Jubilees mark growth of the Catholic Church as dioceses plan for milestone celebrations
As we continue to bask in the glories of the faith during April, May and June, we have an opportunity every year to examine, review, reflect and remember such great mysteries as the Incarnation, the Redemption, the Passion, Resurrection, Ascension of our Lord and the coming of the Holy Spirit into the Church and into our individual lives at Pentecost.
Another concept that we find useful as we flip the pages of our calendars every day, week or month is the notion of jubilee. In Old Testament times the jubilee was a collection (seven) of Sabbaths (seventh day) or 49 years, or roughly every 50 years. Even when the life expectancy of many people did not reach into their 70s, many people did live to see one or two great jubilee years in their lives.
Christians celebrate jubilee years in multiples of 25. As we process the observance of the 175th anniversary of the Diocese of Nashville (1837-2012) and the silver jubilees of the eastern dioceses of Kentucky and our own state (Lexington: March 25, 1988; and Knoxville: Sept. 8, 1988), we have cause for great joy. I wonder just how much (or little) Pope Pius VI (1775-1799) knew about the baby United States when he established Baltimore as its primatial see in 1789. His successor, Pope Pius VII (1800-1823) never traveled to our part of the world. How glorious would he have considered the geography of the Diocese of Bardstown (1808), which today includes (as the province of Louisville) the dioceses of Covington, Owensboro, Louisville, Lexington, Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville?
For that matter, what information would Blessed John Paul II have had in establishing the diocese of Knoxville on Sept. 8, 1988? Well, he had available to him much, much more about you and me than any pope who established dioceses prior to that time had due to modern means of data collecting and some personnel who handled data masterfully.
Tennessee was so blessed to have the skills of Father Steve Klasek, a native of the state who had a degree from the University of Tennessee–Chattanooga in urban planning. Father Steve put together a 50 page “case” for the formation of a new diocese in eastern Tennessee to be taken completely from the territory of the then-diocese of Nashville, which covered the entire state from 1837 until Memphis became a diocese for western Tennessee in 1970. The 36 counties include mountains, lakes, rivers, and valleys and principal towns like Chattanooga, Cleveland, Knoxville, Oak Ridge, Morristown, Johnson City and Kingsport along with many others that enable us to be 47 parishes and three missions at this time.
Our mother diocese, Nashville, currently is celebrating a 175th anniversary under the leadership of Bishop David R. Choby. Nashville’s founding bishop, Richard Pius Miles, O.P., (1838-60) is entombed in the pro-Cathedral of St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows in downtown Nashville. His remains are being moved to a third location within the building as the beautiful first permanent cathedral for Tennessee is being restored for the present jubilee. The remains of the founding bishop of Knoxville, Anthony J. O’Connell (1988-98), were recently laid to rest at Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, S.C.
The Diocese of Knoxville has grown and grown and grown— thanks be to God —from being about 2 percent of the population in 1988 to nearly 3 percent of the overall population.
Bishop Richard F. Stika has announced preliminary plans and dates for our own diocesan jubilee. It will begin with a Eucharist Congress in September 2013 and conclude with another major celebration about one year later. Deanery and parish celebrations will occur throughout the jubilee time. We have so very much for which to thank God as this great jubilee approaches. Let’s do it.
(Editors note: Monsignor Mankel has served as vicar general for the three bishops of Knoxville during their times of service here. He was appointed on September 7, 1988. Prior to that time he was a diocesan consultor for the Diocese of Nashville and participated in the studies that enabled Bishop James D. Niedergeses of Nashville to petition the Holy Father to erect the Knoxville diocese.)