The Day of ReassignmentsKnoxville Bishop Richard Stika announced in this week's East Tennessee Catholic that over the next seven days, a great many Catholics in the Diocese of Knoxville are going to find out that they are going to get a new pastor-and that means that their current one will be reassigned, most of them effective August 1st:
By the time you receive this newspaper in the mail, you may have heard about various new assignments for our priests. The appointments will be covered in detail in the June 7 edition of The East Tennessee Catholic. Some of you may wonder how I am able to make new assignments, given the fact that I have been here only a short time. Let me explain. Shortly after my arrival as bishop I sent a questionnaire to all my brother priests, requesting information about their life as a priest, what they enjoy, and what they consider their greatest challenges. I also asked whether they were happy in their current assignments, whether they had a strong desire to accept a new challenge, and whether they would be open to a possible move if the need were evident.
After prayerful reflection on this information, I sought the advice of my vicar general, Monsignor Xavier Mankel, and the diocesan College of Consultors. Again I prayed and reflected upon the assignment changes and had the opportunity to meet with each priest to make my proposal. For the most part, the new assignments will be effective Aug. 1.
In fairness, my own pastor, Father Patrick Garrity (St. Patrick, Morristown) is not among the reassigned. However, we have long known that the reason for this is Father Pat's Mother, who has long been ill with cancer and who lives in the rectory with Father Pat. Bishop Kurtz was loathe to move Father Pat because he knew that Father was responsible as his mother's guardian. Some in the parish have said-including our pastor himself-that he would have long been gone were it not for his mother, and we have been very blessed to have her continue to be with us as well as Father Pat.
Like many of the priests on the Bishop's list of assignments, however, we know that Father Pat's day to leave will come, and probably sooner rather than later. As Bishop Stika points out, many parishioners will protest that their beloved pastor is leaving, and that they are going to get someone new with whom the community is not familiar. Every once in a while, Catholics need to be reminded who is in charge, however, and it is ultimately the Holy Spirit-acting through the authority of the bishops, the successors of the Apostles. We often forget that the Church is truly universal, it is not confined to our little sphere in Knoxville or Chattanooga or Morristown or Crossville or Pigeon Forge. The place where we worship is only a part of the Church, it is not the whole Church, and the needs of the entire diocese and the universal Church should always be considered first, not only by the Bishop, but also by all of us in as unselfish a manner as we can possibly bear.
I urge the Catholics of the Diocese of Knoxville to accept the coming changes with grace and dignity, and by turning your parishes over in prayer to the intercession of Mary, the Mother of the Church.