The mountain of the sun

St. Mary’s Catholic/St. Paul’s Episcopal

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church has been hosting the congregation of another historic Virginia City church, St. Mary’s of the Mountains Catholic Church.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church has been hosting the congregation of another historic Virginia City church, St. Mary’s of the Mountains Catholic Church.

Photo By D. Brian Burghart

I wanted to do something spontaneous and fun this Sunday morning, so when Hunter returned from spending the night at his aunt’s (I was at the Marilyn Manson show Saturday night), I said, “Get your church clothes on. Let’s go up to Virginia City.” See, the last time I thought about going up there to review St. Mary’s in the Mountains Catholic Church, I discovered they were holding services over at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, which is about a quarter-block away. Imagine our surprise when we got to Virginia City and discovered the Catholic Church was still being renovated, and the congregation was still meeting at St. Paul’s. On the bright side, they are reopening St. Mary’s in the Mountains next Sunday so I guess this would be a perfect time for the combined service.

So anyway, we arrived in town at the crack of 10, just in time to miss the end of the Episcopal service, too soon for the Catholic service, and six minutes too late to attend the 10 a.m. First Presbyterian Church service after we walked up to main street. A smiley lady in St. Paul’s volunteered that the Catholic service would happen at 11 a.m., despite my double-checking the time—“Are you sure it’s not 11:30?” she assured us the service began at the incorrect time. That’s fine, you know, we’d hoped to spend some time and money in the city, but instead we ended up spending a half-hour of our fun time waiting in an empty church.

The Episcopal Church has a cool Alexander Mills pipe organ, which was installed in 1876. After a few minutes of our enjoying the breeze entering through the yellow glass windows on the sides of the pews and the sounds of the steam train, we met Nick Nicosia, the administrator for the Catholic congregation. He was the instigator of the renovation and gave Hunter and me a quick rundown on the steps that were taken to bring the church back to its glory.

The St. Mary’s in the Mountains will reopen on Sept. 12 with a 5:30 p.m. reception, followed by a 7:30 p.m. performance of classical religious music performed by the Schola American Contorum Ensemble. Nicosia is plainly excited about the grand reopening and expects there will be about 430 people inside the church and a tent set up for the overflow. (There’s little parking, and it’s Camel Race Week in V.C., so come early.) The church will also have new service hours: 4 p.m. on Saturday; 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. Since basically I review services, I kind of feel the need to get back to both the St. Paul’s Church and the St. Mary’s of the Mountains Catholic Church to do complete analyses. However, for the purposes of this visit, I’m glad to be able to pass along the information that one of the most photographed buildings in Virginia City and the oldest and largest landmark in the historic burg will regain its spot as a crown jewel on Sun Mountain.

And not to break too much with tradition, I rather enjoyed visiting priest Cyril Apassa’s sermon. (The congregation is so small, they don’t have a live-in clergy.) He spoke about how to attain holiness. It’s not by honoring traditions of man, he said, teeing off from James 1:17-18, but by doing what God wants you to. “Hand washing is never a method of achieving holiness, but turning to God’s will is.”