By Dan McWilliams
Knoxville’s Vietnamese Catholic community turned out in full for the dedication of a church of its own Nov. 17.
Bishop Richard F. Stika dedicated the Church of the Divine Mercy before an audience that included 10 priests, a number of religious sisters, Chancery staffers, and a standing-room-only gathering of Divine Mercy faithful. The Divine Mercy Catholic Mission is some 20 years old and previously called Immaculate Conception Church downtown and Knoxville Catholic High School home before moving west to 10919 Carmichael Road.
In his homily the bishop stated that a relic of St. Faustina Kowalska, who is venerated as the Apostle of Divine Mercy, was on its way to the new church.
During Mass, Divine Mercy pastor Father Hoan Dinh thanked the Catholic Foundation of East Tennessee for its help in purchasing the property that the Church of Divine Mercy stands on. He also thanked the bishop, deacons, sisters, and all of the visitors and parishioners for their attendance.
“This shows how much love we have received from you all,” said Father Hoan, who later handed the keys to the church to Bishop Stika.
The Mass saw the bishop bless the four crosses on the side walls of the church and anoint and incense the altar, which was then dressed and lighted so that the Liturgy of the Eucharist could begin.
The Vietnamese Catholic community held its first Mass in the new church on Sept. 1 and members have been working on renovations to the building at nights and on weekends in preparation for the dedication.
The diocese acquired the former Northstar Church building last summer after Northstar members relocated to a church facility at 9929 Sherrill Blvd.
Father Hoan said Divine Mercy members have been doing renovations at night and on weekends to transform the building into a Catholic church in preparation for the dedication. The Carmichael Road property includes a house that will serve as the Church of Divine Mercy rectory.
Father Hoan said the Vietnamese mission has been steadily growing to the point a permanent church to hold Masses was needed. The Vietnamese Catholic community began forming in Knoxville in the late 1980s and early 1990s and by the mid 1990s was gathering for Masses. The dioceses of Memphis and Lexington, Ky., for years dispatched Vietnamese priests each month to Knoxville to lead Mass for the community.
As the community grew, Bishop Stika recognized the need for a permanent priestly presence for it, and in June 2012 announced that Father Hoan would become chaplain for the community. At that time he also announced the community would become Divine Mercy Catholic Mission.
Divine Mercy Catholic Mission now has nearly 400 members. Masses at the Church of Divine Mercy are held each Sunday at 9 a.m. and weekdays at 8:30 a.m.