Bishop Richard F. Stika is recognizing Monsignor Philip F. Thoni who passed away last night in Nashville at the age of 91.
“Monsignor Thoni lived a life of great faith and goodness. He was a man of God and he bravely served our country as a military chaplain in two different war zones,” Bishop Stika said.
“He served the Catholic Church and the Diocese of Knoxville for more than 60 years with great humor, passion and faith. He was a native Tennessean and a very good friend. Our prayers go out to his family and for the repose of his soul to its resting place in Heaven.”
Monsignor Thoni was born on January 24, 1924 in Nashville.
He was ordained a Catholic priest at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville on June 4, 1949. His service to the Church included assignments as a priest, teacher and coach in Knoxville.
Monsignor Thoni was the assistant pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in Knoxville from 1952 to 1956 and taught classes and coached basketball at Knoxville Catholic High School
“As a teacher and coach, Monsignor Thoni displayed a sense of character, social justice and awareness—by allowing an all-black high school basketball team to scrimmage a team of players from Catholic High School, years before racial equality became a national focus,” said Bishop Stika.
Monsignor Thoni served as a military chaplain for 23 years—including tours of duty in Viet Nam and later in the Desert Storm. He reached the rank of Lt. Colonel and was awarded the Bronze Star and Legion of Merit for his service in the U.S. Army.
Monsignor Thoni celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination in 2009 while serving as the pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church in Gatlinburg—his last assignment for the Church.
A funeral Mass for Monsignor Thoni will be held in Nashville. Arrangements are pending.