2018 diocesan confirmations to be held in new cathedral

To mark the dedication of the new Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on March 3 and the 30th anniversary of the Diocese of Knoxville’s founding, Bishop Richard F. Stika will celebrate the sacrament of confirmation for all diocesan parishes in the cathedral next spring.

Bishop Stika is adjusting the confirmation Mass schedules only for 2018, after which all confirmations will return to the parishes.

“In over eight years being in Knoxville, one of the things I’ve discovered is the number of people who have not been to our cathedral because they’ve never been invited. Normally, for confirmations and other activities I go out to the parishes,” Bishop Stika said.

“Next year in 2018, being our 30th anniversary, we’re going to have a series of events at the cathedral and in the diocese. I’m even asking the Holy Father to declare a holy year for us as we celebrate this and have an indulgence for the cathedral,” he added. “So I thought it would be a good time to invite everyone to come to the cathedral for various activities, including confirmations.”

Bishop Stika noted that other dioceses have invited parishioners to come to their cathedral, including the Diocese of Nashville in celebrating a recent milestone anniversary.

“I thought it was a great idea. It will be a good way to celebrate with Bishop Stika said plans now are to match larger parishes with smaller ones in scheduling the confirmations to maintain a proper balance. Consideration also is being given to holding confirmations by region so parishioners can carpool where possible.

A cathedral for any diocese is the mother church, he said, noting that people attending the confirmation Masses will be invited to take part in Mass by serving in the choir or as readers.

“We’re going to try to create a certain sense of unity of diocese. So often we think we belong to either the Chattanooga parishes, or the Tri-Cities parishes, or Knoxville. This will show that the Church has a beautiful broad spectrum of people from all 36 counties of the diocese,” the bishop said.

Father Richard Armstrong, assistant director of the diocesan Office of Christian Formation, said the cathedral offers a unique setting to celebrate confirmations, that of our mother church, of which all diocesan parishes are a member.

“I think it’s a good idea because it will help us realize that although we’re in individual parishes we’re actually members of a larger community of faith. Our Protestant brothers and sisters, their parishes stand on their own. They are individual entities, if you will. The Catholic Church isn’t like that. The individual parishes actually are all members of the larger community of faith, the larger Church in East Tennessee. I believe this gives us the opportunity to show forth our Catholicity in a greater way by having confirmations at the cathedral,” Father Armstrong said.

He emphasized Bishop Stika’s intent to move all youth confirmations back to the parishes in 2019.

“There are a lot of different events planned for the new cathedral to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the diocese. All of these events are converging naturally at the cathedral. So to be able to have confirmations be a part of this, I think, is a great thing,” he said. “After 2018, the bishop’s intention is to go back to the parishes. The diocesan-wide adult confirmations will still be a part of our cathedral celebrations on Pentecost Sunday.”

In discussing confirmations, Bishop Stika said he is encouraged by the response to his decision to move the age of confirmation from high school to fifth and sixth grades. That gradual transition is underway and will take time.

He noted that the healthy numbers of youth and adults being confirmed and also entering the Church reflect the growth of the Church in East Tennessee.

“The Church is definitely growing in East Tennessee. Twenty-nine years ago we started with 33,000 Catholics. Now we’re over 70,000. As I see the large confirmation classes and people coming in with the RCIA process, it just shows that it is good steady growth as we continue to teach the Catholic faith and preach Jesus, not this huge growth that becomes overwhelming,” the bishop said.

In reminding that he formed a commission a number of months ago to study changing the age for confirmation in the diocese from high school to fifth and sixth grades, Bishop Stika said the commission suggested second grade for confirmation, but he believes fifth and sixth grades will be more effective.

“I thought fifth grade because that is when they are more inquisitive. It is really when they are beginning to set certain values, their commitment to the Church, and there is an excitement about the faith when you’re in fifth and sixth grade, so that’s why I decided to move it to the fifth and sixth grades,” he said.

But he pointed out that confirmation is being emphasized for any age, whether elementary school, high school, or adults, and noted that for the last two years on the feast of Pentecost he has celebrated confirmation Masses at Sacred Heart Cathedral for adults in the diocese.

But adults will be the only ones confirmed at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on a permanent basis unless …

“The confirmations at the cathedral are just for the jubilee year, 2018, for the 30th anniversary, and will not be permanent. They will transition back to the parishes in 2019,” Bishop Stika said, adding that if any parishes are interested and request it, he will consider holding confirmations for them at the cathedral going forward.


Click here for the 2018 confirmation schedule. 

Comments 2

  1. Glad to know it will go back to the parishes in 2019. It puts an undo hardship on many families to try to be present at the occasion. Commuting two hours up and two hours back from Chattanooga would mean some would not be able to attend.

  2. Father Richard Armstrong’s statement: “Our Protestant brothers and sisters, their parishes stand on their own. They are individual entities, if you will” is inaccurate. He may have in mind an ecclesiology called congregationalism, in which individual local churches are independent, but this is not true of Episcopalians, United Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and many others. For instance, the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee covers approximately the same territory as the Diocese of Knoxville. Its parishes are united under a bishop. There is a cathedral in Knoxville, St. John’s. Episcopal parishes are not “individual entities.” Neither is that true of Methodism. Parishes are not “independent” in the United Methodist Church, which uses the term “connectional” to describe itself. The local Methodist parish belongs to a conference (=diocese) to which all presbyters (elders/pastors), deacons, and laity relate, presided over by a bishop. A Methodist bishop assigns clergy to congregations; pastors are “sent” not “called.” The local parish is not free to “do as it pleases” with buildings and resources; in fact, such are held “in trust” for the conference. Parishes are extensions of the conference, not the other way around. The church in its fullness gathers for the yearly annual conference, epitomized by the presiding bishop, together with presbyters, deacons, and laity assembled around the Eucharist. That’s “the church,” –“the connection”–not the local parish. The Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church covers East TN and SW Virginia, and its bishop is seated in Knoxville.
    Lutherans use the historic term “synod” (literally, “to walk together”) to indicate the geographical region encompassing parishes overseen by a bishop. That’s the Southeastern Synod for Tennessee Lutherans, which covers GA, AL, MS, and TN. A Lutheran parish also holds its facilities in trust with the synod, the bishop acts as pastor pastorum, and Lutheran youth, for instance, participate in confirmation catechesis together with their colleagues from around the synod at annual youth gatherings.
    Presbyterians, while having a non-episcopal polity, yet gather their parishes in wider geographical groupings called presbyteries and synods. They work together, not alone.
    The closest thing to what Fr. Armstrong may have in mind is the congregational polity of Baptist churches. However, even there, congregations affiliate with regional associations in which they can work together on common projects and foster a sense of being church beyond the local entity.
    As a professor of religion, I work to disabuse my predominately Protestant students of misperceptions they might have about Roman Catholicism. Just today in class I explained the practice of the intercession of the saints (also adding that the Lutheran confessions teach that “blessed Mary prays for the Church”), distinguishing it from the common misunderstanding that Catholics “worship” saints.
    Our churches are well over a half a century into commitment to ecumenical understanding and awareness of the gifts each brings to the others. Unfortunately, it is tempting here in the Bible Belt for Catholics and Protestants to perpetuate defensive postures toward one another. We both seem to live oblivious to (or willfully ignorant of) multiple rounds of wise and careful official ecumenical dialog by faithful representatives passionately committed to their churches, yet responsive to the call to love one another as Christ’s followers. All of us Christians in the region need to work harder at living together charitably (which would include being knowledgeable of one another, and thus open to our respective gifts) rather than aloof from one another.
    And so, the decision to have 2018 confirmations at the cathedral is an inspiring expression of catholicity that we Protestants who also celebrate confirmation should consider a gift to be received. It is traditional for Lutheran and Methodist confirmands, for instance, to be confirmed by their pastor in the local parish where they were catechized. But, could Methodists not be confirmed by the bishop at, say, the annual conference? That would fully accord with the expression of catholicity already embedded in Methodist ecclesiology. I guess I’ll have to take that up with my bishop, but it would be a small gift accepted with inspiration from our Catholic sisters and brothers. The more little things we might appropriate from one another with good cheer, the closer we might come to reducing the big things that still stand in the way of unity. Even in this very month of the 500th anniversary of Luther’s having nailed (or mailed) his 95 Theses.
    Faithfully, your Methodist brother in Christ,
    Rev. Dr. William McDonald

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