The first Sunday liturgy was celebrated by Rev William J Nolte Jr. on the first Sunday of Advent November 29, 1982. At this first Mass, the initial appointed Advisory Council and committee chairpersons weres commissioned. They were Gladys McDaniel, Ray McDonald, Bill Stefanko, Phyllis Porter and Linda Keesecker. At this time the community was comprised of approximately 40 families. Prior to the first Eucharistic celebration, the men and women used their various talents to make the altar, lectern, linens and vestments. Sister obtained the corpse of Jesus for the processional cross from Bishop Hodges.
“Lacking organ or piano, our first Christmas music in 1982 was furnished by young flutists and a children’s choir. What was lacking because of scarcity was overcome by the spirit and joy of our celebration and decorations for the occasion.” – Sister Marlene
During Lent the reading and study of scripture began on Wednesday evenings. At the request of the parishioners, this continued until the summer months and then returned in the fall 1983 for several years.
On the Sunday after Easter, the first infant to be baptized at the Center was Michelle Kisner, daughter of David and Becky Kisner.
First Communion was celebrated at the liturgy on May 28, 1983 for Rebecca Hofe and Amanda Brandau.
The first election for the Advisory Council was held in May and they replaced the appointed council in June 1983.
A successful open house with over 250 visitors was held in June 1983 at which the Hedgesville community was invited to tour the renovated historical Stonehouse and the Center. Bishop Hodges made this a special occasion with his presence.
Sister Marlene also reached out to the Ministers of the other churches in Hedgesville and this resulted in planning the first annual Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service in 1982 that continues today. Each participating church provides some aspect of the Service and hosts the Service on a rotating basis. This initial gathering led eventually to organizing the Hedgesville Community of Churches for other joint activities outreaching into the community.
In September 1983, Mr. Bob Kitchen, husband of Mary Kitchen, became the first catechumen to prepare for reception into the church. On September 10, 1983 four members, Barbara Jackson, Phil Heerd, John Bergling and Cleo Bergling completed training, were commissioned and joined Sister Marlene Rust and Gail Jones as Eucharist Ministers. Parishioners also began their own religious education program for both the children and the adults.
“In September, Bishop Hodges approved the name for our congregation and henceforth we shall be called ‘St. Bernadette’, a name chosen overwhelmingly by vote of our people. We are looking forward to February 11, 1984 for the official naming celebration.” – Sister Marlene
A parish dinner was held on February 11, 1984 to celebrate the naming of St. Bernadette Catholic Center.
In 1984, St Bernadette began its community outreach through C-CAP, cards to ill, shut-ins and bereaved and Christmas gifts and food to the needy in the district. Mary Frances Smith became the first Parish Liaison with the Office of Social Ministries. The Christian Service Committee began a monthly clothing distribution center.
In August 1984, Ed Niner, the oldest parishioner, built an outdoor shrine in honor of Mary.
On September 23, 1984 three men were initiated into the Rite of the Catechumenate. Four adults were received into the Church in 1985 at the 5:00 AM Easter Sunrise Service. This was celebrated by a parish breakfast following Mass.
The Finance Council held its first meeting on September 9, 1985.
On March 2, 1986 Bishop Schulte came to dinner with the pastoral and finance councils.
For the first time since its beginning, the community experienced the death of two members in 1987. This began the bereavement process of reaching out to the families who experience a loss. The process continues today through a formalized bereavement committee.
A fund raiser was held for the Homeless Shelter in Berkeley County. A liturgy workshop was held during the year. Socially, several parish dinners were held. At Christmas the parish began the Spanish-American custom of Los Posadas, which consisted of visits to parishioner homes with a community gathering of families at the end.
In 1986, the Center and the parish house were both connected to the new Hedgesville-Opequon sewer system. Plans were made and approved for the addition of an expansion wing to the Center. The first fund raising drive was begun by the finance council for the $45,000 expansion.
“The construction of the addition took much longer than anticipated. By April 10, 1988 all but some minor details were completed. For the first time in the history of the St. Bernadette Mission, the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in an area where people feel free to make visits – and they do. One hundred sixty chairs are squeezed into the addition – the original building was added to so that there would be more ‘breathing’ space and most Sundays every seat is occupied. The parish house bulges each Sunday during Religion classes – the only spaces are the bathrooms.” – Sister Marlene
In January 1988, the parish began its own catechumenate process. Until then, candidates participated in the process at St. Joseph, Martinsburg. The children also looked forward to the Easter egg hunt after the Sunday service.
“St. Bernadette’s feast is celebrated with a prayer service and dinner, an annual event that everyone enjoys. The fourth Sunday of Advent has become a parish family celebration – adults carol through the town, children present the Christmas pageant and the evening is concluded with soup and sandwiches.” – Sister Marlene
In 1989, the Social Concerns Committee continued their outreach by inviting a Group Home for severely handicapped adults to a monthly evening of music and refreshments. It was also the beginning of the Lenten Soup Supper each Friday of Lent. This included prayer such as Stations of the Cross followed by a soup and bread dinner. Donations from parishioners of what they would have spent eating regular meals were given to local charities.
The first “Day of Reflection” was held on February 26, 1989. On June 9, 1989 Father Nolte began the first evening of “Celebration of Marriage”. This was an evening of Eucharistic celebration with the Renewal of Vows, followed by a reception and dancing. In later years the celebration was moved to Valentine’s Day.
1989 was the year of organizing an active Youth Group at St. Bernadette with Amy and Mike Russell as coordinators. Activities included all-night lock-ins, picnics, bowling, movies, retreats at Priestfield, trips to the Basilica in DC and to the Seton Shrine. The group also hosted a Halloween party for the younger children in 1990.
The Eighties was a decade of exciting physical and spiritual growth within the community. St. Bernadette Mission grew from the initial forty families that Sister Marlene gathered to 100 registered families.