Saint Peter The Apostle Catholic Church – History On Lake Gaston

In Catholic tradition St. Peter is known as the Apostle who went from fisherman to being chosen by the resurrected Jesus Christ as the first Pope.

Father Louis Rouff
Father Frank Wiggins

The Church of St. Peter the Apostle, however, began in 1985 as the dream of one devoted Catholic man. This individual, with the encouragement of his wife, first approached Father Louis Rouff, Pastor of St. Richard’s of Emporia. After many fact-finding and extended discussions, Father Lou directed the group to take their appeal to the Diocese of Richmond. At that point Father Lou was transferred and Father Frank Wiggins became Pastor of St. Richard’s. It took a while to convince both the bishop and Fr. Frank of the need for a Sunday Mass in the Lake Gaston.

A few vacation property owners and permanent residents of Lake Gaston requested a regular weekly Mass.
April 1994:
Store Renovated into Church

Rented an abandoned country store at the intersection of Rt. 46 and Rt. 626 in Valentines, Virginia.

May 1994:
Renovated the building using volunteer labor from the William & Mary College Youth Apostolate, and support from members of St. Richard’s Parish in Emporia.
Memorial Day 1994:
Began weekly Mass on Saturdays at 5:30 pm.
Labor Day 1994:
Mass schedule changed to once a month. People requested a permanent parish at the lake, especially, the part-time residents.
Winter 1994:
Bishop Sullivan authorized the purchase of eight acres of land in Ebony, Virginia for a future church site.
April 1995:
Weekly Mass resumed on a regular basis at the rented building.
May 1995:
The Richmond Diocese designated us as St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Community at Lake Gaston.
June 1995:
A Parish Council and Finance Council were formed. We began to explore the process of formulating a plan to develop the property and construct a new church building.
June 1996:
Fr. Leo T. Cervantes

In June 1996 Fr. Leo T. Cervantes became Pastor of St. Richard’s in Emporia and St. Peter the Apostle at Lake Gaston. With Fr. Leo’s help, the new parish continued to grow. Bishop Sullivan blessed and dedicated the building site near Ebony in May 1997.

August 1997:
Fellowship Hall

Construction of the fellowship Hall, which will be used for mass until a permanent Church is built, began in August of 1997. The pre-engineered 2,240 square foot building was constructed almost all with volunteer labor.

March 1998:
Father Steve Cowan

Dedication of the Fellowship Hall and the first Mass at the new location took place in March of 1998. The Hall sat 70 people for Mass. The Fellowship Hall was used for Mass until the permanent Church was built. As a result of a serious automobile accident in March 2001, Fr. Leo was no longer able to perform his duties as Pastor. In May 2001 Fr. Steve Cowan became the parish administrator.Bishop Sullivan also recognized the growth taking place at St. Peter’s. Through the combined efforts of the parish and the diocese, a residence for the pastor was located and purchased. St. Peter’s had its first RCIA Class, following which; four people became members of the Catholic Community. Next came the first Confirmation Class, the first Ecumenical Thanksgiving which fed over 300 families, and, for the first time, a midnight Mass was celebrated at St. Peter’s.

April 2003:
Fr. Dennis McAuliffe, Ph.D

In April 2003, Fr. Dennis McAuliffe, Ph.D, was appointed Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Parish.

Reverend Columba A. Nnorom

Soon after that appointment, Reverend Columba A. Nnorom was appointed Pastor of Saint Peter the Apostle Catholic Church.

March 2007:
New Church Construction Site

Growth at St. Peter’s was quicker than expected and the seating capacity soon became insufficient. It was determined that a larger 250 seat church would be built on the existing site.Construction of the new church began on March 10, 2007. The building phase was completed in October 2007.

December 2007:
Bishop DiLorenzo Dedication to Church

On December 15, 2007, Bishop DiLorenzo presided at the dedication.

St. Therese of Lisieux – Patron St. of the U.S. Air Force
Stained Glass Windows Lake Gaston Catholic Church

When one enters the Church sanctuary, the beauty is breath taking. Stained glass windows of Saints surround you. The stained glass windows were not installed as part of the original construction of the church in 2007. Individual members of the congregation were encouraged to pay for a stained glass window. The purchaser had options on naming the Saint or other religious for each of the windows. In addition it was decided that the four small windows over the entrance to the church would depict the patron saint of the Air Force (shown on the left), Army, Marines and Navy to honor the many military persons and their families that attend our church. To view all of the Stained Glass windows of our church:…See All Stained Glass Windows

July 2012:
Father Anthony Mpungu
Father Anthony Blesses Boats

In July 2012, Father Anthony Mpungu was named Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle on Lake Gaston and St. Richard’s in Emporia. Fr. Anthony is from the Archdiocese of Kampala in Uganda. In 2015, after about 3 years as our Pastor, Father Anthony was transferred to the Catholic Church of Saint Mark located in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

September 2015:
Father Patrick Baffour-Akoto
Father Patrick Baffour-Akoto

In September 2015, Father Patrick Baffour-Akoto became the Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church and St. Richard’s Catholic Church in Emporia, VA. Fr. Patrick was born on November 21, 1966. He was ordained to the priesthood on July 12, 2008 and was Pastor of a village parish in Ghana. After almost one year as our Pastor, Fr. Patrick was transferred, as of August 1, 2016, to become Pastor of St. Jerome Catholic Church in Newport News, VA. Fr. Patrick set as one of his goals to consistently visit the sick and spent much time in this endeavor. Father also began saying Mass at St. Peter the Apostle on weekdays.

2012 – 2015:
Grounds Beautification Project

Substantial beautification of the grounds and church were accomplished during Fr. Anthony’s and Fr. Patrick’s tour of duty at St. Peter’s. The project to pave the parking lot and to plant shrubbery and crape myrtle trees began under Fr. Anthony and was completed under Fr. Patrick. What a great accomplishment!

August 2016:
Father Joker “Jong” R. Bayta
Father Joker “Jong” R. Bayta


2021 Blessing of the Boats

In August 2016, Father Joker “Jong” R. Bayta became Pastor of St. Peter’s and St. Richard’s. Fr. Jong was born in Del Rosario, Baao, Camarines Sur, Philippines on October 1, 1969. After attending Holy Rosary Major Seminary in Naga City, he was ordained to the Priesthood on August 31, 1996. Fr. Bayta served in parishes in Camarines, Sur, Philippines in the Archdiocese of Caceres for over 17 years. His initial assignment in the Richmond Diocese was as the Parochial Vicar at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Richmond, Virginia on August 15, 2013. Prior to being assigned to our parish, he was serving as Pastor at St. Jerome’s in Newport News, VA.