St. James the Apostle Parish in Sneedville is easily the smallest in the Diocese of Knoxville. Normal Mass attendance is approximately eight to 10 on a given Sunday, but on April 24 at approximately 11:25 a.m. that changed.
A huge charter bus from Franklin, Tenn., pulled up and unloaded the entire eighth-grade class from St. Matthew School. Fifty students along with the school principal, assistant principal, six teachers/chaperones, and parents from the school exited the bus to attend noon Mass and meet the parishioners. They were greeted by St. James pastor Father Bartholomew Okere and parishioner Richard Loper.
Knights of Columbus including Grand Knight Bill Hewitt and warden Stephen Derosia from Council 8860 erected a tent and set up chairs outside to accommodate the overflow crowd. An outside speaker system was used to allow for participation in the Mass. Students served as altar servers and readers as Father Okere, Tennessee state Knights chaplain, celebrated the Mass. Refreshments were provided by the Knights along with St. James parishioners for the kids after Mass.
Tim Forbes, principal of St. Matthew School, said their mission was to help with a carnival at the old Sneedville High School with a group from Lebanon, Tenn. He said the carnival April 23 was very successful, and afterward the kids went out into the community to help with work projects planned for Sneedville residents. At bottom right are Mr. Forbes and mission sponsor Monica Kelsey, holding a photo of St. Matthew’s 2021 visit to St. James presented to them by Mr. Hewitt.