Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Josephmas, Knoxville Gets Rich

Sure, the Pope's in Africa... but for the folks in St Louis, East Tennessee -- and, indeed, this River City of the Pharaohs -- the Big Story on this St Joseph's Day is the ordination of Bishop-elect Richard Stika of Knoxville.

Slated for a 2.30pm Eastern (1830GMT) start in the Volunteerland's Convention Center, the rites -- which, uniquely, will be presided over by Stika's closest friend -- will be streamed via the diocesan site; in a first for an ecclesial ceremony, the Knoxville church has opted to use Microsoft Silverlight, the HD-quality webvideo software. And, per custom for liturgical streams, a worship aid is posted.

The sweet, homespun parish priest -- a former vicar-general of the "Rome of the West" -- was appointed to the post in early January. Home to over 50,000 Catholics, the Tennessee church has been vacant since Archbishop Joseph Kurtz's June 2007 transfer to Louisville.

Founded in 1988, the diocese has been cited as a national model of health and vibrance, doubling in size and attracting a disproportionately high number of vocations... and not just to the priesthood, either -- just before his promotion was announced, Kurtz ordained the diocese's first class of 30 permanent deacons.

The East Tennessee Catholic has published a whopper of a welcome edition -- downloadable in four sections -- and preps for the day have even included new shrubbery at the chancery. Some 25 bishops will be in attendance, and between the locals and a horde of pilgrims from the new prelate's native St Louis, the 5,000-seat arena is all booked up.

Beginning his rollout in the local press over the weekend, Stika described his choice of motto -- "Jesus, I Trust in You" -- as his "daily prayer mantra."

The arms adorn a freshly-struck ring, a gift from his new staff. His pectoral cross is a gift from his family, and the silver crozier he'll receive during the Mass is a present from the principal consecrator.

Its two-person communications shop known for putting much larger ones to shame, a Lenten message from the bishop-elect has been up and running on the diocesan page since Ash Wednesday:

...and an extended interview with a local TV station.

From the Old Frontier, the Circuit heads to Charleston for next Wednesday's ordination of Bishop-elect Robert Guglielmone.

In a notable twist, the rites installing the Long Island native in the landmark Cathedral of St John the Baptist won't be presided over by the local metropolitan, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, but the apostolic administrator of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan.

PHOTOS: Diocese of Knoxville