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‘Here’s the Church, Here’s the Steeple ...’

Our Lady of Lebanon seeks to raise funds to finish project

August 24, 2013
By HEATHER ZIEGLER - Associate City Editor , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

A church without a steeple is much like a piano without keys. At Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Center Wheeling, the pastor and parishioners are trying to remedy the fact that their church is without a steeple.

Over the years, the original steeple that stood 25 feet high was struck by lightning numerous times. Eventually the steeple, which held a massive 3,000-pound bell, deteriorated to the point that both the bell and steeple had to be removed in 1979.

Current pastor, Monsignor Bakhos Chidiac, said the bell used to be rung from the inside of the choir loft and, as conditions worsened, it became a safety issue. The steeple tower was a unique design that complemented the church structure at 2216 Eoff St. It was built to resemble the Blessed Virgin Mary's crown.

Article Photos

Photo by Heather Ziegler
Monsignor Bakhos Chidiac, pastor at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church, stands next to the new steeple being built by Walters Construction.

Chidiac said the parish, like many in the area, is experiencing an older population with more challenges. However, the parishioners agreed to embark on an aggressive fundraising campaign to have a new steeple built. The project carries a cost of $135,000, of which $100,000 has already been pledged. Now Chidiac is looking for ways to complete the project without sending the church into debt.

"We built our beautiful addition on the church in 2008 for $3 million and did it without borrowing any money. That was such a blessing," Chidiac said. "Now we need help to make our church a complete bridal house for the Blessed Mother."

Chidiac, standing on the sidewalk of the church, looked out across the city and pointed to three or four church steeples located nearby. He said his church wants to complete that vista by having a steeple, bell and cross atop their building.

He said Dr. Alfred Ghaphery donated funds to have a 6-foot gold cross placed on the steeple, while the late Christian Hess donated the bell. The Hess Foundation made a donation as well.

Walters Construction in the Fulton section of Wheeling is putting the finishing touches on the new steeple which can be seen towering over the construction firm's parking lot.

Our Lady of Lebanon is no stranger to challenges. The original church building was destroyed by fire in 1932. Miraculously, a painting of the Virgin Mary was untouched by the flames and fire hoses aimed at it.

Church officials took this as a sign that the church was to be rebuilt and that the painting was to be placed in the church. So that's what they did.

"I pray each day to the Blessed Mother that she sends us a benefactor, someone who would like to help us," Chidiac said. "Our church is a community church. I serve all Christians, at the hospitals, through our festival and traditions. I love Wheeling and I would welcome anyone who loves it as much as I do to help fulfill our project."

Anyone wishing to donate to the church steeple project can contact Monsignor Chidiac at 304-233-1688.

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