Seymour faithful celebrate the end of their debt on their family life center, with Bishop Stika joining them for the occasion
By Dan McWilliams
Holy Family Parish in Seymour celebrated a doubly special accomplishment Sept. 16: the paying-off of the debt on its family life center and the burning of the mortgage on the building.
Bishop Richard F. Stika joined pastor Father Gilbert Diaz and many of the 328 families in the 34-year-old parish for the occasion.
“We gather together this day to observe a very special moment in the history of this parish: the burning of the mortgage,” the bishop said in his opening remarks at Mass.
In his homily, Bishop Stika mentioned that he had served as Knoxville’s shepherd for more than nine years.
“One of the things I enjoy so much about this diocese is that every Sunday I’m traveling to a different parish,” he said. “I’ve been here at Seymour a number of times to celebrate with you.”
The bishop talked about a verse from the day’s reading from Mark 8.
“There was a question in that Gospel today: who do you say that I am? How do we answer that question? . . . Not Rick Stika, no, no, no. It’s Jesus asking that question,” the bishop said. “. . . So the question is posed to us as individuals, as a group, as a parish, as a community, when Jesus says, who do you say that I am?
“. . . This parish has been kind of acting, living out that commission in the [second] reading [from James 2:14-18] and in the Gospel, and all through the Gospel: teaching, baptizing, feeding, nourishing, being available when somebody has a disaster in their family. All those second collections, all those special collections, like for earthquakes or hurricanes or Gatlinburg, but also the things that nobody knows about, because you, in your own personal, private life, have adopted in your heart a response to Jesus, to live lives of goodness and care, concern and love.
“That’s how we answer Jesus, when he says to the apostles, but he also says to you: who do you say that I am? Just don’t say My name. Action! Jesus invites to a deeper and deeper and deeper relationship, and he waits, and he waits, and he waits.”
At the end of his homily, the bishop said “I just want to commend the parish for what you’ve done, and what you’re going to continue to do: to be Jesus, His face and His voice and His hands. Congratulations on paying off that [mortgage].”
Rain altered the plans to burn the mortgage with the assembly outside, so Father Diaz set fire to the mortgage by the back door of the family life center and let it burn in a barbecue grill just outside the door.
As part of his prayer before the burning, Father Diaz said, “And now, Holy Father, trusting in Your love and goodness, confident in and through Your power, and dedicating ourselves anew to the support of our beloved Church, and through that support to the growth and expansion of the kingdom of love and light, we burn this mortgage, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Former Holy Family pastor Father Tom O’Connell was remembered during the prayer.
Father Diaz said the mortgage burning “means a great deal” for Holy Family, “because it was a huge sacrifice before I came to this parish four years ago. But through God’s sheer grace, we’ve been able to pay it off in the last four years, and we’re six years in advance of paying it off. I think that by being able to pay it off sooner than expected, it’s a huge celebration for this parish.”
The mortgage was originally about $1.5 million, Father Diaz said.
“When I first came here, it was $386,000, and we paid it off in less than four years, and that’s why we are having this celebration because we are grateful.”
Holy Family is “mostly a retirement community,” Father Diaz said, “but we’re gaining more younger families from the area, which is good.”