St. Anne, Bristol, Va.: Administering the sacraments in a border parish

Part of the Faith on the Border series

By Dan McWilliams

The ultimate border town, with State Street in downtown Bristol dividing Tennessee and Virginia, has a Catholic church on the Virginia side that still draws plenty of people from Bristol, Tenn.

St. Anne pastor Father Kevin Segerblom, who was recently reassigned to Roanoke, had a unique set of credentials that allowed him to minister to people from both states.

“One of the interesting things is that more or less half of my parishioners live in Virginia, and half live in Tennessee,” he said.

“Also what’s interesting is I have faculties given from both bishops, the bishop of Richmond — of course, St. Anne’s is a parish of the Diocese of Richmond — but I also have faculties given from Bishop [Richard F.] Stika from the Diocese of Knoxville, because I’m administering the sacraments to his people, generally.”

It’s a long way to St. Dominic in Kingsport or St. Mary in Johnson City for some of the Bristol, Tenn., residents who go to St. Anne.

“Of course, it’s 25 or 30 miles in either direction, so that would be a long way for them to go, so it’s quite a convenience,” Father Segerblom said.

The St. Anne pastor said he doesn’t see any rivalries among his parishioners, except some who maybe root for Bristol’s two high schools: Tennessee High on one side of the border and Virginia High on the other side.

“But I don’t see it too much in the parish,” Father Segerblom said. “I think this city is so used to having residents on both sides of the border that there are family members and friends and relatives crossing the border all the time.”

Gina Rossetti, a St. Anne greeter from Bristol, Tenn., has no plans to attend any other parish.

“It’s absolutely wonderful. We live 20 miles out of town, so actually we could have gone to Elizabethton, Johnson City, or Kingsport,” she said. “We came to this church, and I would not change for anything. My husband and I absolutely love this church. These are our church friends, yes, our church family.”

Tina Booher of Bristol, Tenn., saw her daughter, Ava, receive her first holy Communion on the day The East Tennessee Catholic Magazine visited. She says she’s “never thought” about St. Anne as a border church.

“I was raised in this church,” she said. “I was raised in Abingdon, Va., then moved to Blountville, Tenn. [Ava] actually goes to school here at St. Anne’s. We don’t think about it. It’s something we do. I work in Tennessee.”

When asked about the convenience of St. Anne as a border parish, Mike Worrell of Bristol, Tenn., said, “I think it’s very remarkable that we have a parish like St. Anne’s in Bristol. I love my parish. I have been to Kingsport, too. We visit in Abingdon, Va. [which has a Catholic church]. We are very lucky to have this church in Bristol. It means a lot.”

Mr. Worrell said he sees rivalries between fans of the two Bristol high schools.

“I was born on the Virginia side, but I married a Tennessee girl,” he said. “Being on a border town, on the Virginia side we’re Bearcats; on the Tennessee side we’re Vikings. Of course, that’s a city rivalry in high school sports. We get along fine. It’s a great community.”

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