Once upon a time: The warm, friendly confines of home

Campaign to build up Church in East Tennessee promises to be a blessing to all of us

As a child I suffered from asthma — so much so that I sometimes had to sleep in a chair in an upright position for days, weeks, or months at a time.
If I would try to lie down, I would choke. Sophisticated drugs that make breathing a bit easier for asthmatics had not been developed. They came from research, which World War II initiated among servicemen so afflicted. The solace given by that favorite chair made it truly a home base for relief and comfort.

I was allergic to grasses, leaves, and fall pollens, so I had to be kept indoors while the other kids in the neighborhood played outside. I also was allergic to dander from cats and dogs, so when I mustered enough strength to yell, “go home,” the dogs always left the first time I cried out —the cats sometimes needed a second call.
We talk about home plate on the baseball field and a home run is part of the athlete’s victory happiness. Perhaps the very greatest happiness during a family’s vacation is visiting the “old home place” or best of all, arriving back home after being away for a whole day or more. Imagine the emotional glee that a soldier experiences when he or she returns home after a long deployment.
It was not from thin air that the committees working on the biggest financial campaign in our diocese’s history, now over a quarter of a century old, chose Home as one of the major themes of the campaigns surrounding us.

Where we live is our home. Where we work is our home away from home. And so is our parish church. No matter how elegant or plain, large or small, old or new, urban or rural, old style or new, our church home is, it is in this building, no matter how grand or simple, in which we are given the new life of grace in baptism, healed in penance, fortified with the nourishment of the Eucharist, made a family in holy matrimony, and dispatched into the next world in our Christian funeral rites. And what we can honestly say of a parish church is especially true, let us say by a hundredfold, of that sacred spot where the bishop takes his seat, his cathedra, our cathedral.

A campaign is being launched to build up the Church in East Tennessee. Funds will be generously given for our poor (for are they not our real treasure?). Money will be raised to assure our priests a comfortable retirement. Capital improvements will be made in every single parish, from structural repairs to leaky windows. The value of Catholic education will be underwritten by funds that you will contribute. Our seminarians will be educated in the world’s most prestigious seminaries so as to give you priests who can serve you better. And at the top of this list of wonderful projects will be the building of a new cathedral.

The Church of East Tennessee is coming into its own. From the tiniest mission outpost to an area with large parishes, schools, and active social organizations, there is someplace for each of us to call home and from that place or person, the love of God, the holy face of Jesus shines forth.

This concept of home as foundational to a happy life is not a pipe dream. It is real. I do hope that every member of our diocese, local or imported, will implement this concept of home in the manner we think, pray, and live as the years fly by.

If I may be permitted a personal reflection:

My father purchased a 105-year-old farmhouse in 1935. It had five rooms with 11-and-a-half-foot-high ceilings (an architectural device to afford cooling on summer days), a 30-foot central hallway with only 10-foot-high ceilings, and an added on kitchen. Inside plumbing and electricity had been added by 1900. Mansions, some three- and four-stories tall were added during the 1880s and 1890s, along streets and avenues laid out shortly after the American Civil War. Many have been razed as the University of Tennessee has grown and grown. A few remain in various stages of repair or disrepair.
Nevertheless, old West Knoxville still lives.

I first moved into these warm walls on April 1, 1935. I moved back home on July 1. The intervening years saw World War II, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam War, and the present wars, skirmishes, invasions, and fights. Now as I enter partial retirement, I hope to make the old home place an area of prayer, reading, research, and dabbling with tools. I might even bring my 1935 eight-cylinder Oldsmobile. I now belong once again to Immaculate Conception Parish (my grandparents, Robert Lewis Mankel and Lena Weyer, had been the first couple married in the completed new church building in May 1889). In the years God gives me, I hope to serve the parish, the diocese, the neighborhood, my family, and my brother priests in a positive manner for the good of the Church and my good, too.

Monsignor Mankel is a vicar general and the historical archivist for the Diocese of Knoxville.