This Lent our sacrifice will go to St. John Paul ll Catholic Mission, in Rutledge, TN. The parishioners there have grown out of their current space and are hoping to build a larger, more permanent multi-purpose facility where they can celebrate Mass and have meals.
A Glenmary Mission Team arrived in Rutledge, August, 2011. The missioners were Br. Joe Steen, Br. Craig Digmann and Fr. Steve Pawelk. Fr. Aaron Wessman joined the team as an associate pastor in September 2012. Their task was to develop a Catholic Faith Community in Grainger County.
Prior to their arrival, a Spanish Mass was occasionally offered with assisting priests from St. Patrick’s, in Morristown, 31 miles away. These Masses were first held in a store front, and became available one Saturday a month at the Agricultural Center. There was no known English Mass offered in Grainger County at the time.
The Mission Team offered Masses in English and Spanish beginning in November, 2011. People had to bring their own chairs. Within the first year one person was received on the Easter Vigil, 19 First Communions occurred in June. Bishop Stika anointed the handmade altar and offered First Communion and Confirmation to 26 individuals in September 2012.
The St. John Paul ll Catholic Mission has continued to grow. Currently there are 117 registered households. There is a Saturday night English Mass averaging over 35 people. They average 87 for the Spanish Mass on Sunday evening. Yet it can be over 125 in the fall and winter and for special occasions over 200. There is an active Tuesday Mass and Adoration group, a Thursday night bilingual Mass, Spanish prayer group, an ecumenical Bible study group in English and several direct services for those in need.
The English speaking population is largely senior citizens on fixed incomes. The Spanish population works mostly in agriculture and a meat processing plant. Their incomes average below $25,000 per year and some as little as $10,000 a year. The annual mission budget is $54,000. The offertory is $29,000 per year. The difference is made up by three churches from the North who have adopted them, plus a subsidy from the Glenmary Home Missioners.
The Knoxville, TN Diocese Foundation purchased 9.4 acres for the Missioners to begin to build their first structure, with room to grow over time. They have managed to save $52,000. Our alms will help them to determine what type of structure they can build. The excavation will be done at cost. Parishioners and community members will build it themselves. Here is a basic drawing of what they hope to build.
Fr. Steve is humbled by our interest and support for the growing ministry there. The hope is that our alms and prayers are generous. What a privilege for us to be a part of this exciting time for the St. John Paul ll Catholic Mission.
The Glenmary Missioners are a Catholic society of priests and brothers who, along with coworkers, are dedicated to serving the spiritual and material needs of people living in mission counties throughout Appalachia and the South. They work exclusively within the United States and are dedicated to bringing the Catholic Church to people who live in counties where the Church is not effectively present. Glenmary’s unique identity today is the only Catholic missionary organization working exclusively in the rural United States.