Greeneville, Tennessee is known as the former home of President Andrew Johnson.
Turns out, the nation’s 17th president also had an indirect hand in helping establish the roots of Catholicism in East Tennessee.
Bishop Richard Stika and Father Dan Whitman celebrated Mass marking the 60th anniversary of Notre Dame parish in Greeneville on April 25. The Mass was also used to officially install Father Whitman as pastor there.
Notre Dame was established in 1955, but the history of Catholicism in Greeneville goes back even further.
The Church secured a foothold in Greene County in the late 1800’s with the construction and dedication of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. President Johnson, whose daughter had converted to Catholicism, made a financial donation to help with the project– and was present at the dedication.
By the mid-20th century, St. Patrick’s was torn down and the local faithful attended Masses held at the Capitol Theater in downtown Greeneville.
The current parish was established by the Diocese of Nashville in 1955 and Notre Dame Catholic Church was built.
As for St. Patrick’s parish— it hasn’t disappeared. It is now based in Morristown, Tennessee.
Click here for a detailed look at the history of Notre Dame Catholic Church in Greeneville.