Diocese is site of national Ladies of Charity convention

Knoxville association is hosting 2022 assembly, which is meeting for first time since COVID

By Bill Brewer

In a first for the Diocese of Knoxville, the Ladies of Charity will host the 2022 national convention of the Ladies of Charity USA Aug. 25-27.

The LCUSA National Assembly, themed “Seeing Christ in the Faces of Those We Serve,” will gather in person for the first time since 2019. The convention will be held at the Crowne Plaza Downtown Knoxville, with Immaculate Conception next door serving as a host church along with the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Guest speakers who will address the assembly include:

  • Father Patrick J. Griffin, CM, who serves as executive director for the Vincentian Center for Church and Society at St. John’s University;
  • Charles Levesque, president and executive director of Philadelphia-based Depaul USA, which offers homeless and disadvantaged individuals the opportunity to develop independent lives through its services;
  • Derrick Furlow Jr., a University of Tennessee graduate and a motivational speaker who shares his experiences of growing up playing sports amid a life of adversity to serve those who currently and formerly played sports. He has been on the board of Scarecrow Foundation, a Knoxville-based nonprofit that raises funds and volunteers to fight hunger;
  • Father Ragan Schriver, Ph.D., who is an associate professor of practice in the University of Tennessee College of Social Work and directs the school’s master’s degree in social work program. He also serves as a special assistant to the president of Catholic Charities USA;
  • Chester W. Pun Chuen, who is program director of Access Cultural Diversity that promotes the English Language Learners Program at Ladies of Charity-Knoxville. Mr. Pun Chuen, a native of Manila, Philippines, has an international business background through his work in the shipping industry;
  • Rev. Bruce Spangler, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Volunteer Ministry Center, a nonprofit organization devoted to ending and preventing homelessness in Knoxville. Rev. Spangler is the former pastor of West View United Methodist Church, Washington Pike United Methodist Church, and Central United Methodist Church in Knoxville and St. Elmo United Methodist Church in Chattanooga.

Registration for the convention begins on Aug. 25, with a LCUSA board meeting scheduled as well as a noon Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus followed by a tour of the cathedral.

On Aug. 26, the day begins with a rosary at Immaculate Conception followed by the opening Mass celebrated by Father Richard Gielow, CM, LCUSA spiritual adviser, with Father Tim Sullivan, CSP, associate pastor of Immaculate Conception, concelebrating the Mass. Bishop Richard F. Stika will then welcome those attending the convention during opening ceremonies. An LCUSA Showcase of Projects will include the Ladies of Charity-Chattanooga’s Layette Program.

Guest speaker presentations will continue Aug. 27 following the rosary and a prayer service. A Ladies of Charity USA business meeting also is scheduled, where the president’s and treasurer’s reports will be given and elections will be held. A closing Mass will be held at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus followed by the LCUSA National Assembly banquet at the Crowne Plaza.

In a letter to Ladies of Charity members around the country, LCUSA national president Peggy Keene urged members to arrive in Knoxville early to see the sights and sounds of East Tennessee.

“The time has come when we will be able to come together to pray, gather some interesting information, share our thoughts, enjoy each other’s company, and have some good hearty laughs with all our friends, old and new,” Ms. Keene said. “We are now all living in some extremely challenging times and are carefully watching how we spend our money. The Assembly Committee has been working very hard to make this trip as economically feasible as possible.”

Ms Unbehaun

Susan Unbehaun, executive director of Ladies of Charity-Knoxville and a member of the LCUSA board of directors, said the local chapter is planning for 250 LCUSA National Assembly attendees.

Mrs. Unbehaun noted that Knoxville was to host the 2020 National Assembly before it was canceled.

“This is the first time Knoxville has hosted it. We’ve been postponing this since 2019 because of COVID. We would have hosted it in August 2020 or August 2021. We’ve been trying to get the annual convention here since 2018,” she said.

Mrs. Unbehaun is excited to showcase East Tennessee to the National Assembly attendees who will be coming from around the country and highlight the work Ladies of Charity does in Knoxville and Chattanooga.

She pointed out that Ladies of Charity-Chattanooga will be highlighting one of its programs that is in partnership with local hospitals. Ladies of Charity from Nashville and Memphis also will be taking part.

“For me, it’s the opportunity to share our organization with the LCUSA community. For the people visiting, showing them that we have a strong Catholic community here is important as well as sharing what we do,” she said.

Among the Ladies of Charity ministries in East Tennessee that Mrs. Unbehaun is looking forward to highlighting are the Emergency Assistance Program, KnoxConnect, which helps people get birth certificates and photo identification needed to secure a job, and the layette ministry and partnership with hospitals in Chattanooga.

Ms. Unbehaun said anyone or any organization interested in being an sponsor or underwriter for the LCUSA National Assembly 2022 can contact her at 865-247-5790 or

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