RUTLEDGE — A storefront in a commercial strip center off Rutledge Pike has been transformed into the spiritual home for the Catholic community in Grainger County.
And that spiritual home, Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission in Rutledge, was overflowing with members on Sunday as Bishop Richard F. Stika dedicated the mission’s new altar and celebrated Mass, where 26 adults and children received the sacraments of first Holy Communion and confirmation.
Glenmary priests Father Steve Pawelk and Father Aaron Wessman were concelebrants at the Mass.
Work on the mission began in November 2011 by Father Pawelk and Brother Craig Digmann of the Glenmary Home Missioners, assisted by parishioners from St. Patrick Church in Morristown and the local community.
“People were attending Mass occasionally by making the drive to St. Patrick and there was no opportunity here for formation and instruction in the sacraments,” Father Pawelk said.
Bishop Stika authorized Father Pawelk to begin instruction as the mission was being formed.
“We had to cover a lot of ground to prepare them,” said Brother Digmann, a Glenmary missionary.
The mission was completely filled on Sunday, with an overflow crowd listening from the parking lot outside. In his homily, Bishop Stika asked the mission members to recall the words of Christ when he appeared to the apostles after his resurrection: “Be not afraid.”
The community of Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission, the bishop said, should be unafraid in continuing to grow Christ’s church in rural Tennessee.Two members receiving first Holy Communion were brothers Edgar Esquivel Armendáriz, 21, and Juan Carlos Esquivel Armendáriz, 17, who were born in the Mexican state of Durango where they were baptized and confirmed as young children. The young men have actively supported Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission, joining the work to transform the storefront.
“We came on the first day,” said Juan Carlos Esquivel Armendáriz. “We came to clean, to paint, to take down walls.”
The first class for preparation to receive Holy Communion was held in their home. The brothers were excited to see the day come when they would receive Holy Communion in the mission they had worked so hard to open and what the future holds for the mission.
“I want to see us growing up as a church, if God allows us,” said Juan Carlos Esquivel Armendáriz.