Located on a large wooded property bordering the Opequon Creek near Middleway, Priest Field Pastoral Center is one of four such centers in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
Members of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce recently visited the center which hosted the Chamber's monthly lunch meeting in September.
Staff member Susan Kersey told attendees that the center is available for retreats for those outside of the Roman Catholic faith. The center is designated as a place to gather for purposes of education, spiritual growth and human development.
The center is available for single day or extended stay visits.
The center offers 39 individual guest rooms each with a private bath; four cabins for individual retreats, two dormitories and five conference rooms of various sizes. A dining room overlooks the Opequon Creek that serves up to three meals a day and two chapels are available for worship services or individual prayer.
The Priest Field Center is the oldest of the centers in the Diocese. The donation of the land to the Catholic Church dates back to 1802 when Adam Livingston gave the church a 35-acre parcel of farmland; "a field to sustain a priest" for favors granted. The dedication of Priest Field Pastoral Center in 1983 and the continued growth fulfills the promise of becoming a "a great place of prayer and fasting and praise," says the center's website.
The history surrounding Priest Field and its donation of land by Livingston has become a famous mystery throughout the years. According to those who have documented the historical facts, Livngston , a Lutheran farmer, and his family were terrorized by noises and other "demonic manifestations."
According to an introduction by local resident David Guiney, to "The Mystery of the Wizard Clip," Livingston sought relief from evil spirits who haunted his family, home and farm. The most notable "visits" involved a constant "clipping" and "snipping" of nearly any cloth or leather material. The constant sound of clippers was said to be heard by many in the family.
Allegedly, Livingston was at his wits end about how to rid himself of the "wizard." He frequently had dreams, and proclaimed a dream come true when visiting the Richard McSherry family in Shepherdstown where he met Father Dennis Cahill, of Hagerstown, Md., who was visiting the local family.
Father Cahill went to the Livingston home and delivered prayers, a Mass and sprinkled holy water. The visitations were said to cease for good. According to the legend, an angel appeared to the Livingston and instructed them in the Catholic faith. A voice would often come and go, instructing Livingston in prayer and other areas of faith.
Livingston, in gratitude, deeded 35 acres to the Catholic Church. In the deed, which is on file in the Charles Town Courthouse, it says, if it was not possible for Father Cahill or his successors in the region "to reside on the said land and persue his calling thereupon," then "during every such intervil said land is to be rented and the profits thereof are to be applied towards building and repairing a church or chapple thereupon."
Legend also claims that the Voice instructed Livingston that "Before the end of time, this will be a great place of prayer and fasting and praise!"
In 1922, a court upheld Livingston's donation of the land and mass was said under a tent at the property. A chapel was then constructed the following year. Mass was held yearly at the location.
In 1978, interest again was raised when Guiney, who worked for the National Park Service, wrote to Bishop Joseph Hodges at the Diocese with regard to his interest in Priest Field. At that point, the bishop traveled to Middleway and began development of the property which went on for several years. Priest Field Pastoral Center was dedicated July 31 and August 1, 1983.
Those interested in the Center are invited to visit their website at www.priestfield.org. For information on using the facility, call 304-725-1435.