By Jim Wogan
Each year, Bishop Richard F. Stika makes a point to bring together members of the Catholic Foundation of East Tennessee [CFET] to recognize and thank them for their work in building the Diocese of Knoxville.
For the second year in a row, three cities in the diocese hosted CFET events.
On Sept. 19, Bishop Stika traveled to Chattanooga for a reception at the Bluff View Arts District to honor CFET supporters there.
“Support by the members of the Catholic Foundation in Chattanooga has been so impactful,” Bishop Stika said.
“Most of our parishes there, especially the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, have been around a long time, but the Catholic Foundation of East Tennessee doesn’t just help build churches––it also helps finance the education of our seminarians. We’ve had several seminarians come from the Chattanooga area in recent years, and many of them also spend summer assignments at our parishes there. We are grateful for the support of CFET members in Southeast Tennessee,” the bishop added.
Father Charlie Burton, pastor of St. Jude Parish in Chattanooga; Father David Carter, rector of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga; Father John Dowling, pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Signal Mountain; Father Mike Nolan, pastor of St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Cleveland; and Father John Orr, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Athens, were present for the reception in Chattanooga.
On Oct. 11, Bishop Stika was in Kingsport for a reception at St. Dominic Church.
“Again, many of our parishes in Northeast Tennessee have been in place a long time, but CFET assisted in purchasing land for St. Anthony of Padua in Mountain City back in the 1990s,” Bishop Stika said. “We have a beautiful parish there in a very beautiful community. We also have a couple of seminarians from that part of the diocese—Danny Herman is from Mountain City, and transitional Deacon Joseph Austin is from Kingsport. So, as you can see, our Catholic presence in upper East Tennessee is strong.”
Father Michael Cummins, pastor of St. Dominic Parish in Kingsport, and Father Bart Okere, pastor of St. Henry Parish in Rogersville and St. James the Apostle Parish in Sneedville, attended the Kingsport reception along with Father Emmanuel Massawe, AJ, associate pastor of St. Dominic.
On Nov. 6, Bishop Stika hosted a Catholic Foundation dinner in Knoxville. Members from the Knoxville area, Crossville, and Fairfield Glade were in attendance.
Father Mark Schuster, pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Crossville, was the guest speaker.
“It was wonderful to hear Father Mark’s testimony. He is a recent example of the strength of the Catholic Foundation of East Tennessee,” Bishop Stika said. “Father Mark was ordained a few years ago and is now the pastor of a very vibrant and growing parish. Those who support the Catholic Foundation had a direct impact on Father Schuster’s life as a seminarian. Because of their financial support he is now a priest, and as a recently appointed pastor he is leading the construction of a new church building on the St. Alphonsus campus.”
Tom and Linda Bolen, longtime members of Holy Ghost Parish in Knoxville, were presented with a St. Peter icon at the Knoxville dinner in recognition of their 20 years of membership in the Catholic Foundation.
Father Michael Hendershott, associate pastor of Holy Ghost, and Father Michael Maples, associate pastor of St. John Neumann Parish in Farragut, attended the dinner along with Father Schuster.
The Catholic Foundation of East Tennessee was established to help fund seminarian education and to purchase property to build churches in the diocese. Since its inception, the Catholic Foundation of East Tennessee has raised and distributed nearly $4 million for those efforts.