Ski Resort Draws Faithful to Basye Mission

Following is part of an ongoing series of articles marking the 25th anniversary of the Arlington Catholic HERALD. BASYE — A flower-crowned statue of Our Lady of the Shenandoah stands at the entrance of the small mission chapel and rectory which bears her title in Basye. Beautiful rural vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley are in the distance. Behind the chapel, which is in the midst of the four-season Bryce Resort, are ski slopes. Our Lady of the Shenandoah, a mission of St. John Bosco Parish in Woodstock, was the first project completed after the Arlington Diocese was formed in August 1974, according to founding pastor Father Salvatore Ciullo, who was then a Capuchin Franciscan priest. In April 1976, the mission was dedicated by the diocese’s first bishop, Thomas J. Welsh. Founding mission members Gerhard and Shirley Drechsler said it has been "a blessing for the resort, the resident Catholic families and visitors." Initially, the mission’s Mass "was a moving feast," they said. Prior to the chapel’s construction, Father Ciullo would drive more than 20 miles from St. John Bosco Parish, the only other Catholic church in Shenandoah County, to celebrate a Saturday vigil Mass at 5 p.m. "My wife (Theo) and I were the bearers of the vessels, candles, everything pertaining to Mass," said a founding mission member, John Quinn, adding that Mass drew about 30 people. "If it was summertime, Mass was out on the ski lodge deck under a tree. In cooler weather, we would have it in the building lobby." Quinn, in his early 80s, still assists at Mass as lector and server. Father Clarence Trinkle, assigned fulltime to the mission last June, has fondly dubbed Quinn "the oldest altar boy in the diocese." Upon his arrival as the mission’s first in-residence priest, Father Trinkle began celebrating daily Mass for the members. A former ski instructor in Killington, Vt., he looks forward to taking to the slopes outside his back door. The octagonal chapel of dark wood and stone, graced with several stained-glass windows, seats about 100 people. The adjacent rectory was recently remodeled by mission members to add more living space to accommodate three adults. Youths, adult laity, religious women and priests have come to the mission for silent retreats. The building of Our Lady of the Shenandoah began through a series of donated land exchanges involving the Drechslers and local resident Joe Luter. Pete Bryce, for whom the surrounding resort is named, and founding mission members, through their advocacy and support, were also instrumental in establishing the chapel. During the mission’s early days, Quinn and his late wife started the "Family Loaf," a fundraising bake sale of homemade bread and pies, in the parish hall area of the building. Beginning on Friday and continuing through Saturday, Theo did all the baking and John kneaded the bread and cleaned up. "All the money we made went to the church," he said. After he retired, Quinn settled in Basye permanently and has a home near the mission. "My son was married in the chapel and my grandson baptized here," he said. The Drechslers, after returning from the monthly 24-hour adoration at the chapel, spoke recently from their home in Basye of the mission’s history. "When my husband saw how dynamic Father Ciullo was and how beautifully he promoted the chapel, he knew if anyone could make it happen, he could," said Shirley. Her desire to receive daily Eucharist mover her to help establish the chapel. "God was good," she said. "He did something wonderful over and over, so the small part we did was our participation in His plan." The chapel "was not a sure thing, but fell into place magically," said Gerhard. "Every time something fell through, someone got something better going." Originally, the chapel created "Catholic representation in mission territory," Shirley said. Since the building’s completion 25 years ago, "we have had enough people committed to an hour for Eucharistic Adoration," said Gerhard. "We made a crowd out of a handful." Because Basye is a popular retirement site, most of the mission’s 35 regular members are older. More than nine years ago, Ed Hoole and his wife Edie, who attends daily Mass, retired to Basye. They wanted to stay in Virginia, but where the cost of living was lower, so they settled near the mission. "One of the reasons we decided to retire here was that Catholic services were close by," said Ed. The Hooles were familiar with the area, from an annual timeshare week, and liked its atmosphere. He said the mission serves the southern end of the county and draws people from many miles away. On weekends, with visitors to Bryce Resort, total attendance at the two Masses can swell to 200. Father Trinkle said that those from other dioceses, as distant as Canada and California, have also been generous in donating money to the mission. Permanent records of registered members and sacraments administered are kept at St. John Bosco Parish. Since there is only one child, a one-year-old, in the mission membership, no religious education program is needed. Prior to his arrival at Our Lady of the Shenandoah Mission several months ago, Father Trinkle had been "discerning a vocation to a different form of the priesthood, living as a hermit in West Virginia" for three years with permission of the late Bishop John R. Keating. After the arrival of Bishop Paul S. Loverde, Father Trinkle was allowed to remain at his Holy Family Hermitage for a time. In the course of a few meetings, "Bishop Loverde asked me what I wanted to do and then he told me what he wanted me to do, "serve at the mission." "What he did for me, I believe, was to give me a compromise between a certain amount of solitude with some pastoral duties. I’m open to expanding my ministry" at the mission, he said. "I feel that one of the gifts God gave me in my three years in solitude was a greater interior freedom; not to have my own plans, but to be willing do whatever God wanted me to do, and His will does come through our bishop for me," said Father Trinkle. "When I was told I was coming here, I could be joyful about it because I knew it was God’s will. There were certain things that confirmed it. It’s a wonderful story, because you can see God’s hand in all of this." One of the intense needs Father Trinkle has become aware of in his ministry is a diocesan retreat center. "People have offered me land" for a site, he said. "There are so many people in our diocese, both priests and lay people, who are hungering for the spiritual life and desire to have a place to go. I had wanted to start a hermitage retreat in our diocese," he said, explaining that often other local retreat houses are full, or cannot accommodate large groups, such as youths. Several of the nearly three dozen current members expressed their gratitude for Our Lady of the Shenandoah Mission and the amazing events which led to it’s current service to the region. "Father Trinkle being here is another miracle," said Gerhard Drechsler. "We now have a large number of Catholics and I think the establishment of this chapel contributed to it," added Shirley.

Copyright ?2001 Arlington Catholic Herald.  All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2001