Thursday, March 29, 2018

Plans are here

This is Holy Week, a time to remember the journey of Jesus into Jerusalem.  It began on a good note on Monday when I was told the architectural plans are finally ready.  They were printed on Tuesday and the group of church members began review them on Wednesday night of Holy Week.  The estimation of the project also has arrived.
Drawing of Front, back and side

The current timeline appears to be as follows: Tuesday, April 4, in the evening the construction committee will meet with the general contractor.  . Then if all is okay, we will seek permission to begin.  Once permission is granted and contracts are signed, the dirt will begin moving.  Thus sometime in mid April it might actually happen.

Drawing of front and inside front

Yet, every step is an act in faith in God.  The church will be built on God's time and not our own.  Even through I desired greatly for it to begin in March, it did not.  That was good.  We had rain and even snow this month.  So equipment would have sat without moving and thus costing us money.  So we keep trusting in the Lord.
March Snow
March Snow

Thus, I am asking you to join us in the prayer by praying the St. Teresa of Kolkata Catholic Church Construction Prayer.  We have a small  church that travels to a home each week.  The family says this prayer every day and then on Sunday it goes to another home.  I am inviting you to offer this prayer in your home.

O Jesus Christ, may we be inspired by our patroness Saint Teresa of Kolkata, so we may become a flame in the community to  spread the warmth of your love.

Through the Holy Spirit let us build a church that will be the rock that supports your people during times of need and despair for generations to come.  Mother Teresa showed us that God holds no divisions, regardless of culture, language or any other differences.  Like her, allow us to overlook our human imperfections and embrace our strengths.

Guide us, Jesus to go out and be an echo of your love and compassion; so we may go into the world and be an example of your grace and mercy.

Let us be a place of serenity, acceptance, and love.  Extend your ever loving arms when we visit your church as you embrace all of us, so we may live in happiness and  peace and for everyone to know that they are a child of God.  By your grace may we be united in the body of Christ.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Hopefully my next blog will show the dirt being moved.

Written on Holy Thursday with hope to be offer this most solemn celebration next in in a new church building.
Palm Sunday Attendance (after Mass photo)  I think we need a new church.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Church Construction

Today turns the focus of a missionary heart in Grainger and Union County, TN to the process of constructing the first Catholic Church buildings in the history of these two counties.

The story really begins in August 2011 when the Glenmary Home Missioners under the invitation of Bishop Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN sent a team of three to these two counties.  Whereas both congregations are working on construction, St. Teresa of Kolkata, Maynardville, TN serving Union County, TN is ready to begin moving dirt, with the blessing of our Lord.

First Meeting in August 2011 to organize a Catholic Community in Union County, TN
In August 2011, 26 individuals attended the first Mass in the carport of the rented house of Fr. Steve, Br. Craig and Br. Joe.  Each needed to bring their own chair.  The next step was to find rental space to begin Sunday worship.  This was achieved in October of 2011.  After a month of Sunday worship in Miller's Chapel United Methodist Church, the first Mass held in the rental  space was the feast of All Saint's Day on November 1st.  This rental space was a combination of storage units and hot dog stand.   The first Spanish Mass was held December 12, 2011 in honor of  Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Spanish Sunday Mass began the first Sunday of January 2012 with only 11 people present. Yet, both worship hours grew rapidly.  Today we have over 125 registered families and over 300 members. Therefore, after several stages of expansion by renting more and more storage spaces, construction of a permanent church home became an obvious need.
The first public Mass in the carport

In September of 2014, the community gathered for three sessions to discuss what we wanted in a church complex.  In 2015 an architect was hired to draw up a master plan.  Around the same time, the diocese of Knoxville decided it was time for them to build a Cathedral, since the church named as the Cathedral was never designed to be a cathedral.  Thus a capital campaign was started.  The community of St. Teresa of Kolkata (known at the time as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta) enthusiastically participated in the campaign.  In this time we also grew sufficiently to no longer be considered a mission, but a parish.
Fr. Aaron leading a church planning session in 2014

Once we had an idea of what we needed, the next challenge was to raise funds.  We held fundraisers, the capital campaign, and sent begging letters to over 1,000 churches.  We thought we were ready in September of 2017.  We actually held the ceremonial ground breaking.  Then there was a slow down which when all the bids were in, the cost estimate for our dream church was double of what was the projected budget.  This was an emotional blow to everyone after over three years of planning and sacrificing.  Yet, with trust in God, we moved forward.

Bishop Stika elevates the mission to parish status with Deacon Sean Smith assisting and Fr. Steve accepting this declaration.

Thus we have redesigned the building.  We have kept worship space the same, changed the entrance eliminating offices and a larger kitchen.  Our hope is to have a modular unit to serve for office and some classrooms.
Deacon Larry, Bishop Stika and Fr. Steve at Sept. 2017 ceremonial ground breaking
  We are currently waiting for the final bids of the new design.  Once we have this, we hope to begin in early March.
The dream church now redesigned (lower roof and less square feet)

Therefore, please say a prayer.  Watch for regular updates ... both the highs and lows of this project.  In the end we hope to build a church that God desires of St. Teresa of Kolkata.  We hope it honors Him with a simple and reverent structure.  We hope it will serve as a sign that the Catholic Church is here to stay.  Furthermore, that it serves as a beacon of hope for the lost, lonely and poor in honor of our patroness.  We hope many who are inactive Catholics will return.  We hope many who do not worship anywhere may find the beauty of faith in the Catholic Way of Life.  We hope that this building will strengthen and unite our faith community.
Why we need more space

Please join us in prayer that God's will be done for the people of St. Teresa of Kolkata and those living in Union County, TN area.

Thursday, January 18, 2018



It has been over a year since I have blogged.  My deepest apologizes.  My current plan is to begin again with a blog that focus on church construction, once the dirt begins to move, most likely in March. 

Again my apologizes.

Fr. Steve Pawelk

Saturday, December 31, 2016

December at John Paul II Catholic Mission, Rutledge, TN

As we approach the New Year of 2017, I am sharing the joys of Advent at the mission of St. John Paul II.  In my many years serving as a Glenmary priest, the way the Catholics of St. John Paul II honor December is unique and inspiring.

Rosary to conclude the feast of Guadalupe
They begin with the novena in honor of the Immaculate Conception which is also associated with Our Lady of Joaquin ( the virgin of the state of Oxacca, MX).  This continues through the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The novena means they sing, pray the rosary, and then eat afterwards.  Each night a different family is the host.  These are held at times at someone's home or at the church.

Then the celebration in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe follows.  This took place on the December 11 in the afternoon.  Procession, Mass, Food, three dance performers and the drama of Our Lady of Guadalupe mark this festival.  It is a huge amount of labor and expense, but done with great joy and love.  Then at 6:00 a.m. on December 12th they gathered for the Mananitas (morning praises), which is singing and the rosary.   Some came to St Teresa of Kolkata for the evening Mass; others had on last rosary at a families home.
Actors for the drama of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Presentation of the Gifts
Ladies traditional dance
Dancers from St. Teresa of Kolkata

Dance of the Viejos (Old ones)

After a few days of rest, they began the rosaries for the Posadas.  This again is nine days of rosary, singing and food with the added twist of candy and fruit each night for the children.  This then concludes with the joyous final night on the 23rd with rosary, the pastorales, food, gifts and the piƱata.
Posada singing outside the door

Receiving the crib

The final rosary

This year's Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus

The cast of the pastorales
Gifts from Novice Ken and elves

Pinata breaking

The highlight of course is Christmas Mass. 

The photos and description can not capture the level of faith that is evident in the faithful where any given night as few as thirty and as many as 100 were gathered for prayer.  Imagine 2 to 3 hours every night for 21 days during December.  Where many were shopping and preparing for Christmas in other ways, these Christians were praying to prepare their heart for the Lord. 

After all, the time of advent is to prepare us to receive the gift of faith in a renewed way.  As we end 2016 and begin 2017 may it be a time of great faith in Jesus for everyone.

 Peace, Love and Hope is my wish for everyone.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

It is a new day

After a very long absence, the missionary heartbeat blog is back.  Sorry for the wait.
This is why it is called the "Smokey Mountains".

One discovery is once a routine falls apart, regardless how good it is, it takes twice as much effort to restart.  This is true about this blog, but it is also true about diet, exercise,  prayer, and going to Mass.  Acknowledging this reality, this entry is dedicated to what has been happening in Union County.  I will aim to catch you up on St. John Paul II Catholic church in Rutledge soon. ( I hope soon, is like in two weeks).

Three major changes have occurred recently.  First, with the canonization of Mother Teresa on September 4 we now have a new name.  We are now St. Teresa of Kolkata Catholic Church.  The spelling change is out of respect of the people of India.  The change from "Calcutta" to "Kolkata" is  returning to the indigenous spelling. 

A free gift and our welcome banner
We were blessed with Bishop Stika coming to celebrate this change a week later.  The joy he brings, his sense of humor and his holiness all add to the festive mood of this event.  He likes to say he is a third class relic since he knew and was hugged by Mother Teresa.  Now we have the challenge live in a way that give honor to our patroness.  We need to be a church of mercy even after this jubilee year ends.
The image is a gift from Bishop Stika in honor of her canonization

The second exciting news is that in October Larry Rossini was ordained a deacon and assigned to service here at STK (our new initials: St. Teresa of Kolkata). Deacon Larry, a native of Arkansas but a long time resident in Halls, TN, has been a great addition.  Currently he is helping us reorganize our internal church structure. 
Deacon Larry shortly before his ordination

One of the challenges as a community of faith grows is adjusting the committees and lines of communication.  As a start up church, just five years old, it has been very dependent on the Glenmary Missioners with a few parishioners to carry the load of work.  This is no longer sustainable.  With Br. Craig now serving in Sneedville, TN, which is the neighboring county, his ministry needs to be handled by the  parishioners.  Further more, we a no longer just a small community.  We have grown from 26 people to 120 families.  Deacon Larry's background in business systems being applied to church life is a real plus. 

Yet, what Deacon Larry is getting ready to do is even more essential.  He will be forming an Evangelization committee and in true missionary spirit, go out to the world to announce the good news.  Of course, he and his team will just hit the little part of the world known as Union County.  Yet it is  big enough for us.
St. Francis garden: blooms of faith will be as vibrant

Finally, the most exciting and nerve creating news is that we have an architect under contract.  This week our architect will meet with the liturgy committee on Friday and all our construction workers on Saturday.  Then the detail design will begin.  It has been a very long wait to get here, but we made it.  All the fund raising efforts, the carnivals, all the outside donations has allowed to receive a grant from Extension Society.  Therefore, we have a financial plan that should allow us to begin construction in the spring of 2017.
The Master Plan

Stay tuned for future updates.  Thanks again for your patience.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

New Post coming soon!!

Dear Reader,

My apologizes for not posting a new blog in sometime.  The joys of ministry and a few matters of technology have hindered me lately.

I promise you a new post will be happening very soon!!

Thanks for your patience.

Fr. Steve

Friday, March 4, 2016

Missing Pieces

This Christmas I was given a challenging zigzaw puzzle.  I enjoyed and was frustrated working on this puzzle during my evenings.  The ultimate frustration was when I finished to discover a piece was missing.  This was a new puzzle so when I began I am confident that all the pieces were present.  So the missing piece was a result my own carelessness.

This is much like the reason for our Lenten season.  When we begin life, all the pieces for happiness are present, especially once we are  baptized and original sin is washed away.  As life continues because of our carelessness and the carelessness of others, pieces begin to go missing.  Gaps of sadness, sinfulness and suffering sneak in.  These gaps can only be healed with the grace of Jesus Christ.
The Sacrifice of Mercy for us all

In particular this Lent, Pope Francis has called us to experience a Jubilee Year of Mercy.  This is a great opportunity for us to improve ourselves, our faith and civil communities,  and even to improve the world.  During Lent every parishioner has been challenged to complete all of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  This idea is actually based on a movie called "Little Boy" where a priest gives this assignment to a little boy needing hope.  One act of mercy can change the world.

At Blessed Teresa of Calcutta the congregation has engaged in "visiting the sick".  We have a young parishioner with serious cancer.  When she had her surgery she had no insurance.  Now she does, but it is not the best.  The church sponsored a fundraiser where I offered folks an opportunity to shave my head. This event was mentioned in the local newspaper. People really worked hard and had a lot of fun.  I was deeply moved by people not members of our church who came to support her.  Some folks traveled from a neighboring town just because they wanted to help someone who was suffering. They did not know her or anyone else in the parish.  They saw it in the paper and wanted to make a difference.  That is mercy in action.
A new look for the mercy of Christ

This is one example of filling in the missing pieces of our life.  Each act of mercy is a form of conversion.  This is how we turn our stony hearts and the stony hearts of others into hearts of flesh.

Winter Knitting Give a Away

Wrapped in the warmth of Christ
Both of our missions are recipient of many acts of mercy.  Two groups help us in "clothing the naked".   SAM's club of my hometown parish of St. Timothy Catholic Church, Maple Lake, MN and St. Bede and St. Olaf Knitting Ministry out of Williamsburg, VA regularly send us handmade quilts, knitted hats, gloves, blankets and shawls.  These acts of love brings joy to those who make, appreciation to our local communities and much need warmth to those who receive them. Now during winter, it is fun to spot children with these knitted items.  Baby quilts and knitted baby blankets are birth gifts and baptismal gifts. The layers of the effects of these handmade items may not always be obvious.  Yet, missing pieces are filled in.

The message is someone cares  At one of our get ready for winter give away,  a woman was tears for getting a free handmade quilt.  She could not believe that we would give her a quilt when she was not a member of our church.  She said no church just gives things away. My response was, " Christ gave us his life, I think we can give you a quilt." 

All of this helps fill in the missing pieces of our lives with  kindness, thoughtfulness and mercy.  Thank you, Jesus, for filling in the gaps and missing pieces of our lives.  Thank you for those who are sacrificing time and finances in sharing their missionary hearts here in Union and Grainger County.  Thank you Jesus for you mercy and the mercy of our disciples.  Thank you for everything.