Injured in an automobile accident, which left him paralyzed, Father Stephen Popovich was recognized with a pavilion built in his honor for his service, along with a reception at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Cumberland on Wednesday.
Unable to attend the event, Father Popovich said via phone to a large crowd gathered for the event, “I’m so excited about the work that has been done there in Harlan County. As far as the groups coming down to Harlan County for the summer, that is definitely a spirit-filled place — evangelism working overtime. My heart is with you for all the hard work and dedication so many people, in some many facets of this, are doing. Please keep me in your prayers.”
During a ribbon cutting ceremony for the pavilion, Father Edward Brienz, director of missions for the Diocese of Youngstown, said “We’re calling it the ‘Amen Pavilion.’ It was constructed by a group of teenager volunteers from the Diocese of Youngstown.”
Popovich, a part of the Father Beiting Appalachian Missions Center, had been coming to Harlan County for the past five years helping with cement work, painting houses, drywall and other construction projects for the needy, Brienz said.
“Last November Father Popovich was at home near Youngstown, Ohio. He had just said one service at his home Parrish and was on his way to the penitentiary to say another church service for the people incarcerated there when his car slipped on an icy road and flipped over,” said Brienz. “He became, basically, very severely injured. He can’t walk and can’t get out of bed. He’s in a nursing home/rehabilitation center right now. We miss him dearly.”
Brienz said the mission work Popovich was a part of provides work, free of charge, to the less fortunate in the Harlan County area.
“The pavilion will serve as a community place to gather for dinners, picnics or just a place to sit down and fellowship together,” said Father Brienz. “A fire pit was also constructed near the pavilion, which is also available for public use in gathering events.”
Adding the first Thursday of each month a free food pantry is available for senior citizens at St. Stephen Church, Brienz said the third Thursday of each month the pantry is available to everyone else who is in need.
Nola Sizemore may be reached at 606-573-4510 or on Twitter @Nola_hde