‘A Gathering of Church’ set for East Tennessee parishes

Diocese of Knoxville event on Sept. 11 will feature Catholic Channel radio host Gus Lloyd

By Jim Wogan

The Diocese of Knoxville is hoping to give a boost to parishes that are welcoming back parishioners in a formal way this fall after the more than year-long disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Bishop Richard F. Stika is encouraged by recent accounts of the faithful returning to church in high numbers since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted a few months ago, and “A Gathering of Church” may help build on that momentum, giving parishes a chance to reunite their community in ways not seen since before the pandemic.

“It’s really remarkable,” Bishop Stika said. “We were very worried about the impact of suspending the Mass obligation during COVID and what it would mean for church attendance in the future. It turns out the faithful have been very eager to return to Mass. We want to make sure they know how much we appreciate them and also give them a new opportunity to bond in fellowship and ministry.”

While many parishes have already planned events aimed at bringing their community together following the pandemic, the diocese is also offering a unique resource to assist them.

Gus Lloyd

On Sept. 11, evangelizer and SiriusXM Catholic Channel personality Gus Lloyd will speak to parishioners as part of the “Gathering of Church” event initiated by the Diocese of Knoxville. Mr. Lloyd will offer two virtual presentations that can be streamed live into each parish that day.

“We wanted to offer the parishes something special,” said Deacon Hicks Armor, director of stewardship for the diocese. “Gus is well known and has a passionate charism for his Catholic faith, and he communicates in such a personable and genuine way. These presentations can be used by parishes to build a foundation for a welcome-back weekend, if they choose to have one.”

While “A Gathering of Church” is meant to thank the faithful for their support during COVID, it is also meant to remind them of their role in making parish life vibrant, which goes well beyond attending Mass on Sunday.

“The life of a parish is very dependent on volunteers,” Bishop Stika said. “I have heard from many pastors that need ushers, teachers, ministry leaders, and other good people who can fill the void of those who have been slow to return, or perhaps they aren’t able to return to a volunteer role after this layoff.”
Bishop Stika and Deacon Armor are aware that the Sept. 11 date may not work for some parishes, and that pastors might have other plans or dates for welcoming back parishioners—but they are hopeful that many parishes can participate.

“It might be that some parishes have an entire day of activities planned for Sept. 11,” Deacon Armor said. “The Gus Lloyd live presentations will give them additional resources, something to build around. Or perhaps they have a big event planned for another weekend—they can still use Gus’s presentations on Sept. 11 as one component in a welcome-back series of events.”
Mr. Lloyd isn’t unknown in the Diocese of Knoxville. In addition to his daily show on SiriusXM, he was the featured presenter during a mission at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Lenoir City in 2018.

“Gus will be great, he always is,” said Deacon Armor. “But we also want to make sure that parishioners have an opportunity to bond in fellowship. Yes, this is about thanking them and showing appreciation, but it’s also about taking the next step, from a return to Masses to a return to full, active, and passionate parish life. That’s what ‘A Gathering of Church’ is really all about.”

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