The Diocese of Knoxville concluded its silver jubilee year on Sept. 13 with a daylong homecoming celebration that attracted nearly 1,000 people who enjoyed fun, games, food, music, and an outdoor Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard F. Stika.
Parishioners of all ages from across the diocese gathered on the grounds of Knoxville Catholic High School to take part in the event that officially wraps up the diocese’s yearlong celebration of 25 years since its founding on Sept. 8, 1988.
Youth who attended the homecoming had fun with bounce houses, a dunk tank, a giant hamster ball, a climbing wall, volleyball games, face painting, and a softball tournament among parish schools.
Adults also got involved in the fun, taking part in a barbecue competition, a cornhole game course, live music, free food and drinks, and the diocesan Mass to conclude the anniversary. The silver jubilee began in September 2013 with a Eucharistic Congress that attracted more than 5,000 people to the Sevierville Convention Center to see Cardinal Justin Rigali lead a special diocesan adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Cardinal Timothy Dolan give the keynote address and talks by Father Robert Barron and Dr. Scott Hahn.
During the closing Mass, in which Cardinal Rigali was in choir, Bishop Stika praised the yearlong anniversary celebration that was marked by several highlights, including the diocese being ranked in the Top 10 in the United States for conversions to the faith, remarkable growth in vocations, and overall dynamic growth of the diocese that has seen the number of Catholics from Chattanooga and Crossville to Johnson City, Kingsport and Mountain City increase from just over 20,000 in 1988 to approximately 66,000 in 2014.
He thanked parishioners for being faithful to God and practicing their faith through the Church in their communities on a daily basis. He spoke of selfless service to their community and fellow man, in the spirit of the Medal of Honor recipients who have been in Knoxville during the week and appeared at KCHS and Sacred Heart Cathedral School and sacrificed for their country.
Also for the Mass, held in the KCHS stadium, the altar and diocesan-wide choir were on the football field, and priests, deacons, women religious and parishioners were seated on the track and in the stands. Weather for the closing event also was a big hit, with cool temperatures and overcast skies to stem the recent heat.