Once upon a time: Giving thanks for the month of Mary

The number of parishes dedicated to our Blessed Mother illustrates Diocese of Knoxville’s devotion

Another month of May for which to give thanks to God. May, the month of Mary, is in our Northern Hemisphere a spring-time month during which Mother Nature seems to join with her beautiful flora to offer a world of color and fragrance to enhance not only our natural settings but also our manufactured shrines in honor of the Holy Mother of God.

The number of parishes dedicated to our Blessed Lady surely indicates in a statistical way the devotion of our people to Mary.

We have Immaculate Conception, Knoxville; Our Lady of Fatima, Alcoa; St. Mary, Gatlinburg; and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel at the former St. Mary’s Memorial Hospital in Knoxville (all in the Smoky Mountain Deanery). In the Cumberland Mountain Deanery there are Our Lady of Perpetual Help in LaFollette and St. Mary Church in Oak Ridge. The Chattanooga Deanery has St. Mary Church, Athens; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Chattanooga; and Our Lady of Lourdes Church, South Pittsburg. Finally, the Five Rivers Deanery is blessed to have Notre Dame in Greeneville and St. Mary Church in Johnson City.

One of Blessed John Paul II’s legacies to the world is the gift of the Luminous (Mysteries of Light) Mysteries that help fill the void between the last Joyful Mystery, the finding of the adolescent Jesus in the Temple, and the first of the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Agony in the Garden. As a senior citizen, I have trouble remembering the Luminous Mysteries, even the order in which they occur. Learning the other 15 mysteries seemed such a breeze when Sister Joanne Marie, RSM, taught them at the old St. Mary’s School in Knoxville in 1941-42! I list the mysteries of life and wee meditations on each that you might find useful during this Month of Mary, dedicated to the Blessed Mother:

1.                  The Baptism in the Jordan

Meditation: Jesus descends into the water of the Jordan River and is baptized by John. The heavens open and the voice of the Father declares Him the beloved Son. The Spirit descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove and fills Him with God’s mission to save humankind from sin. Matthew 3:17.

2.                  The Wedding at Cana

Meditation: Jesus changes water into wine at the request of Mary, who was first among believers. The disciples witness this miracle, their hearts open to the faith, and they begin to believe in Him. John 2:1-12.

3.                  The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God

Meditation: Jesus preaches the Gospel in Galilee. He proclaims that this is the time of fulfillment, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. He asks all to repent and forgives the sins of those who believe in Him. Mark 1:15.

4.                  The Transfiguration

Meditation: On Mount Tabor, the Apostles see the glory of God shining forth from the face of Jesus. The voice of the Father, coming from a cloud, says, “This is my chosen Son, listen to Him.” Luke 9:35.

5.                  The Institution of the Eucharist

Meditation: At the Last Supper, Jesus offers His body and blood, under the signs of bread and wine, and washes the feet of the Apostles. He knows that Judas had betrayed Him and His hour has come. Jesus testifies to His everlasting love for each one of us by sharing the sacrament of the Eucharist. John 13:1.

Sometime back we reviewed the illustrious beginnings of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women in Tennessee. Begun in 1920, the National Council of Catholic Women was an answer to the prayers of our U.S. bishops for a mobilized group who would bring the leadership of laywomen to the front.

And the story was the same in 1937-38, when Bishop William Lawrence Adrian, D.D., bishop of Nashville, authorized the establishment of the Nashville Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. The early conventions of the ladies, whether in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, or Nashville, helped establish lay ministry as a practical reality. Thirty years later, the Second Vatican Council did even more to recognize the dignity of the baptism and God’s call to ministry for all men and women.

A Provincial Convention was held in Nashville April 18-20. The Diocese of Knoxville was well represented and the ladies of the host Diocese of Nashville excelled in southern hospitality. The accommodations and speakers were very fine, and Holy Rosary Church proved a fine place to celebrate convention Masses. Across the nation, however, the NCCW has come upon hard times financially. What to do? I believe leaving the organization is not a viable solution for the leavers or the stayers. The rise and maturity of parish pastoral councils has, it seems to me, been responsible for an impression circulating that NCCW, DCCW, Deanery CCW, and PCCW might be a pious extra in the U.S. church today. Not so. We might be able to stumble along briefly without such structure and leadership, but this would not last very long. Working with the hierarchy and along parish pastoral councils is the only way to go. Cooperation remains the name of the game.


Monsignor Mankel is a vicar general of the diocese and the pastor of Holy Ghost Parish in Knoxville.