooms for grades 1st-8th as well as Confirmation and Youth Group. Our new site also incorporates a 9000 plot cemetery, as well as McGivney Hall, which houses the Knights of Columbus as well as serving as a classroom for Berkeley County’s Head Start Program.
The new growth in our Parish family has changed the entire complexion of our community. Our senior Youth Group has participated in many community projects and has had the opportunity to attend Diocesan retreats and camps in rural Appalachia. We have active ministries that visit the sick and homebound in our parish. We have our own Knights of Columbus Council and Fourth Degree Assembly, as well as our own chapter of the Legion of Mary. There is also a Filipino American community that celebrates Mass in Tagalog every month and holds celebrations that include the entire parish. St. Leo has grown to become a diverse parish that has much to offer to all of our parishioners.
The growth of the Parish and so many activities is supported by the generous help of Parish volunteers. Without them, we could not carry out all of the ministries we offer. Our Christian Service Committee organizes and distributes food once a month to anyone in the area in need. St. Leo’s Little Angels focuses on babies and new mothers in need of clothing, diapers, car seats, and other items for young families. Our Senior Luncheons are cooked, served, and entertained by dedicated volunteers. We are blessed with wonderful volunteers that tend the gardens, wash the windows, tidy up the library, and various other tasks that are part of the day to day business of the parish.
The active and complex Parish family that exists today is quite different from the original community of 1982. However, it was the hard work of people who struggled to make homemade ice cream or organize a carnival to raise enough money to buy new linens for the altar who set the tone and example that we try to follow today. They, the original members, tried to set a style of hospitality and social outreach that has continued by their example and one that we hope will remain in the future. It is with hope and confidence that the solid rock foundation of faith in Jesus Christ and the outstanding Christian witness of those who have preceded us, will help us to continue to support the community at large as well as our fellow parishioners.