Cathedral kickoff event introduces historic plan to parishioners

Hundreds turn out for celebration marking the beginning of two-year construction project

By Jim Wogan

CATHEDRAL KICKOFF Sacred Heart Cathedral parishioners spread out onthe parish grounds for an afternoon of fun, food and fellowship Sept. 7 as a formal beginning to the cathedral construction project. Photo by Scott Maentz

CATHEDRAL KICKOFF Sacred Heart Cathedral parishioners spread out onthe parish grounds for an afternoon of fun, food and fellowship Sept. 7 as a formal beginning to the cathedral construction project. Photo by Scott Maentz

The first shovel of dirt hasn’t been turned yet, but parishioners at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus finally have a good idea of what their new home will look like when construction is completed in 2017.

Plans for a new cathedral were unveiled with video presentations during Masses on Sept. 6-7 followed by a Sunday afternoon festival Sept. 7 in front of the current cathedral structure.

It’s estimated that more than 500 people, including Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., attended the kickoff celebration.

WATE-TV news anchor Kristin Farley emceed the event. Cathedral campaign co-chairmen Bruce Hartmann and Dugan McLaughlin also were in attendance.

“The day gives evidence that there is an enthusiasm both for the normal parish life of the cathedral but also real enthusiasm for a new house of worship,” Bishop Richard F. Stika said.

“It’s been a very festive celebration. Throughout my almost 29 years of priesthood I have always enjoyed parish gatherings, parish picnics and homecomings and such. This has been a tremendous and uplifting experience,” Bishop Stika added.

Individual information stations with detailed architectural renderings were set-up under tents in the cathedral parking lot allowing parishioners to ask specific questions relating to all elements of the planned construction.

Project officials did their best to answer them.

“We were asked some very good questions,” said Sacred Heart parishioner and building committee chairman Jerry Bodie.

“One of the biggest concerns, believe it or not, was about parking,” said Bodie. “We explained that under the plan we will have three access points to the cathedral campus, our parking will increase (from approximately 280 spaces to more than 400) and on both sides there will be parking closer to the cathedral and the slope of the lot will be much gentler.”

One element of the cathedral plan that has drawn plenty of curiosity is a crypt that will be located under the worship space.

“Plenty of people were asking how a bishop gets buried in a crypt,” Mr. Bodie said.

It wasn’t all about building issues. The festival was intended to give Sacred Heart parishioners a chance to relax, have fun and share fellowship. Food booths, games and music by local band the Chillbillies provided an outlet for amusement.

One of the more popular activities was face painting—in a booth run by Sacred Heart parishioner and artist Christine Maentz. A long line of children snaked through the parking lot and past booths set up for other purposes. Clearly, face painting was a hit.

All of this took place in a parking lot that will be transformed next year. The front steps of the current cathedral were used as a festival stage. Three large banners — two with artist renderings of what the new cathedral will look like and measuring 12 feet by 18 feet — were hung from the front of the church. A third banner measuring 55 feet by 10 feet was hung from the cathedral bell tower.

It made for an impressive backdrop.

Bishop Stika reminded those attending the festival that the hard work is just beginning for Sacred Heart Parish and the Diocese of Knoxville.

“I ask you all in a very special way, to entrust this project, the building of this parish, the continued building of this parish, to entrust it all to the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” Bishop Stika said. “That’s what he wants. He wants us to be drawn closer and closer and closer to himself.”

The vibe at the kickoff festival was relaxed — over his clerical collar, Bishop Stika wore a jersey of his beloved St. Louis Cardinals, and just to make sure everyone knew who he was, the name “Bishop” was emblazoned on the back.

True to his Tennessee connections, Father David Boettner, who serves as cathedral rector and as a vicar general for the diocese, was hard to miss. He wore his clerical shirt — with a bright orange pair of slacks.

Did he have the bishop’s permission to make such a fashion statement?

“No, because I would have said no,” Bishop Stika joked.

“Well, maybe I would have said OK.  Anybody who wears orange pants is devoted to the Tennessee Volunteers and how can you disagree with that?”

That devotion will be tested in the coming months. Father Boettner likely will trade his orange slacks for an orange vest and a hard hat — as he helps oversee a construction project that is scheduled to begin in June 2015.