On May 24, following the noon livestreamed Mass, the parish community at St. Stephen in Chattanooga celebrated its pastor, Father Manuel Pérez, with a parade for his 15th anniversary as a priest. Practicing their social distancing, parishioners secretly decorated their cars and lined up for the parade. When Mass was over, Father Christopher Manning, who was in on the secret, led Father Pérez out the side door to the portico, where the parade began with “the pope” (a Pope Francis cutout in a car) and followed with many horns honking, music playing, and lots of fun and laughter.
Father Pérez was definitely surprised and thoroughly enjoyed himself at the event. At the end of the parade, Father Pérez said, “I was really surprised by them—I had no idea. It is wonderful despite our pandemic that the community supports priests and is with them on this special day. This is my family, wonderful, surprising. Hey—what else can I ask for? Thank you! Gracias!”