The Church of Divine Mercy became the Diocese of Knoxville’s 49h parish on Nov. 23 when Bishop Richard F. Stika elevated the church’s status during a special Mass.
Bishop Stika and Deacon Sean Smith, the diocese’s chancellor, signed the decrees at the altar during Mass establishing the Divine Mercy Parish. The parish serves Vietnamese members of the East Tennessee Catholic community.
Bishop Stika received an enthusiastic ovation from Divine Mercy parishioners when he entered the West Knoxville church before Mass as they showed their gratitude for becoming a parish.
Bishop Stika and Mr. Smith, who served as deacon of the Word for Mass, joined Divine Mercy pastor Father Hoan Dinh and dozens of Divine Mercy parishioners in a procession for Mass, with several members dressed in traditional Vietnamese clothing.
Bishop Stika congratulated the members and praised them for their hard work in building the Vietnamese church and in helping build the Church in East Tennessee.
The Church of Divine Mercy is the second mission that Bishop Stika has elevated to parish this year. On Sept. 5, Bishop Stika and Mr. Smith signed the decrees establishing Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Maynardville.
There are now two missions in the diocese: St. John Paul in Rutledge and St. Michael the Archangel in Erwin.
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.
In 2013 Bishop Stika approved the purchase of a former Protestant church at 10919 Carmichael Road in West Knoxville for the Church of Divine Mercy, which began celebrating Mass in the new location in September 2013. Then on Nov. 17, 2013, Bishop Stika dedicated the Church of Divine Mercy.
Divine Mercy’s Sunday Mass attendance now averages 130-140 members. Masses are held each Sunday at 9 a.m. and weekdays at 8:30 a.m. The mission’s website is http://divinemercyknox.org.