The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston includes the entire state of West Virginia and is made up of close to 100,000 members. At its founding in 1850, the diocese had a different name and different borders. Catholics, in what was then Western Virginia, were under the spiritual care of the Diocese of Richmond, which at that time included all of Virginia. The vastness of the territory and the growing number of Catholics in the western part of the state convinced the second bishop of Richmond, Richard V. Whelan (1809–74), that the diocese needed to be divided. On July 19, 1850, Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Wheeling, naming Whelan as its first bishop.
The Allegheny Mountains set the initial diocesan boundaries, including almost all of present West Virginia plus 17 counties (and part of another) in present southwest Virginia. Eight counties of the current Eastern Panhandle were left with the Diocese of Richmond. After the creation of the new state of West Virginia in 1863, the diocesan and state boundaries were different for more than 100 years. It was not until 1974, under a decree issued by Pope Paul VI, that the diocesan borders were realigned to agree with those of the state. The Virginia counties that had initially been part of the Diocese of Wheeling were transferred to the Diocese of Richmond, and the eight counties of the Eastern Panhandle were incorporated into the Diocese of Wheeling. The name of the diocese was also changed at that time to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, with a co-cathedral at Sacred Heart Parish in Charleston.
This Article was written by Tricia Pyne
Last Revised on November 28, 2010