“The Glory of God is a human being fully alive.” ― St. Irenaeus of Lyons
On Sunday, February 11, 2024, Monsignor P. Edward Sadie, P.A., S.T.L., of Charleston, West Virginia, passed peacefully in his sleep.
Monsignor was preceded in death by his parents Timothy and Jennie Sadie of Parkersburg, West Virginia, and brother James Robert Sadie of Montgomery, Alabama. Left to honor his memory and legacy are his Alabama family including sister-in-law Edna Abdelnour Sadie; nephews Timothy Joseph Sadie, James Edward Sadie, John Anthony Sadie (Lisa), and Mark Edward Sadie (Ashley); nieces Elizabeth Marie Sadie Sutton (William), Jennifer Rose Sadie Booth, Jeanne Marie Sadie Anderson (James), Ann Michelle Sadie Osten (Charles), Kristin Maria Sadie Schwarz (David); numerous grandnephews and grandnieces; as well as trusted advisors, Nick Casey, Ralph Hoyer, Dick Walker, Wayne Johnson; Madeleine Blankenship, his secretary of 35 years; and Debra Sullivan who served as principal of his two schools for 28 years. Monsignor was grateful for the outpouring of support offered by parishioners, friends, students and educators, fellow priests, Christian and non-Christian clerics, and others who encouraged him during his lifetime.
A happy and compassionate man of deep faith and humility, a dreamer and a visionary, a builder of lives both young and old, Monsignor certainly did his part. Through his lifetime of service, he touched lives in untold and profound ways. Through his example, he challenged all who knew him to find the better angels in themselves and in others and to look beyond what is and imagine what might be.
Monsignor Sadie was born on December 15, 1930, into the Syrian-American community of Parkersburg. His father, a Melkite Catholic who immigrated from Syria at age 15, started as a merchant selling home goods to farmers along Route 50 from Marietta to Clarksburg. He moved his goods by mule, then horse, then car, eventually opening a grocery store and tavern near the Wood County Court House which specialized in fish sandwiches and cream pies. Eventually, he became a prominent, successful, highly respected businessman. His mother, whose parents immigrated from the same village as her husband-to-be, was a strong presence in the immigrant community, helping Syrians who could not speak English. She referred to Monsignor as a “just and fair son.”
Monsignor’s pride in his Syrian and Melkite Catholic roots and his deep love of his parents and brother James were touchstones throughout life. His devotion to God, appreciation of art and music, belief in the power of education, and commitment to human rights were shaped by his family. At age 6 he began what was to become his lifelong passion for learning, attending St. Francis Xavier Grade School in his hometown, where he was taught by the Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus. As a youth, he was a Boy Scout and played the mandolin and the violin, eventually earning First String position on the WPA Junior Orchestra. After ninth grade, he transferred to St. Charles Preparatory Seminary in Catonsville, Maryland, to complete his high school years and his college freshman and sophomore years. The only child of an immigrant studying at St. Charles at the time, Monsignor immersed himself in his studies and extracurricular life, running track and playing football intramurals. He completed his college junior and senior years at St. Mary’s Major Seminary in Baltimore, earning an A.B. in philosophy 1953 and eventually S.T.B./S.T.L. theology degrees in 1957. During his theology studies in Baltimore, he taught catechism to deaf children who were required to learn by reading lips. He learned sign language to instruct deaf adults. In conjunction with his S.T.L. degree, Monsignor studied medical ethics which he later taught to student nurses at St. Joseph Nursing School in Parkersburg. He later earned an M.A.in Latin from the University of Michigan.
Not known to even many of his friends, in 1956 Monsignor petitioned Church authorities to transfer from the Eastern Melkite Catholic Church, in which he could marry before ordination, to the Western Latin Church which required celibacy, all because he wanted to minister as a priest in West Virginia.
Monsignor returned to his home parish of St. Francis Xavier in Parkersburg where Bishop Thomas McDonnell ordained him as priest for the Diocese of Wheeling (now Wheeling-Charleston) on June 1, 1957. Four others were ordained that day and remained lifelong friends. Following ordination, Monsignor was assigned to southwestern Virginia, at that time the outpost of the Diocese. For 6 years he served as associate pastor of St. Mary’s Church and missions in Blacksburg and as the chaplain at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Radford College, ministering to college-age men and women. During those years in a predominantly Protestant part of the Diocese, he developed close ties with Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Lutheran ministers, spurring his lifelong interest in ecumenism and the study of other faiths. He later cherished a decades-long friendship with Rabbi Victor Urecki of Charleston and formed deep relationships with the Muslim community.
In 1963, Monsignor was called back to Vienna, just outside Parkersburg, where he was named vice rector, treasurer, and Latin instructor at St. Joseph Preparatory Seminary, a four-year high school program for young men considering the priesthood. During those years he became even more committed to the power of a good education. It was there, too, that he was introduced to the intricacies of financial management, acquiring knowledge and skills that would affect his future parish assignments.
St. Agnes Catholic Church in Charleston welcomed him as pastor in 1969, where he happily served for 11 years. Admired and loved by parishioners young and old, his homilies, wisdom, devotion to Catholic schools, and service were applauded as he evolved into activities that became hallmarks of his priesthood — eliminating school and parish debts, expanding the church-school complex, strengthening educational opportunities, upgrading facilities, bringing together individuals from a variety of backgrounds as trusted advisors, and becoming involved in the broader Christian and non-Christian community. During these years at St. Agnes, Monsignor conducted energetic initiatives to attract inactive Catholics and successfully petitioned then Bishop Hodges for permission to commission women as Extraordinary Ministers of Communion, making them the first women in the Diocese permitted to distribute Communion in a parish. He formed close bonds with families and the greater Charleston community, ties which continued to grow throughout his life.
Monsignor capably dealt with current issues while dreaming of future possibilities. Where some saw blight, he saw possibilities. Recognizing the value of real estate and the necessity of implementing solid financial practices to grow the parish and diocesan presence in the Charleston area, while at St. Agnes Monsignor developed contiguous parish property that had been used as a dump for refuse from the glass plant that formerly operated at the east end of Kanawha City. With a combination of careful removal and remediation, grading, and filling, he doubled St. Agnes’ footprint, creating an athletic field for the school as well as a playground and additional parking for school staff and parishioners. He purchased a house adjacent to the University of Charleston on behalf of the Diocese to open a campus ministry office for college students. And Monsignor negotiated the purchase of land on Corridor G where the Blessed John XXIII Pastoral Center is now located.
In 1980, Bishop Hodges named Monsignor as pastor of the Co-Cathedral Parish of the Sacred Heart, later through Monsignor’s efforts to be designated as Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, in downtown Charleston, where his priestly leadership continued to flourish. A humble man who sought no recognition for himself, Monsignor’s valuable service was recognized in 2005 with his appointment as Monsignor, Prelate of Honor to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, and in 2013 as Protonotary Apostolic, the highest rank of Monsignor. Monsignor took to heart the words of St. John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests: “Remain humble, remain simple. The more you are so, the more good you will do.”
Reassignment to Sacred Heart brought new challenges and opportunities as Monsignor continued to grow as a collaborator and visionary, enlisting the good ideas and help of others to advance parish initiatives. A community builder, he inspired parishioners to share their own talents and energy through a variety of activities. Monsignor launched the annual Red Mass and St. Thomas More liturgy for legal professionals, and the annual Rose Mass for members of the medical community, with invitations sent to all regardless of religious affiliation, inviting notable bishops, archbishops, and cardinals as guest speakers. He encouraged parishioners’ support of missionary efforts, the Gabriel Project to help infants by providing basic needs, Catholic education throughout the Diocese, and funding for retired religious orders. Monsignor celebrated the international diversity of the parish, hosting liturgical celebrations associated with specific nationalities and welcoming pilgrims from across the country and the world. He recruited religious Sisters to relocate from Zimbabwe to extend parish outreach efforts.
In addition to working nonstop to fulfill his daily pastoral duties, Monsignor was ever mindful of the future needs of the parish, planning for the spiritual and facility needs of parishioners, and keeping an eye on the physical and fiscal needs of the church building itself and the two schools under his supervision. Monsignor believed that a strong Catholic presence downtown contributed mightily to the vitality of the city he loved.
Early in his years at Sacred Heart, he told then Bishop Hodges that Sacred Heart was landlocked and that, with the Bishop’s permission, he planned to buy all the adjacent, boarded up properties he could “hit with a rock.” And he did. Early on he bought and demolished dilapidated buildings at the corner of Leon Sullivan Way and Quarrier, building a parking lot for Sacred Heart Grade School staff, and then redeveloped it years later as home to the Parish Hall and the Sacred Heart Childhood Development Center. With the purchase of the Charleston Newspapers lot along Leon Sullivan Way and the Beury property on Virginia Street, a beautiful statuary garden and ample parking area for parishioners and Sacred Heart Grade School and Charleston Catholic High School staff were constructed.
During his over 36 years as pastor, he beautified Sacred Heart’s downtown campus by using architecture, art, and landscaping to glorify God, teach tenets of the faith, and lift human hearts. With careful attention to the historical significance of the church building, and to economic feasibility, functionality, architectural detail, and aesthetics, Monsignor upgraded and expanded the original Sacred Heart Church building and grounds, making alterations to serve the cradle-to-grave needs of parishioners well into the future. Monsignor refurbished the 1897 church, carefully restoring the woodwork, Italian marble altar, stained glass windows, statuary, and tile flooring, while upgrading the lighting and sound systems. A Schantz pipe organ was installed, the sanctuary was extended, and an artisan-crafted Appalachian wooden altar, Bishop’s chair, and other furnishings were put in place. Flags representing the many nationalities of parishioners were on display in the church’s nave. With Monsignor’s particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin, an expansive collection of artistic renderings of the Annunciation found a home at Sacred Heart. In keeping with the style of the original church, the original rectory was demolished to make room for the Cathedral’s expansion. The Cenacle Retreat House on Virginia Street was renovated to provide living quarters for parish priests as well as office space for parish operations and a chapel and meeting areas.
Monsignor was widely recognized for his deep commitment to improving educational opportunities for children of all faiths. Students and staff – Catholic, non-Catholic, and non-Christian –living in Kanawha, Clay, Fayette, Raleigh, Putnam, Boone, Logan and other counties came together to create a family within the two schools. As pastor, Monsignor was chief administrator of Sacred Heart Grade School, and early in his years with the parish he petitioned Bishop Hodges for himself to assume the role as president of the then struggling Charleston Catholic High School. His devotion to the spiritual, intellectual, social-emotional, and physical development of children and youth was evident in the thought and energy he put into these schools. He worked diligently to ensure that the schools were excellent. Both grew in enrollment and quality as Monsignor focused on recruiting and retaining dedicated and capable staff, upgrading and expanding facilities, instituting sound financial practices, and providing up-to-date teaching resources.
Through the generosity of parishioners and the school community, Monsignor ensured that school facilities were safe, state-of-the-art, and conducive to learning. He reimagined an asphalt area located between the church and grade school, enclosing it for a gym and activity room. Upgrades to the original Sacred Heart Grade School and Seton Hall provided additional classroom space. Monsignor purchased the old Kanawha Valley Hospital at Dunbar and Virginia streets, setting the stage for a playground and space to meet school and parish needs. As the grade school continued to expand, Monsignor oversaw the acquisition and renovation of the Hoyer Building at the corner of Dunbar and Quarrier streets for additional classroom and storage space. Realizing that the parish needed room for youth and other groups, Monsignor refurbished a boarded-up building on Quarrier Street into the Sacred Heart Family Life Center.
With generous parishioners rallying to the call, Monsignor was able to purchase additional properties to provide income to the parish and schools. He purchased a rundown building on Dunbar Street across from Charleston Catholic High School, transforming it into office space rented to a federal agency. For years he had his eye on the West Virginia Career College building – a stone’s throw away – for future use by parish and schools. The parish eventually completed the deal.
Charleston Catholic High School benefited mightily from Monsignor’s careful stewardship. By gathering the support of parishioners, staff, students, parents, alumni, businesses, and others in the community, in 1995 Monsignor spearheaded the complete renovation of the original 1940’s school building and the construction of a 30,000 square foot classroom and commons/cafeteria addition, including infrastructure to accommodate the eventual addition of a fourth floor to the wing. Understanding that it was unlikely that suitable property adjacent to the school would become available or be affordable for construction of an athletic facility, in 2004 Monsignor, his advisors, and supporters purchased an indoor tennis facility on Hillcrest Avenue, transforming the property into the CCHS Athletic Facility with a gym, auxiliary gym, outdoor tennis courts, weight room, and meeting rooms along with rental offices.
Monsignor was a major player in endeavors beyond parish and schools. A highly esteemed leader, he was routinely sought out by civic, religious, and business leaders to lend a hand to improve Charleston and West Virginia ecumenically, educationally, economically, and socially. A prolific writer, he was a frequent contributor to state and regional newspapers commenting on public issues. He served as executive director of the Catholic Conference of West Virginia and was a member of the Diocesan Commissions for Religious Unity and for Evangelization, the Diocesan Vocations Committee, the Anglican-Roman Catholic and the Methodist-Catholic Commissions of West Virginia, and the St. Francis Hospital and Catholic Charities boards of directors. He co-founded the Root and the Branch, an ecumenical effort bringing different faith traditions together to build understanding. He happily supported the Coptic Christians in Charleston as they worked to find and renovate worship space. He was always available to share ideas.
When Monsignor retired in 2016, he began the next chapter on his life’s journey. Building on his decades-long interest in providing a Catholic school education for those who desired it regardless of financial ability, he established the Father Sadie Educational Fund. Using his own financial resources, he opened a pathway for minority children and children of immigrants to attend Sacred Heart Grade School and Charleston Catholic High School. Through his vision and generosity, individual lives will continue to be touched.
To his sister-in-law, Monsignor was simply “Eddie,” and to nieces and nephews, he was “Uncle Eddie.” As the last surviving member of their father’s family, he was a source of incredible wisdom, faith, and guidance. He often advised them, with direct honesty and tremendous love, on matters related to faith, finances, hardships, and relationships. Furthermore, he provided for them an example of a person whose deep faith was enriched by his extensive education and pastoral experience, so that his faith was not simply in “the head,” but a living one in the world. To his family, his life mirrored the first line of the encyclical document, Gaudium et Spes: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.”
Although Monsignor was humble in assessing his own impact, the extent of his presence speaks for itself. A West Virginia treasure, Monsignor will be remembered for his vision, example of faith, life of service, boundless energy, humor, hope for the future, bedrock belief in the power of a good education, and commitment to the worth of every human being. Through his words, deeds, and challenges, he has left his mark on so many lives, the community, and the State.
Visitation will be held from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 15, 2024, at The Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Leon Sullivan Way in Charleston with a vigil service at 7:00 p.m. by the Very Reverend Donald X. Higgs as presider and Monsignor Paul Hudock as homilist. There will also be visitation at the Basilica on Friday from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, February 16, at The Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart by Bishop Mark Brennan as presider and the Very Reverend Casey Mahone as homilist. Monsignor will be buried with his parents at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Parkersburg.
In lieu of flowers or other acknowledgements, the family requests that donations be made to The Father Sadie Educational Fund, 1033 Virginia Street East, Charleston, WV 25301.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.barlowbonsall.com.
Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home of Charleston is honored to assist the family and parish with arrangements.