St. Francis Xavier welcomes new priest

PARKERSBURG – Even though the new priest at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church was not born in Parkersburg, he considers the city as his adopted hometown.

The Rev. John Rice was born outside of Pittsburgh.

“My family moved to Ravenswood when I was 13 years old,” Rice said. “Parkersburg and the surrounding community are an excellent place to raise kids, run a business or start a family. I am very pleased to be moving back here to serve fantastic parishes in St. Francis Xavier and St. Monica’s.”

Rice first heard the call to serve in 1980 during his junior year in high school.

After attending a public school, Rice transferred to the former St. Joseph Preparatory Seminary in Vienna in 1980.

After graduation Rice did a “run away” from God to attend college and study psychology, for which he would earn his bachelor’s degree in 1984 at Wheeling Jesuit University.

“I wanted to go out and explore the world, just as I think every young person does who hears the call to serve, even those who hear the call the strongest,” Rice said about attending college over preparing for the seminary.

Coincidentally, while attending Wheeling Jesuit, Rice stayed in the now-closed House of Studies, which supports men considering the priesthood. However, the call to serve was still lacking and by 1983 any thoughts of the priesthood where left behind when Rice left the house.

Upon graduation from Wheeling Jesuit in 1984, Rice, an Eagle Scout, took a position with the Boy Scouts of America in Wisconsin where he earned the nickname “rabbi.”

Rice rose through the ranks of the Boy Scouts heirarchy to a senior district executive. Superiors would note Rice’s fairness, respect and kindness helped him on his ascent up the ladder.

“I have been a very service-oriented person my entire life, serving and aiding people and especially the young boys in Scouts, helping them grow into men,” Rice said.

Rice would leave the Boy Scouts and reacquaint himself with the Catholic Church and spending more time in participation of the Mass.

Finally in 1997, the call to serve became overwhelming and Rice decided it was time to begin his journey toward the priesthood.

“If God’s going to keep knocking, I’d better answer the door. I’d better see what this is all about because God is not giving up on me,” said Rice.

Rice decided to return home to West Virginia after his first summer vacation in 15 years fell apart. Once home, Rice made his way to Wheeling for an appointment with The Rev. John Gallagher, diocesan director of vocations.

Two weeks after the meeting, Rice entered the St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa. Rice worked hard at the seminary and his perserverance paid off, earning the aspiring priest a master’s in theology in 2002.

Rice quickly experienced several relocations that summer, moving from parish to parish in West Virginia in Charles Town, Bluefield, Beckley, Wheeling and Morgantown.

In Morgantown, Rice was the team chaplain for the West Virginia University Mountaineer football team. He met such famous players such as Pat White and Steve Slaton.

“I was on the field for the Louisville game – the first time White and Slaton took the field – it was amazing,” said Rice.

Rice hosted the team Mass before both the Fiesta and Sugar Bowl victories over Oklahoma and Georgia, respectively.

Outside of the church, Rice enjoys photography and is a member of the North American Nature Photography Association. He also enjoys sports photography and posts his photos on his website: seethelightimages.com.