The facility was dedicated Nov. 13, with Cardinal Justin Rigali blessing the building located on the Church of Divine Mercy campus at 10919 Carmichael Road in Knoxville. Deacon Sean Smith, Diocese of Knoxville chancellor, and Sister Mariana Koonce, RSM, MD, led the dedication. They thanked those involved in the mobile clinic ministry, including volunteers, diocesan leaders, the communities served by the clinic, and Bishop Richard F. Stika, who led efforts to get the mobile clinic ministry off the ground.
Among those attending the dedication were Religious Sisters of Mercy, officials with building contractor Merit Construction, and the directors of Remote Area Medical and the Free Medical Clinic of America, which also offer free medical care to people in East Tennessee.
“Bishop Stika offers his thanks to all of you. He is very grateful for the work that has gone into this wonderful ministry led by Sister Mariana. She is the sister of multiple hats. She is a physician, but she also drives this mobile clinic,” Deacon Smith said as he introduced Cardinal Rigali, calling His Eminence a prince of the Church who we are blessed to have living in our midst.
Before blessing the mobile clinic storage facility, Cardinal Rigali pointed out that the dedication was occurring on the feast day of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and was sent to America in 1889 by Pope Leo XIII to assist immigrants and who was the first American citizen to be canonized a saint.
Cardinal Rigali said St. Frances Xavier Cabrini worked in the name of serving the people of God, the immigrants and their needs.“It’s wonderful that the Sisters of Mercy – they’ve been involved since the very beginning in the beautiful title of mercy, that’s their job – to show mercy, which is God’s love in the face of need, all kinds of need. So here we are celebrating this wonderful work by Sister Mariana, who is the head of it, but also on this particular occasion of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, showing that this is what the Church is all about,” Cardinal Rigali said.
“You know this is a work of the Catholic Church, but the reason that we do it is because we’re Catholics. But it’s not to serve the Catholics; it’s to serve all of God’s people. That’s what it is and we’re so delighted that we can be of service, and we’re so delighted that we have the Sisters of Mercy to make this project work. This is in the tradition of the Church and very much what Jesus had in mind because Jesus, in the New Testament, went around doing good, helping people in need. He preached the Gospel, he spoke about his Father in heaven, he told us how to get to heaven, and part of the way of getting to heaven was to help people in need,” Cardinal Rigali added.
Following Cardinal Rigali’s blessing of the new facility, he joined Sister Mariana, Deacon Smith, Sister Mary Martha Naber, RSM, diocesan facilities manager Tom Greer, Bruce Bosse of Merit Construction, and John Geppi, who is chief financial officer of Covenant Health and a St. Mary’s Legacy Clinic board member, for the ribbon-cutting.
Sister Mariana also thanked Father Hoan Dinh, Church of Divine Mercy pastor, for his assistance with the mobile clinic ministry.
As the mobile clinic serves people in Washburn, Crab Orchard and Athens on a weekly and bi-weekly basis, Sister Mariana said she hopes the clinic, which is 40 feet in length, can expand to additional sites soon.
“Everything is in one place and now we can spend our time focused on getting out and serving people and not running around Knoxville figuring out where things are, so that’s what this building means to us today,” she said. “In many ways, this building completes, if you will, the start-up phase of the mobile clinic, and now we’re really ready to launch and get out there and start serving people more robustly.”