History of the Diocese of Knoxville
The Diocese of Knoxville was once a part of the larger Diocese of Nashville. On September 8, 1988, before a crowd of 5,000, the Diocese of Knoxville was erected and Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell was ordained bishop, becoming the shepherd of 32,000 Catholics living in 38 parishes spread out over 36 counties. Bishop O’Connell presided over a ten-year expansion, founding six new parishes and one elementary school, and ordaining 17 men to the priesthood. Under his leadership, Associated Catholic Charities of East Tennessee was founded on December 12, 1988, the Office of Hispanic Ministry began on August7, 1989, and The East Tennessee Catholic, the diocesan newspaper, was established in August 1991.
On October 26, 1999, Pope John Paul II appointed Monsignor Joseph E Kurtz, a priest of the Diocese of Allentown, PA, to be the diocese’s second bishop. Monsignor Kurtz had served his diocese as a teacher, an administrator, and most recently as the pastor of Notre Dame of Bethlehem Parish, in Bethlehem, PA. He was ordained before another crowd of 5,000 people on December 8, 1999, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
On January 12, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Monsignor Richard F. Stika, a priest of the Diocese of St. Louis, MO, to be the diocese’s third bishop. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis on December 14, 1985, and had served his diocese and archdiocese, as an administrator, and most recently as the pastor of Church of the Annunziata in Ladue, MO, in which role he served until Pope Benedict XVI appointed him bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville. He was ordained Knoxville’s ordinary on March 19, 2009.
Today, 60,000 Catholics make up about one percent of East Tennessee’s population. That’s fewer than one percent of the nation’s 68 million Catholics. Our diocese is now home to 47 parishes. These parishes are served by 59 diocesan priests, 13 religious priests, nine extern priests, 57 deacons, ten brothers, 34 sisters, and, of course, one bishop.
For information about the Diocese of Knoxville see their website at dioknox.org.