RUTLEDGE—A converted storefront in a commercial strip center here that is now the spiritual home for the Catholic community in Grainger County already is feeling the effects of growth a year after forming.
Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission was overflowing with members on Sept. 16 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 Craig, 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 East 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. “We came to clean, to paint, to take down walls. I want to see us growing up as a church, if God allows us.”
Blessed John Paul II isn’t the only Diocese of Knoxville mission that is planning for growth.
Divine Mercy Catholic Mission recently relocated from its home of nearly two decades, Immaculate Conception Church in downtown Knoxville, to the chapel at Knoxville Catholic High School.
Father Hoan Dinh, who in July was named pastor of the mission that serves the diocese’s Vietnamese community, said the relocation was necessary to reach more members, many of whom live in West Knoxville.
Divine Mercy held its first Mass in the KCHS chapel on Sept. 2, and Masses there have been at or near capacity.
“The move has gone very well. We have more people coming, including several for the first time. And I’m seeing new families,” Father Hoan said.