Nov. 30 Update: It appears that St. Mary Church in Gatlinburg suffered no fire damage. The extent of any smoke or wind damage cannot be determined until officials reopen the roads into Gatlinburg.
The Catholic community of East Tennessee continues to pray for those who have been affected by the terrible wildfires in Gatlinburg and other communities across the region. We are grateful for all the men and women who bravely put themselves in harm’s way to protect people and property that were in danger.
We have learned that at least two members of our Catholic community in the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area have lost their homes to fires. We are also aware that some of our parishioners suffered losses of their businesses. At this time, we are still uncertain as to the condition of St. Mary Catholic Church in Gatlinburg. We are praying that it has been spared serious damage.
I recognize that the good people of East Tennessee come together quickly in times of need. The Diocese of Knoxville shares that commitment.
For that reason, I am requesting that all parishes and mission churches in our diocese hold a special collection at Masses this Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 3-4, for the victims of the recent fires in Gatlinburg and across our region.
I have spoken with Sister Mary Christine Cremin, RSM, executive director of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, who is leading efforts to help our many clients in Gatlinburg and Sevier Co., and to anyone else who may need assistance.
Additionally, the clergy and staff at Sacred Heart Cathedral and Sacred Heart Cathedral School have initiated a food drive to benefit victims of the region. Supplies are already on their way to Gatlinburg.
If conditions permit, I plan to celebrate Mass with the faithful at St. Mary in Gatlinburg on Sunday.
If you are able to provide immediate financial support to victims of the fires, you can do so directly by clicking here.
I ask that your prayers continue for all the victims and their families.
Bishop Richard F. Stika
Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville