I haven’t had an opportunity to post on Life At 25 over the last week because I was joining a group of men in our parish in giving a Christ Renews His Parish retreat to another group of men, which took a lot of time and even more energy, and so I’ve had to take a few days to relax and refresh after a wonderful (but very vigorous and exhausting) time in the Lord. While we were busy preparing for the retreat, it seems that our beloved Diocese of Knoxville received some national attention thanks to the release of the results of a study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University which says that the Diocese of Knoxville ranks 10th in the nation for the number of new converts to the Catholic faith. Our neighboring Diocese of Nashville ranks 8th.
It isn’t that we like to brag much here at Life At 25 and the Diocese of Knoxville, but nobody who is active in our local Church (i.e. the diocese) can be surprised by those kinds of numbers. I’ve written in this very space of the spiritual growth of our diocese and how the Holy Spirit seems to be so clearly at work in virtually every area of apostolic life here, from vocations to the priesthood and the diaconate, to high numbers of new converts, to new lay apostolates developing to advance the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in our community. We are excited about the gifts the Holy Spirit is giving us, and we have reason to be.
I have reason to be proud of the report that appeared on WBIR last week, because the parish featured on that report is my own, St. Patrick in Morristown (I was actually at the Mass featured in the story, and I did not know the television people were there!). That nice lady they interviewed about her experience is Michelle Mitrik, and I had the pleasure of being a small part of her conversion process as part of our parish RCIA team led by Ruth Taylor and Deacon Jim Fage. I taught the class on the sacrament of the Eucharist to Michelle and the other catechumens and candidates in her class, and this year I gave the teaching talk on God’s mercy and forgiveness to the class which John participated in preparing to receive the sacrament of Confirmation. It is an honor for me just to be a part of the journey of faith of such blessed people. Today, the Mitriks are active members of our parish community, and they are “newbies!” They are such kind and generous people, and I’d love to be able to say that their case is unique in our diocese, but it really isn’t.
When people discover the peace and spiritual fulfillment that a life rooted in the Church and the sacraments can bring, they truly do embrace that life, and in parishes all over the Diocese of Knoxville, people are doing just that. They can see the hands and feet and face of Jesus in the Church of the Diocese of Knoxville, and they want to help build the Kingdom of God in East Tennessee. The Holy Spirit acts on this generous response to God’s call by giving us more priests, more deacons, more religious in our diocese, and more people on fire for God and ready to serve the Church in whatever way God calls them.