Friday, October 28, 2011

Humming along

Preparing to pray for the Children
This week I have been humming a happy tune.  Everything things to be slowly falling into place.  The feeling is just amazing.

Last Sunday was my first opportunity to pray in public for the boarder community.  There was a gathering on the courthouse steps to pray for the children.  Only about forty people showed up, but the sun was out and the singing was great.  There were four of us preachers present. Therefore, we each offered a pray for the children of our world, nation, state, and county.  The result of this is the plan to pray every third Sunday at the courthouse steps.  It is not quite Occupy main street or some Tea Party rally, but maybe this small group of Christians might have even a bigger impact.  We are depending on God and nothing else!!
Praising on the Courthouse steps

Tuesday was a wonderful lunch with Pastor Ryan of Rutledge Methodist Church in Grainger County.  It was a great way to get to know each other more.  They have been allowing us to hold planning sessions in their church.  This Saturday will be the first English Mass for the Catholics of Grainger County.  It will be followed by our third Spanish Mass since my arrival.  All Saint's Day Mass will be held in a parishioners home.  We have found a building to rent and are just waiting to sign the lease.  Hopefully, we will hold Mass inside this building a week after signing the lease.

In Maynardville, we are really in high gear.  We have been humming along all week.  This week we held daily Mass in the office space which will also serve as our daily chapel.  We also held our faith formation classes in the main building this Wednesday. "Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noontime and Jesus when the sun goes down" was sung by our ten students.  It was even better than humming!!

The main building, which will host the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Mission, will be set up Saturday for worship in order to celebrate All Saint's Day Mass on November 1, 2011.  All the many hands that made this possible is overwhelming.  Br. Joe guided the local people in cleaning, scrubbing, building walls, painting, laying carpet and many small things in between.  In less than 30 days we turned a storage shed and hot dog stand into a church.  God works miracles.

So hum with us as we move into our first worship space here in Maynardville. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Table Fellowship

Inside Miller's Chapel UMC
This was a week of table fellowship in both the spiritual and physical sense.

Sunday evening I had the pleasure to share with the members of the East Tennessee Catholic Foundation of Knoxville, TN.  These fine folks participate in the foundations mission of supporting the seminarians and establishing new churches within the diocese.  It was an honer to share our early beginnings here in Union and Grainger County, TN.  Also, it was inspiring listening tothe vocation stories of two of the seminarians studying for this dioceses.

Getting ready for Mass
Then Monday night Miller's Chapel United Methodist Church held a spaghetti welcome dinner for us Catholics .  Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of this enjoyable event.  Yet, it was a very relaxed atmosphere, lots of good pasta, and great company.  Of course, Br. Craig demonstrated his Iowa roots by baking an oatmeal cake and bringing red jello with bananas and marshmallows.

Planning meeting in Grainger County
Tuesday we had a delightful and hopeful meeting with some of the Catholics in Grainger County. 

Joy of almost having a place for worship in Grainger County

Here we discussed the option of renting one of two buildings for worship.  We have agreed on one and are waiting for the reception of the contact.  Keep praying; we are almost there.  This evening was finished with more food:  Filipino Egg Rolls!!!

Then Wednesday I was invited to have lunch with Bishop Richard Stika.  Joining us was the vicar general, the chancellor, and the newest resident, Cardinal Justin Rigali.  It might seem a bit of surprise, but this is the first time in 22 years as a priest that I sat at table with a Cardinal of the church.  In the past I just watched the red cardinals out my parents window.  It was a very pleasant lunch leading me to feel a strong welcome into this diocese.  Also, some donations were made to our budding mission.  That is a desert that lasts.  (By the way, the food was fantastic)!!

So in the midst of all these meals, we are busy preparing for the Lord's supper in our own building.  The construction is moving along very rapidly.  We will hold daily Mass starting Monday in our office and November 1, 2011, the feast of all Saints day we will hold worship in the newly designed building that will host Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Mission in Union county and neighboring areas.  By the way, the food theme continues.  I meet today a previous renter of our worship space where he sold "HOT DOGS!"

Cleaning chairs for the church in Maynardville, TN
We are getting so close to having the physical space for worship in both counties.  I can almost taste the next stage of development where we begin to witness to all God's children in Union and Grainger Counties.  The Lord is truly blessing us each and every day.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We are official

First steps of preparing our worship space
Sunday Mass every week, an official name, first month rent paid, and a bank account:  yes we are official here in Maynardville, TN.   Bishop Stika has named us Blessed Teresa of Calcutta; we are offering the sacrifice of the Holy Mass every Sunday at Millers Chapel United Methodist Church at 8:30 a.m.  Our rental property is in a great location on Hwy 33, the main road through town, right across from Food City, the larger of two grocery stores in town.  After two Sundays, thanks to outside donations and two weeks of collections, we have paid all our bills and have money in the bank.  Yes, we are official.

It is amazing for me to realize how fast God has worked.  Br. Craig and I only arrived here on August 12, 2011.  Br Joe, who is leading the remodeling project came only thirty days ago. So in less than sixty days, we are up and running.

The enthusiasm of our local Catholics in this area is fantastic.  We have many boys and teenagers willing and wanting to serve at the Mass.  An 81 year old man is leading our worship music by his excellent harmonica playing.  A 14 year old has played Ave Maria on her flute.  People are stepping up and volunteering without any begging.   The Lord has been working in their lives and it is clear that they really wish to have a Catholic Church in this area.

Mom and son working together
Currently, we are remodeling our rental property for worship space.  We aim to be worshipping in this space no later than November 1, 2011.  Men, women, teenagers, and children have all been pitching in.  Others are providing lunch.  It is exciting!!

At the same time, as things are going along with so much joy in Union County, it is not the same picture in Grainger County.  For a number of reasons, we have yet to have an English Mass in Grainger County.  The primary stumbling block is not having a location for Mass.  We are searching and searching.  Hopefully, something will emerge soon.  We need the prayers of everyone who is reading this blog.  Your prayers will make a difference.

The future home of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Mission
The Lord does not promise us an easy path; He just promises to be with us always.  Whether it is among the excitement of all the positive things happening in Union County or the frustration of trying to get things started in Grainger County, God is present.  Jesus is with us.  All things will happen on His timeline and not mine or anyone elses.  He sees and knows what is best for us.  Praise God for this loving assurance.
The local deanery welcoming four of the five Glenmarians new to the area.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What a week

From the last Sunday of September to the first Sunday of October many things have transpired.

On the last Sunday of September, Br. Joe, Br Craig and I attended worship with the folks at Miller's Chapel United Methodist Church. This is the church that agreed to host us during the month of October.  It was a wonderful welcome.  Then that afternoon, I was off to the hospital to baptize a four year child just coming out of a coma. It was a time of hope, but with caution, since the child was off the respirator but was not talking or walking.

Sunday evening and Monday were spent with the Glenmary members of the area.  Five Glenmarians have been in this district for many years and five of us are new.  Like any new group, it took sometime to figure out how we will pray, share and support each other with such an expansion of the group.  It was not without some tension, but like any family, we worked it out.

On Tuesday, we began the process of signing a contact for a building for worship in Maynardville, TN.  The dialogue between Glenmary, the Diocese and the Property Mission Team took some time.  Administrative details are a major part of being a missionary pastor.  Yet, on Wednesday we paid the first month rent and on Thursday we were insured.   What great team work from all parties involved.
Br. Craig and Br. Joe entering our new building.

Br. Craig and Br. Joe checking out the building from the inside.
Tuesday, however, was the first time I felt direct anti-Catholic discrimination.  In Rutledge we were set with a date to have a meeting next week.  This was set almost two weeks ago.  Then a call comes in that says, "You are not meeting there!"  The tone was harsh without the ability for discussion.  It appeared as if this conflict would not have occurred if we were another denomination.  Yet, in one hour, with one phone call, we had a new place to meet.  The Rutledge Methodist Church opened its door for our meeting next Tuesday.  The goodness of the Methodist brothers and sisters is greatly appreciated.

Thursday night was our last carport Mass since we are now able to have Sunday Mass and the temperature is cooling down.  Our accompaniment was by an 81 year old man playing harmonica. This same man hopes to make his first communion soon.

  There was great joy over preparing for the first Sunday Mass.  Faith formation planning began.  There was such a high spirit of joy and enthusiasm it washed away any worries, fears and anxieties prior to the night.

Friday began with a clear communication with the diocese about our next steps in forming a parish here.  Hopefully, Wednesday of this week, I will receive a letter from the Bishop outlining the necessary steps to becoming an official parish.  The other great news on Friday, was I returned to the hospital and the four year old child was going home.  He is not fully recovered, but he is out of danger.  Praise the Lord!!

Saturday was a great opportunity to get to know the community some more.  Maynardville was having its Heritage Festival.  This is the annual festival or community celebration.  Br. Craig competed in the Heritage Festival Olympics.  He placed first in seed spitting, second in hay bale throwing and bombed in feedbag trowing.  The highlight is watching the women throw the skillet.  I believe 49 feet was the winner.
Br. Craig throwing haybales.
Fr. Steve promoting boy scout popcorn.
This lead to Sunday, October 2 when we held the first ever Sunday Mass in Union County, TN.  The location was at Miller's Chapel Methodist Church at 8:30 a.m.  44 folks attended.  Many were families we were meeting for the first time.  We had a 14 year play the flute and an 81 play the harmonica.  The Methodists offered hospitality afterwards.  Truly a gracefilled beginning.

Miller's Chapel United Methodist Church
What a week!  Many emotions and yet it ends on a high.  Only the Lord knows what will be next.