Bishop Richard F. Stika celebrated the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity on May 31 by recognizing the 233 catechumens and candidates who were baptized and confirmed at Easter Vigil during the Sending of the Neophytes at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Bishop Stika celebrated Mass and presided at the Sending of the Neophytes ceremony, where those who joined the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Knoxville after participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults were formally sent into the community to live their faith through their parishes in full communion with the Church.
Candidates and catechumens who joined the Church in East Tennessee represented many of the diocese’s parishes and missions at the Mass.
Bishop Stika congratulated the diocese’s newest members on their faith formation.
“To all of you, as bishop of this Diocese of Knoxville, the Catholic Church of East Tennessee, from all the 51 parishes and missions, all the institutions, I say to you welcome.” Bishop Stika said.
The bishop noted the significance of sending the neophytes on Trinity Sunday, acknowledging that the Holy Trinity is probably one of the most difficult theological facts to explain and was even difficult for the apostles to grasp.
“What we celebrate is the very essence of who we are: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit,” Bishop Stika said. “But it’s not so important that we need to understand it because, after all, who actually can understand the mysteries of God? We know about Jesus; He died for our sins because he loves us.”
Citing St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Stika explained that the love that existed between the Father and the Son is actually the Holy Spirit.
“Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit in your life? Maybe you were in a situation where you might have just said, ‘Lord, help me,’” the bishop said.
“Today, we gather together in this church, Sacred Heart. As new Catholics, we gather around the table to receive the most precious gift that God has given to us – Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Take this all of you and eat. Take this all of you and drink, for this is my body and this is my blood. And this is what I really like – given for you, given for the person next to you, given for me, given for all of us. Jesus gives his life for us.”
Bishop Stika reassured the new Catholics that while they will help make up the body of Christ and the body of the Church, they are not perfect and not expected to be, nor is the Church. As followers of Jesus, Bishop Stika said, we are all frail, and we make mistakes.
But he encouraged them to continue to embrace the path they have chosen.
“I have a question,” he said. “Do you feel Catholic? Know this, just because you receive the Eucharist for the first time, or are baptized or confirmed, that’s only a moment in your journey of faith. That journey is long. So my prayer for you is never to lose your curiosity, never be afraid to talk about Jesus, never be afraid to say I’m sorry.”
Sister Mary Timothea, RSM, director of the diocesan Office of Christian Formation, pointed out that people continue to join the Church in East Tennessee in ever-increasing numbers.
She noted that St. Patrick Church in Morristown had 10 adults and 29 children join the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil.