The Jefferson City community and newly installed pastor Father Jim Harvey each celebrate 25 years
By Bill Brewer
The number 25 was especially meaningful for Father Jim Harvey on Dec. 5, when Holy Trinity’s new pastor helped the Jefferson County parish celebrate its 25th anniversary.
Father Harvey also is in his 25th year as a diocesan priest, two milestones that weren’t lost on him as he was officially installed Dec. 5 as Holy Trinity’s pastor by Bishop Richard F. Stika.
Bishop Stika assigned Father Harvey to Holy Trinity on July 1 after he had served as pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Crossville since 2014. He also served as the St. Alphonsus pastor from December 2006 to 2011. Father Andrés Cano is Holy Trinity’s associate pastor and leads the parish’s Hispanic ministry.
Bishop Stika celebrated the parish anniversary Mass, with Father Harvey and Father Dan Whitman, a former Holy Trinity pastor, concelebrating. Deacon Jim Prosak served as deacon of the Word and Eucharist.
“Today, we celebrate two significant things, no, maybe three. One, I think I’ll have a short homily,” Bishop Stika told the Holy Trinity congregation, drawing laughs. “We’re going to celebrate the official appointment of Father Harvey with his installation as pastor. And 25 years as a parish community. That’s pretty significant. There are so many good things here, many good things. We also welcome back Father Dan Whitman as well.”
And Dec. 5 also was important for Holy Trinity members, who celebrated the silver anniversary with Bishop Stika and recalled the efforts that went into building a church and starting a parish. The bishop prayed for the invocation of the Holy Spirit on the Jefferson County Catholic community.
“For 25 years, this church, this parish has existed, identifying the faith of the Catholic community up on a hill. In the names of my predecessors, I just want to say to all of you, thank you. Thank you for everything that you do as a parish community—all the organizations, but also all the acts of charity and kindness that maybe nobody else knows, or the contemplative prayer in this church, or coming together in the sacraments, baptisms, weddings, and funerals, all the different sacraments, because this is the home for that,” the bishop said.
“This is your homeplace. For here you gather together to build community, whether it’s here in the church or in the parish hall, here you gather together to witness to Jesus and to see Jesus present not only in the sacraments but also in each other, because God is with us,” he added.
This Jefferson City homeplace began as a small Catholic community in the late 1980s-early 1990s to serve Jefferson and Grainger counties. The first organized services were held in the George Street Methodist Church in Jefferson City, with about 100 families attending Mass there for six years. Father Michael Sweeney, who was the pastor of St. Patrick Parish in nearby Morristown, was also named pastor of the new Holy Trinity Parish, a name chosen by the Diocese of Knoxville’s first shepherd, Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell. Father Sweeney now serves as pastor of diocesan parishes Blessed Sacrament in Harriman, St. Ann in Lancing, and St. Christopher in Jamestown.
Ground was broken for a new Holy Trinity Church on Oct. 29, 1994, on 40 acres along Highway 92 about three miles from Interstate 40. Highway 92 is a connector between Dandridge and the interstate and Jefferson City.
The new church was dedicated on June 15, 1996, and the first Mass was celebrated on Dec. 7, 1996. By the time the church building was dedicated, Holy Trinity had grown to 140 families from Jefferson and Grainger counties.
Dr. Hal and Patricia Morrill were among the group of Catholics from Jefferson and Grainger counties who participated in the first meetings to start a new parish.
“We were members of St. Patrick in Morristown. Father (Philip) Thoni thought early on there were enough Catholics in Jefferson and Grainger counties to get a parish off the ground. Father Thoni was pastor of St. Patrick. This was in the late 1980s. Father Thoni asked if we would be involved in establishing a church in Jefferson City,” Mrs. Morrill recalled.
Dr. Morrill noted that the land for Holy Trinity was purchased on March 2, 1990, with construction beginning in May 1995. He pointed out that a capital campaign was held between 1990 and 1995 to raise money to build the church.
“The first parish council meeting was in November 1990. Trish and I and one other person are the only ones left from that first meeting,” said Dr. Morrill, who chaired the Holy Trinity building committee at the time. “The capital campaign was the hard part. We had to have half the money raised before construction could get started. It took about four years to raise the money. But, overall, establishing the parish went well.”
The Morrills have been Jefferson City residents since 1979, where they began an optometry practice. Dr. Morrill still practices optometry in Jefferson City.
The Morrills recall that Father Thoni was Holy Trinity’s first pastor, followed by Father Sweeney, then Father Whitman, who was followed by Father Patrick Resen, who retired from active ministry last year. Father Harvey succeeded Father Resen.
The Morrills say they are blessed to have been part of Holy Trinity since its beginning.
“It was so quaint. Everyone got to know each other,” Mrs. Morrill said, adding that the tight-knit community that has been there from the beginning still continues. “The parishioners are such good people. Everybody cares for one another, and we love one another. It’s like family. Everyone gives so much of themselves in time, talent, and treasure.”
The Morrills have pleasant memories of the George Street Methodist community in Jefferson City and its support for the budding Catholic community more than 25 years ago.
The Morrills and the rest of the Holy Trinity congregation expressed gratitude for Bishop Stika’s presence and support for the silver-anniversary celebration.
“We were so glad that Bishop Stika could celebrate with us and take part in our children’s Christmas program,” Mrs. Morrill said.
Bishop Stika urged the congregation to remember the word “Emmanuel’’ when they are facing challenges, “for God is with us.”
Emmanuel was the central theme of the bishop’s homily, a timely subject for its seasonal appeal and as guidance for a world that continues to live in an uncertain time.
“It’s Advent. And if you look at the history of the Jewish people, of the Israelites, and what was going on in the time of Jesus, the world looked pretty messed up. Broken. Especially if you were Jewish and living in an area occupied by the Romans, and especially if you were among proud people, tough people, and you had all these promises from so many centuries and all of a sudden you are in occupied territory and the world is broken,” Bishop Stika said. “We see that in the Scriptures. The world was broken. Sometimes it seems like that is the world today. It’s kind of a broken world, right? Politics and the virus. There are 110,000 Russian troops on the border with the Ukraine, famine throughout the world. It can be very, very broken.”
But the bishop pointed out that in readings from the Book of Jeremiah, the Scriptures talk of having a solid relationship with God, which can help the faithful deal with any of life’s uncertainties, whether poli tics, viruses, aging, family issues, or something else.
“If we just have that right disposition interiorly, and that’s what the Scriptures have always talked about, then we can become, not invincible, but we can be reminded of that special message, which comes to us in the celebration of Advent,” Bishop Stika said.
The bishop shared that one of his favorite Advent songs is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and he explained that the word “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”
“That is the message of Advent and Christmas and Ordinary Time, in moments of great celebration, and in moments of great challenge. Emmanuel. God is with us. And that is the invitation of Jesus to say to you and me, do you actually believe that God is with us? Sometimes it’s pretty easy. Other times, it’s like ‘I don’t know, Jesus. I’m kind of wondering a little bit. . . .’ Then, He zaps us with something, not like a lightning bolt, but maybe it’s another person reminding us what it means to be a person of faith. Maybe we see an action, someone going way out of their way to help out another person. It’s those constant reminders that seem so simple, yet they’re powerful,” he said.
He urged the congregation to remember the word “Emmanuel” when they are facing challenges. “O come, o come, Emmanuel. For God is with us.”
As the bishop installed Father Harvey as Holy Trinity pastor, he asked the diocesan priest a series of questions to secure the mutual commitment between the new pastor and his congregation.
“Father Harvey, I ask you:
“Are you willing to continue to proclaim the Word of God in the tradition of the Apostles with compassion and faithfulness to the people now entrusted to your care?”
To which Father Harvey responded to that query and all subsequent ones, “I am, Bishop.”
“Are you willing to continue to celebrate the sacraments of the Church, and thus nourish and sustain your sisters and brothers in body and in spirit?”
“Are you willing to guide, counsel, and cooperate with the people of this parish in the work of building up the Church and in the work of service to all who are in need?”
Bishop Stika then turned to the Holy Trinity congregation and asked them:
“Are you willing to hear with open ears and open hearts the Word of God as it is proclaimed to you on this day?”
“Are you willing to encourage and support Father Harvey in his responsibility to lead you in prayer, to nourish you in your faith, and especially to celebrate with you the Lord’s sacrifice, the Eucharist?”
“And are you willing to cooperate with him as he exercises the service of pastor, enabling this community to grow in the light of the Gospel?”
The Holy Trinity community responded “yes” to the bishop’s questions.
Father Harvey then recited the Order of Installation:
“I, Father Jim Harvey, on assuming the office of pastor, promise that in my words and in my actions, I shall always preserve communion with the holy Catholic Church. With great care and fidelity, I shall carry out the duties incumbent on me toward the Church, both the universal Church and to the particular church, which according to the provisions of Church law, I have been called to exercise in pastoral service. In fulfilling the charge entrusted to me in the name of the Church, I shall hold fast to the deposit of faith in its entirety. I shall faithfully hand it on and explain it. I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it. I shall follow and foster the common discipline of the entire Church. I shall maintain the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, especially those contained in the Code of Canon Law. With Christian obedience, I will follow what the bishops, as authentic doctors and teachers of our faith, declare, or what they, as those who govern the Church, establish. I shall also faithfully assist the diocesan bishop so that the apostolic activity exercised in the name and mandate of the Church may be carried out in communion with the Church. So help me God, and God’s holy Gospels, on which I place my hand.”
Bishop Stika, Father Harvey, and two witnesses (Deacon Jim Prosak and adult altar server Andy Ladner) signed the formal installation documents.
Father Harvey received a round of applause when Bishop Stika officially proclaimed him Holy Trinity’s pastor.
It was the first time Father Harvey, who just marked his silver anniversary in the priesthood, was officially installed as a pastor.
“I just celebrated the 25th anniversary on June 1, so I’m 25 years a priest. This parish and I are the same age,” he said following the anniversary Mass.
He has watched the Holy Trinity Parish grow over the past 25 years while serving in Greeneville at Notre Dame, in Newport at Good Shepherd, and in Rogersville at St. Henry.
“I used to come over here when Father Whitman was here, when Father Sweeney was here. I never dreamed I would get to serve as pastor here. I’m very, very grateful to be here. It’s a nice community. People have been wonderful to me. God has given me this extra special gift. And Bishop Stika was gracious about letting me serve here,” Father Harvey said.
While 25 years is a remarkable anniversary, Bishop Stika said Holy Trinity can look forward to many more.
“Twenty-five years is very significant. But every day this parish stands on this hill, and with all the different activities of the Holy Trinity community, the prayer, celebrations, and sometimes sadness, is a blessing. The people here are grateful for this historic mark, and they’ll look forward to 50 years, and then 100 years. It’s just a joy,” Bishop Stika said. “It’s also significant to officially install Father Harvey as pastor here. In all the years he’s been a pastor, he’s never officially been installed. It’s good.”
The Morrills agree with Bishop Stika.
“We’re celebrating God’s faithfulness. God is good. God has been nothing but good and faithful to our parish. We’ve been so blessed,” Mrs. Morrill said. “We’re growing. We’ve been blessed with wonderful priests. It’s been a wonderful experience. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It’s a great parish.”
Dr. Morrill noted that Father Whitman also left his mark on the 25-year-old parish, having served as pastor when Holy Trinity’s parish life center was dedicated. The facility serves the parish community and the larger Jefferson County community, too. And Dr. Morrill also pointed out that Holy Trinity’s pastors have led the parish forward and to a point where the parish is debt-free.
“It’s a wonderful celebration of 25 years of ministry and presence in Jefferson County. It’s great to see the parish growing like it is with young families and children. It’s a vibrant parish,” said Father Whitman, who served as Holy Trinity pastor for 13 years, from 2001-14.