By Bill Brewer
Monsignors Xavier Mankel and Patrick Garrity have been recognized for their years of service to Knoxville
Catholic High School with school wings named in their honor.
The two longtime Diocese of Knoxville priests, who served as principals of the diocesan high school, were honored April 4 at the school with a reception and dedication ceremony.
The school library has been renamed the Monsignor Mankel Media Center, and the school’s administrative department has been renamed the Monsignor Garrity Administrative Suite.
Bishop Richard F. Stika dedicated and blessed the departments that are across from each other in the school’s main commons area.
Monsignor Mankel, who was not able to attend the event because of health reasons, served as principal of the high school from 1967-1979.
George Mankel, the monsignor’s brother, was on hand to receive an honorary plaque from school
President Dickie Sompayrac. Monsignor Garrity, who was present and spoke at the dedication, served as principal of the school from 1985-1997.
Mr. Sompayrac called Monsignors Mankel and Garrity “two of Knoxville Catholic’s greatest leaders of all time.”
Mr. Sompayrac noted that Francis Xavier Mankel graduated from KCHS in 1953 as salutatorian. He then went on to the seminary and was ordained a priest in 1961 by Bishop William L. Adrian at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville. And he has been a vicar general of the Diocese of Knoxville since its founding in 1988.
“Monsignor Mankel was named principal of Knoxville Catholic High School just 14 years later [after graduation] and served in that capacity through 1979. He is the only person who has given his all to KCHS as a student, teacher, principal, superintendent, school-board member, vicar of education, chancellor, and moderator of the curia for the diocese.
“Monsignor Mankel’s interest in and appreciation for newspapering, together with his mastery of the English language honed through Catholic education and teaching, has helped sustain The East Tennessee Catholic through the years. As a peer reviewer, Monsignor Mankel has edited nearly every issue of The East Tennessee Catholic over the last 25 years; that is more than 500 editions of The East Tennessee Catholic.”
He pointed out that in the mid-1990s, Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell called on Monsignor Mankel to locate a plot of land for a new Knoxville Catholic High School to accommodate the school’s growing student population.
“Who better to choose than Father Mankel, a man who loves KCHS the most. He found a little piece of property, 38 beautiful acres at the corner of Fox Lonas and Cedar Bluff roads. Make no mistake, Monsignor Mankel’s love for Knoxville Catholic is second to none,” he said. “And Monsignor Mankel’s love for Knoxville Catholic High School still shines through today. So it is with great pride that we honor Monsignor Mankel with the dedication of our media center, which will now be known as the Mankel Media Center.”
Mr. Sompayrac said a plaque in the media center describes Monsignor Mankel as “a guardian of our past and a visionary for our future.”
Monsignor G. Patrick Garrity, a native of Wichita, Kan., where he graduated from high school in 1967, was excited to be on hand for the dedication of the administrative suite in his name. He graduated with undergraduate and graduate degrees from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in 1971 and 1976, respectively, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1976 by Bishop James D. Niedergeses in the Diocese of Nashville. He served as a faculty member and spiritual director at Father Ryan High School in Nashville and Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga before becoming principal of Knoxville Catholic High School.
“During his 12-year tenure at KCHS, he was instrumental in the school’s first major capital campaign fundraiser, which added a new wing to the school. He also led a restoration of the school building on Magnolia, and his time will be remembered as a period that enhanced the fine arts,” Mr. Sompayrac said.
The KCHS principal pointed out that like Monsignor Mankel, Monsignor Garrity’s love for Knoxville Catholic High School “is profound, and he continues to serve the school as a member of the school board despite his many other responsibilities.”
Mr. Sompayrac said Monsignor Garrity’s reputation for attention to detail served the school well, especially as it moved from Magnolia Avenue to the corner of Cedar Bluff Road and Fox Lonas Road in January 2000. The principal quoted from former colleagues of Monsignor Garrity, who said the priest played a pivotal role in turning around the school’s finances and enrollment ahead of its move to West Knoxville.
“His foresight and leadership helped retire the school’s debt, increase enrollment, and laid the framework for the school’s eventual move to Fox Lonas Road,” Mr. Sompayrac said. “Thank you, Monsignor Garrity, and know that KCHS continues to reap the rewards of your great sacrifice.”
Mr. Sompayrac said the plaque placed at the entrance to the Garrity Administrative Suite reads,
“Gratefully recognizing his service as an uncompromising educator and visionary leader.”
In being recognized for his service, Monsignor Garrity said the high school has come a long way since he first became principal in 1985. By improving the school’s finances, enrollment, and physical plant, it was able to relocate a healthy student population to new facilities with little or no existing debt, and the former East Knoxville school was sold to the state of Tennessee for $3.2 million.
“I was blessed to surround myself with some really great people who helped to make Catholic High a much better place, the place it is today,” Monsignor Garrity said.
Bishop Stika said he enjoys going into the diocese’s schools and seeing the plaques and photographs honoring giants of the past like Monsignor Mankel and Monsignor Garrity.
“Knoxville Catholic has a long and beautiful history with the many staff members who have come through the halls of the old school and this present school, and the many young adults who have come through here. … We have much to be proud of with Knoxville Catholic and Notre Dame and our other schools. And in a very special way, I want to congratulate Monsignor Garrity for being recognized with the Monsignor Garrity Administrative Suite, and congratulate Monsignor Mankel for being recognized with the Monsignor Mankel Media Center,” Bishop Stika said.