Monday, January 23, 2012

"Signs" of growth

The first to arrive for the First Spanish Mass in Maynardville
There are still signs of growth happening here in Eastern Tennessee.  Sunday, January 15, 2012 we offered the first Sunday Mass in Spanish in the history of Union County, TN.  Four families were present.  This Sunday we added one more family.  Thus, we are now a full service Church offering the Mass in both English and Spanish in both parishes.

I had been slow to begin the Spanish Mass at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Union County since I knew there were just a few families.  Yet, they have been asking for Mass in Spanish since the Posadas in December.  So I felt the Holy Spirit was moving.  After all, I offer Mass in English at Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission in Rutledge for an average of twenty people, should I not do the same in Maynardville,TN for Spanish speakers?  Obviously, the answer is yes!!!
The Front of Blessed John Paul II Catholic Mission
The growth is not only happening in Maynardville.  This last week we finally put up the signs for the Mission in Rutledge, TN.  This Sunday we had 80 folks at Spanish Mass and we only have 75 chairs.  What a beautiful feeling knowing that people are responding to the opportunity to pray and worship Jesus Christ.  We are still trying to get the building in shape, but the wall behind the Altar is now finished and the tabernacle went up on Thursday.  This is significant. For the first time in the history of Grainger County, the Real Presence of Christ now has a home!!  This will be a blessing for everyone living in Grainger County even if they do not believe as we believe.
Blessed John Paul II with Tabernacle

There are other things emerging.  Among these is the dream of establishing the Glenmary volunteer program in these missions.  Already groups are signing up to travel here during the summer.  Joe Grosek went out one day with Br. Joe and another day with me to explore possible sites.  These volunteers will become part of God's plan here in Grainger and Union County to help witness to the Kingdom of God.  Yes there are signs of growth in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee.
Br. Joe Steen and Mr. Joe Grosek

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Year Hopes

Our "Mary" and Jesus
2012 has rolled in and already ten days have gone by.  For whatever reason, these last two weeks from Christmas to now zoomed by and were filled with joy.  The emotions and hopes of 2012 for these two start-up missions are many.

I find it hard to realize that we only started Mass in our own worship space in November.  Already, it feels natural to pray here and be with these worshipping communities.  Somebody asked me if I was going home for Christmas and I said, "What do you mean?  This is my home! You are my family."  It is how I feel already just after a few months.

Among the many hopes of this year, is to strengthen and unify our local Catholic Communities.  Having socials, like the Epiphany parties we held in both churches helps.  It allows folks time to visit and know one another's personal stories a little bit more. 

There is a desire to increase our outreach to the boarder community.   Today after visiting with the Chamber of Commerce several options were suggested.  Also, in Grainger County several churches are working together on a meeting on how to address the drug abuse problem in the area.  We are in dialogue with the Methodist Church and the Baptist church about expanding a food pantry and our building most likely serve, at least next month, as the location for commodities. So opportunities are emerging.  In Union County, we continue to work with I-Care. Br. Craig joined a local Saturday night prayer group sponsored by four churches in trying to overcome the plight of drug and alcohol abuse here.

Flipping the pancakes
Finally, everyone is feed.
Another huge goal is just to get out and visit more people in their homes.  As a Glenmarian visiting people in their homes is one of the greatest pleasures.  When you just hang out with people, enjoy their food and company, God does also sorts of good stuff.  It is neat to watch how this works.

The newest thing taking place at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Mission is that we will begin Spanish Mass every Sunday.  This Sunday on the 15th we will be our first time for Sunday Mass in Spanish at this mission.  Of course, this means I now have a four Masses on a weekend with Mass in English and Spanish at both places.  That too is amazing.  Four months ago there were no masses in these counties, now we will be offering four a weekend. God's love is just so very good!!

I am sure the Lord will surprise me and these communities in many ways this year of 2012.  Most likely, the plan of God will far surpass my own little human hopes.  May your New Year hopes also come be surpassed by the wonder of God's generous love and mercy!!!.
Spontaneous Christmas Play on the feast of Epiphany