Tomorrow, Sunday, the Most Reverend Bishop of Knoxville will come to Immaculate Conception and officially install me as the 24th pastor of this historic downtown Knoxville parish. (I will be the eighth Paulist pastor at Immaculate Conception since the Paulists came to Knoxville in 1973). The Rite of Installation begins after the homily with the Bishop formally informing the people that I am to serve as their pastor and reminding both pastor and people of our mutual commitment to one another in this new relationship. The Bishop will then ask me three questions, highlighting the proclamation of the Word of God, the celebration of the Sacraments, and the building up of the Church and service to those in need, followed by three parallel questions to the people. Then, all will recite the Nicene Creed together, after which, with my hand on the Gospels, I will recite the Oath of Fidelity and then sign it on the altar. Finally, the bishop will present me with seven "Symbols of Pastoral Responsibility" - a Parish Register (containing the names of those now entrusted to my care), a Parish History recounting how this parish has lived the Gospel in the past and striven to be Christ in the midst of this community), a Vessel of Holy Water (a reminder of Baptism, whihc incorporates us into the Church), the Rite of Penance (the sacrament which reconciles us to God and one another), the 3 Holy Oils (the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick, and the Holy Chrism), the Book of the Gospels, and the Sacred Vessels for the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Altar.
It promises to be a beautiful and joyful celebration, a fitting intro to the 125th anniversary of the present parish church, which will be celebrated in 2011. Even before the building of the present church, from the days of its first pastor, Fr. Henry V. Brown, Immaculate Conception Church has stood on Summit Hill as an important presence in this city’s skyline and a vital resource of faith and community for downtown Knoxville - a vibrant sign of the Church’s outreach to all who live or work or visit in the shadow of its spire. It will be both my privilege and my joy to serve as its pastor, as this community faithfully continues the ministry of this historic parish.
In the words of Servant of God Isaac Hecker (1819-1888), founder of the Paulist Fathers: Let us be united in doing His will, and in letting it be done in us (from a letter written August 2, 1864).