Prior to 1941, there were few Catholic families in the Blackstone area, and those families traveled to St. John the Baptist to worship with parishioners from the surrounding five counties. Occasionally, Father Isidore McCarthy would travel to local homes or a community center within the five counties to celebrate mass. Camp Pickett was established in 1942 and the Catholic population began to steadily increase. The Priests of the Precious Blood Order were assigned to the parish and as auxiliary chaplains to Camp Pickett.
In 1947, a large home on South Main Street in Blackstone was purchased to serve the Catholics living in the area. The home was used to hold mass until Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) was constructed and dedicated by Bishop Peter Ireton on May 5, 1954. The build included a connecting breezeway to the house which became the church hall.
Father William Donohue became priest in 1968. He and a few nuns performed community outreach by obtaining buses and picking up not only the children of the parish, but all children who wished to attend Catechism (and playtime) during the summer. The Precious Blood Fathers left the parish in 1977 and a year later a young priest was assigned.
Father George Hughes brought many changes to the IHM parish. He established an active parish council and several committees to help with the functions of the church. Fr. George’s changes were enhanced when the Diocese of Richmond decided to sponsor a Volunteer Ministry Community for college students, led by Brother Harry Eccles (Xavierian Brothers) The connecting house became the students’ new home for a year and was named Bethany House.
1979 was the beginning of many years of growth in the parish. Fr. George created an important connection to the youth of the parish with teen retreats, more youth participation in Mass, and visits to local nursing and retirement homes. Likewise, the VMC group spent time visiting the sick and shut-in, taking active roles in IHM’s music ministry, and even helping to relocate refugees. In an effort to include many of the Hispanic migrant workers who would attend, Fr. George began reading parts of Mass in Spanish while the parish family would work to coordinate transportation for our migrant guests. The parish family grew through fellowship by beginning new traditions such as covered dish dinners, community Halloween parties, and gatherings after Midnight Mass.
Fr. McKinley Williams became the priest in 1983 and continued the work and traditions that had been established. Fr. “Mac” was assigned to travel between St. John’s (Crewe), IHM (Blackstone), and Sacred Heart (Meherrin). The challenges of scheduling three churches along with other ministries often led the three churches to join together for special occasions such as the youth-centered Mass on Christmas Eve or the candlelit Easter Vigil cantored by Fr. Mac’s powerful voice.
The next decade brought more changes to IHM. The VMC had come to an end and a retired priest, Fr. Tony Dinges, became pastor. Many of the demands of the parish fell to the newly appointed pastoral coordinator, Therese Ann Mansfield. Although Fr. Tony was responsible for saying Mass, Therese Ann was responsible for the parish operations including religious education, sacramental preparations, the prison ministry, and visiting the sick. IHM was remodeled and the Tabernacle was moved into a room in Bethany House that had been changed into the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
Since 2000, Immaculate Heart of Mary has encountered quite a few changes. In 2010 IHM became a part of the Central Virginia Catholic Cluster and is now served by the two priests who are located at St. Theresa’s in Farmville. The following pastors were able to obtain diocesan grants in order to repair and update the 110-year-old Bethany House and the 63-year-old church. Under the leadership of Fr. Stefan the Church was restored to its original form, including Tabernacle and the original altar were returned to the sanctuary. Until this day priests assigned to Immaculate Heart of Mary parish continue to serve as auxiliary chaplains at Fort Pickett.
Today, parishioners continue to fellowship through church sponsored festivals/bake sales, Easter egg hunts, and picnics. The IHM family sponsors Thanksgiving meals for multiple families, provides gifts for a Christmas family, and supports the Pregnancy Support Center. As the parish population continues to grow, the functions of Bethany House have grown to include an overflow area with audio and video of mass as it is celebrated.
List of Pastors and Service Dates:
Reverend Isidore McCarthy 1939-1954
Reverend Albert Fey 1948-1961
Reverend Robert Silk 1949-1952
Reverend Ale Goldikorskis 1951-
Reverend N. J. Missler 1952-1954
Reverend Cornelius Fenton 1952-1955
Reverend Edward Charek 1954
Reverend Louis Gelhaus 1955
Reverend Richard Girt 1959-1962
Reverend Carl Reikowski 1961
Reverend Robert Patterson 1963
Reverend Joseph Hajduch 1964-1965
Reverend Bernard Ganger, 1965-1968
Reverend William Donohue, Pastor 1968-1977
Reverend Charles Fisher, Pastor 1977-1978
Reverend George Hughes, Pastor 1978-1982
Reverend Patrick Cassidy, Parochial vicar 1978-1981
Reverend McKinley Williams, Pastor 1983-1989
Reverend Anthony Dinges, Pastor 1989-2005
Reverend James Glass, Pastor 2005-2010
Various substitute priests 2005-2009
Reverend Joseph Wamala, Parochial vicar 2009-2011
Reverend Anthony Morris, Pastor 2010-2015
Reverend Emmanuel DeLeon, Parochial vicar 2011-2013
Reverend Paul Kkonde, Parochial vicar 2013-2017
Reverend Stefan Migac, Pastor-2015-
Reverend Eduard Ntunde, Parochial vicar-2017-
Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish History
Paul Semtner and Melissa Hatchett
Approved on August 3, 2017, by
Fr. Stefan Migac, Pastor
See Photo Gallery Below History