A retirement and several moves affect many parishes around the Diocese of Knoxville
By Dan McWilliams
Bishop Richard F. Stika recently announced new pastoral assignments for the Diocese of Knoxville and a priest retirement. Parishes announced the changes in May, and they took effect (unless noted otherwise below) on July 15.
Father Dan Whitman, pastor of Notre Dame Parish in Greeneville since 2014, is retiring from full-time ministry. A native of Forsyth County, N.C., and a former advertising artist, Father Whitman, 67, has served as a priest in the dioceses of Nashville and Knoxville since his ordination in 1983. His assignments have included serving for many years as pastor of St. Therese in Clinton and Holy Trinity in Jefferson City. He also has previously served as moderator of the charismatic movement in the diocese. He will remain spiritual moderator of the Knoxville Diocesan Council of Catholic Women.
Succeeding Father Whitman as pastor of Notre Dame will be Father Joseph Kuzhupil, MSFS, who has been pastor of St. Augustine in Signal Mountain since 2010. Father Kuzhupil came to St. Augustine in 2010 as associate pastor after serving as a chaplain for the Alexian Village retirement community in Signal Mountain.
Father John Dowling will be the next pastor of St. Augustine Parish. Father Dowling has been the pastor of Holy Ghost in Knoxville since 2014. His term at Holy Ghost was his second at the North Knoxville parish, having served there as associate pastor from 1987 to 1996 and as parochial administrator for the next year following the death of longtime pastor Father Albert Henkel. Father Dowling then became pastor of St. John Neumann in Farragut and was leading the parish when it constructed a large Romanesque church from 2006 to 2008. In February 2010, Father Dowling became pastor of St. Francis of Assisi in Fairfield Glade before his return to Holy Ghost.
A native of Savannah, Ga., Father Dowling also has a brother, Father Kevin Dowling, who is a priest in the Diocese of Nashville. Father John Dowling is a graduate of Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga who went on to work for five years in the marketing and sales department of the Chattanooga Coca-Cola Bottling Co. before entering seminary. He has written a number of booklets that include “Why Confess Your Sins to a Priest?” published by Liguori Publications in 1994. In 2005, the Fathers Dowling and Father Vann Johnston, now bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., received national honors for saving a father and two of his children from plunging over a waterfall while the three priests were on a hiking vacation in Montana.
Father Bill McNeeley has been appointed as the pastor of Holy Ghost. A married, former Episcopal priest, Father McNeeley became the first man in diocesan history to enter the presbyterate under the Pastoral Provision, established in the early 1980s by Pope St. John Paul II to allow Anglican clerics to petition for ordination to the Catholic priesthood.
Father McNeeley and his wife of 38 years, Sherri, are the parents of son Luke and daughter Kate. All four McNeeleys became Catholic at the Easter Vigil in 2001. Father McNeeley has most recently served as assistant to the pastor and, since October, as parochial administrator of Our Lady of Fatima in Alcoa.
Father Peter Iorio, pastor of St. Mary in Johnson City since 2011, will become the new pastor of Our Lady of
Fatima. He has served in a variety of roles over the years, including as spiritual director of his alma mater, Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga; as diocesan youth ministry coordinator; as associate dean of formation at Mundelein Seminary; as diocesan vocation director; and as pastor of St. Augustine, St. Joseph the Worker in Madisonville, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux in Cleveland. It was at St. Mary where Father Iorio celebrated his 25th anniversary as a priest in 2018.
Father Dustin Collins has been appointed parochial administrator of St. Mary in Johnson City and will also work with the Latin Mass community in Johnson City. He most recently was parochial vicar at both Our Lady of Fatima, since October, and, since 2012, at St. Mary in Oak Ridge. A native of Greeneville, Father Collins was the 40th priest ordained for the diocese in 2012.
Father Andres Cano will be the new associate pastor of Our Lady of Fatima. A native of Colombia who was ordained to the priesthood in his home country, Father Cano celebrated his 10th anniversary as a priest this year. His previous assignments include serving as associate pastor of St. Mary in Gatlinburg, as pastor of Holy Cross in Pigeon Forge, and as associate pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Mary in Oak Ridge. Most recently he was chaplain to the Hispanic community of St. Alphonsus in Crossville. He also has been the diocese’s primary bilingual substitute priest.
Father Christopher Floersh, who has been assigned as Notre Dame High School’s chaplain and part-time parochial vicar at St. Stephen in Chattanooga since his 2017 priestly ordination, has been appointed diocesan co-director of vocations for one year and will become full-time vocations director in 2020. He also is appointed part-time parochial vicar at St. John Neumann in Farragut.
Father Christopher Manning, part-time associate pastor at St. John Neumann for six years and chaplain at Knoxville Catholic High School, has been assigned as chaplain, teacher, and part of the administrative staff at Notre Dame High School. He will be in residence at St. Stephen. He is also appointed chaplain of the Serra Club of Chattanooga.
Father Michael Hendershott, associate pastor of Holy Ghost in Knoxville, will be the new chaplain at Knoxville Catholic High School as well as part of the administrative staff at KCHS. He remains in residence at Holy Ghost.
Father Adam Royal, associate pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Chattanooga, is currently on sabbatical. He will be succeeded as parochial vicar by Father Tom Moser, pastor of St. Catherine Labouré in Copperhill for the last five years. For more on Father Moser, see the story on his 25th anniversary in the priesthood.
Father Jerry Daniels has been appointed pastor of St. Catherine Labouré and spiritual director at Christ Prince of Peace Retreat Center in Benton. Father Daniels has previously served as parochial vicar of St. Francis of Assisi in Townsend and as chaplain of the retreat center.
Father Arthur Torres Barona has been named master of ceremonies to the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus sanctuary. He will continue to serve as associate pastor at the cathedral parish, as he has since July 2015. He also has served as moderator of the Hispanic Marriage Encounter Ecclesial Movement.
Father Dominic Nghia TH Nguyen, CRM, has been appointed parochial administrator at the Church of Divine Mercy in Knoxville. This took effect June 15. He is a priest of the Congregation of the Mother of the Redeemer, a primarily Vietnamese institute. He has served as parochial vicar of the Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, from 2011 to 2013 as well as 2017 to 2019. He also served as parish administrator of Holy Family Parish in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La., from 2013-14 and of Our Lady of La Vang Parish in the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., from 2014 to 2015. He also served as provincial treasurers’ assistant at the CRM offices in Carthage, Mo., from 2015 to 2017.
Father Nick Tran has been appointed chaplain of the Vietnamese community in Chattanooga and will be in residence at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul. Father Tran, a priest for seven years in the Diocese of Hartford, Conn., most recently served as full-time chaplain for St. Francis and Hartford hospitals in Hartford. He served from 2013 to 2018 as part-time chaplain for the Vietnamese community at St. Lawrence O’Toole in Hartford. From 2012 to 2016, he was parochial vicar at St. Mary and St. Robert parishes in Windsor Locks, Conn., while serving as the on-call minister for the Windsor Locks Police Department. In May, he finished a master’s of arts program in general theology studies at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.
Father Mark Schuster, who was just ordained a priest June 8 at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, is appointed parochial vicar at St. John Neumann in Farragut.
The diocese’s two newly ordained transitional deacons received their summer assignments: Deacon Alex Hernandez to assist the pastor at St. Dominic in Kingsport and Deacon Zach Griffith to assist the pastor at St. Mary in Athens.