WHEELING, W.Va. — A local establishment well-known for showcasing the Ohio Valley’s musical talent debuted a new star on Sunday as the community gathered to bless a new statue of Pope John Paul II recently installed in a special grotto at Generations Restaurant & Pub in Wheeling.
The statue of the saint was the fulfillment of a wish made years ago by Generations owner Michael Duplaga, who was mesmerized when he saw the statue’s much larger brother during a trip to Poland.
“This is what I wanted for years,” Duplaga said after removing the covering from the statue. “When I went to Poland I saw this 40-foot statue, and I said, ‘That’s my statue.'”
Keeping in mind the valley’s diverse and often inclement weather, Duplaga said the Pontiff’s statue was made out of steel and fiberglass and specially designed for durability.
To provide an official blessing, Monsignor Eugene Ostrowski came from the Corpus Christi Parish in Warwood. He said he was happy to help honor the Polish Pope, reflecting on the monumental achievements of his reign in the Vatican through the Cold War, an assassination attempt, drastic world changes and years of suffering toward the end of his life.
“I think he’s an inspiration, and he’s a source of hope,” Ostrowski said before the ceremony. “He (Pope John Paul II) changed the face of the Papacy by bringing it to the people. He exhibited for us some of the finest qualities of living.”
After unveiling the statue, Duplaga took a phone call from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., using speakers to share the conversation with more than 60 people in attendance.
“I think it’s a tremendous tribute and a great honor to you and the entire faith-based community,” Manchin said. “Sorry I’m not with you all, but I’m with you in thought and prayer.”
Ostrowski said Duplaga’s gesture gives a lesson from the teachings of Jesus Christ.
“Jesus said there are two loves: Love of God and love of each other,” Ostrowski said. “In reality, religion should be part of daily life. It’s bringing together our social life and our spiritual life.”