1953-1977 – Father Heller Becomes The Fifth Pastor At St. James

Rev. Paul V. Heller was pastor of St. James from 1953 until 1977, and lived here as pastor emeritus until his death in 1982.  He is buried with his parents in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where he was born in 1901.

Father Heller was ordained in 1933, and as a new priest in Winchester, Virginia, he served the men in the Civilian Conservation Corps camps in the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains.  He told a parishioner friend about being snowed in at a CCC camp for three days, dreading his late return to the parish, only to be greeted by the pastor, “Thanks for bringing my car back before the spring thaw.”

Father Heller then spent 13 years as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart in Norfolk.  Moved by the plight of orphaned and abandoned children during those World War II years, he founded and directed St. Mary’s Infant Home.  More than 70 years have passed, and St. Mary’s has become St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children, a place where “children and young adults — ages newborn to 21 — from 

all across Virginia live, play and go to school….The only place like it in Virginia.”

In 1947, Father Heller became pastor of St. James in Hopewell, Virginia.  In 1953, he came to our St. James in Falls Church. He celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination here in 1958, and was given the title Monsignor by Pope John XXIII in 1961.  The 24 years until he retired in 1977 were rich years for St. James and for the whole Church.  Look for stories of those years in the weeks ahead.