Bishop announces papal honors, new parish and school names

At the Chrism Mass on Tuesday, March 30, Bishop J. Mark Spalding announced that Pope Francis had appointed Msgr. Mike Johnston and Msgr. Stephen Gideon as Chaplains of His Holiness with the title of Monsignor. Msgr. Johnston, pictured above, was the longtime pastor of St. Henry Church in Nashville and served as Administrator of the Diocese of Nashville after Bishop David Choby died in 2017. Photos by John Partipilo

Bishop J. Mark Spalding closed the annual Chrism Mass on Tuesday, March 30, by announcing papal honors for two priests who have been given the title of Monsignor and two lay people who have received one of the Church’s highest honors.

He also announced the names of a new parish and school planned for the Nolensville area.

Bishop Spalding announced that Pope Francis has honored David Glascoe and Theresa Patterson with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal. The medal, one of the most distinguished honors bestowed in the Catholic Church, is given by the Holy Father to recognize and celebrate especially distinguished service to the Church.

At the Chrism Mass on Tuesday, March 30, Bishop J. Mark Spalding announced that Pope Francis had appointed
Msgr. Stephen Gideon, pictured above, as a Chaplain of His Holiness with the title of Monsignor. Msgr. Gideon,
pictured above, served as pastor of St. Christopher Church in Dickson and St. John Vianney Church in Gallatin,
while also serving for 15 years as the Master of Ceremonies for both Bishops David Choby and Spalding.

The bishop called Glascoe and Patterson “true servants of those in need.”

Glascoe recently retired after working for the diocese for 40 years, including as director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Nashville’s Refugee Resettlement Program, the St. Mary Child Development Center, Villa Maria Manor, and the founding Executive Director of Mary, Queen of Angels Assisted Living Facility. Glascoe has also served on numerous boards in the diocese.

The bishop called him “a man of impeccable work ethic and dedication, and a champion of service for the poor and elderly.”

Patterson, the founding executive director of the Haiti Parish Twinning Program – now known as the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas – and the Visitation Hospital Foundation in Haiti, “has been a lifelong servant of the poorest and most marginalized,” Bishop Spalding said. She has received international acclaim for her work in Haiti, “which has formed bonds of Christian fraternity and friendship across the globe centered around corporal works of mercy for those in great need,” he added.


The bishop also announced that Pope Francis has appointed Father Michael Johnston and Father Stephen Gideon as Chaplains of His Holiness with the title of Monsignor.

Bishop Spalding called the two priests “examples of long faithful service and love for the Church and diocese,” noting that both chose to forego retirement to answer the needs of the Church.

Msgr. Johnston, ordained in 1970, served as a high school principal, vocations director and pastor of two large and active parishes, St. Stephen and St. Henry, before retiring. After Bishop David Choby died in 2017, Msgr. Johnston was elected as the diocesan administrator as the diocese prepared for the arrival of a new bishop, which turned out to be Bishop Spalding.

“Mike was such a great help to me when I came here three years ago,” Bishop Spalding said. “There’s a special place in my heart that will always be for Mike.”

Msgr. Gideon was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in 1976, converted to Catholicism and was ordained a priest for the diocese in 1997. He was the pastor of St. Christopher Church in Dickson and St. John Vianney Church in Gallatin, while also serving for 15 years as the Master of Ceremonies for both Bishops Choby and Spalding “with incredibly hard work and unmatched attention to detail,” Bishop Spalding said. 


“He has always had a special dedication to supporting seminarians, which continues now,” the bishop added. Msgr. Gideon serves as the Formation Director, Director of Worship and Instructor of Liturgical Theology at the Seminaries of St. Paul at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The bishop used the occasion to announce developments concerning a new parish and school in the rapidly growing Nolensville area, long a dream of the diocese.

“If all goes well with our ongoing property development and our work with Williamson County and other entities, this summer I plan to formally dedicate St. Michael Academy, which will be the school, and Mother Teresa Parish in Nolensville,” Bishop Spalding said. 

The parish acquired property for the new parish in 2020.

Father Anthony Stewart, associate pastor of Holy Family Church in Brentwood, has been helping lay the groundwork for the new parish.

Bishop Spalding announced that he plans to appoint Father Stewart as the new parish’s first priest, following the recommendation of the Priest Personnel Board.

“This young priest has said yes to a mighty project,” Bishop Spalding said. After listening to Father Stewart make a presentation on establishing the Nolensville parish, the bishop said, “I knew we have a man, a priest, who could lead our people down there.”

Bishop Spalding shakes hands with Father Anthony Stewart, who he has appointed as the first priest to serve the newly named Mother Teresa Parish in Nolensville. Father Stewart, associate pastor of Holy Family Parish in Brentwood, has helped lay groundwork for the new parish. On that campus will also be a new school, St. Michael Academy. Bishop Spalding publicly revealed the names of both for the first time at the Chrism Mass. 

Bishop Spalding presented Father Stewart with a relic of Mother Teresa, who was canonized a saint in 2016, for the new parish.

The bishop also thanked Father Joe McMahon, pastor of Holy Family, who has been involved in the work of establishing a parish in Nolensville from the beginning, as well as the people of Holy Family who have supported the effort.

At the Chrism Mass on March 30 at Sagrado Corazon Church, Bishop Spalding blessed the sacramental oils used throughout the year, including the Oil for the Holy Chrism, the Oil of the Sick, and the Oil of Catechumens.  

The Chrism Mass each year is highlighted by the renewal of promises by the priests of the diocese and the blessing of the sacramental oils used throughout the year, including the Oil for the Holy Chrism, the Oil of the Sick, and the Oil of Catechumens.

In 2020, the Chrism Mass was postponed because the public celebration of Masses had been suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been given a rough year here in Nashville. We’ve been through a lot,” Bishop Spalding said in his homily. In the future, some will remember the year and “see something dark and difficult, sometimes anxious, sometimes angry,” he said.

“But just as much as we can look back on the time and see dark, we can see light and courage and compassion,” Bishop Spalding said.

“Our responsibility on this earth is to take our blessings and share them with others,” he said. “Here we believe in a light, a light shown by Christ, a light revealed in the service of others. …

“Be a person of light for others,” Bishop Spalding added. “Reach out to them and love them.”

“When we use those blessings of faith, hope and love,” Bishop Spalding said, “our world is made so much better.”

Murfreesboro Knights, St. Rose parishioners help Catholic Charities

Knights of Columbus Council 4563 and the parishioners of St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro shared their generosity with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Nashville to feed the hungry. 

The Knights have been supporting the food pantry at St. Rose by organizing food drives when the pantry is running low. 

The Knights bought more than 350 reusable branded grocery bags that parishioners can pick up after Masses on designated weekends. In the bags are a list of the food items the pantry needs. Parishioners return the bags filled with food the following weekend, explained Matt Owens, the community program director for Council 4563. 

“This program has worked very well for stocking the pantry as well as helping our parishioners with a way to help give back, so much so that we are planning to purchase more bags,” Owens said.  

“Our parishioners are now giving to a point that our pantry last month was not in need of food,” Owens said.  

“We thought there’s got to be somebody who needs help,” he added. 

That’s when the council members learned about Catholic Charities’ Loaves and Fishes and food pantry programs. The council reached out to offer help. 

The council distributed the grocery bags the weekend of March 13-14, and parishioners returned more than 400 bags of food the following weekend. 

“It was beautiful,” said Wendy Overlock, coordinator of the Loaves and Fishes program. 

She had asked for food items in cans with pull tabs, which are easier to use by people experiencing homelessness. The items included: hearty soups, canned chicken and tuna, Vienna sausages, spam, sardines, chicken and dumplings, chili, fruit, pork and beans, crackers, peanut butter and fruit packs, among others. 

The number of families struggling to make ends meet is increasing, Overlock said, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and disasters like the March 2020 tornados and the downtown Christmas day bombing. 

Loaves and Fishes provides lunch to those in need every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at Holy Name Church in East Nashville. Each week, approximately 600 meals are served, and guests can also receive referrals for services for housing, additional food, and clothing. 

Catholic Charities also operates three food pantries in Davidson County, serving the homeless, the working poor, retired seniors and those struggling to feed babies and small children. The pantries are located at the McGruder Family Resource Center in North Nashville, the South Nashville Family Resource Center located at Casa Azafran, and the Catholic Pastoral Center in Donelson. 

Besides food, the family resource centers provide financial assistance, financial literacy classes and case management referrals for those in need. 

“Hopefully, this is going to be a longstanding partnership” between Council 4563 and Catholic Charities, Owens said. “We’re going to do it at least annually for Loaves and Fishes and The Journey Home Murfreesboro homeless shelter. We’ll do it for our parish food pantry on a more regular basis.” 

“What we like is not only helping others but being a conduit for our parishioners to help others,” Owens said. 

Editorial: With vaccines, nuance gets lost in the headlines

A Johnson & Johnson scientist works in a laboratory during the development and testing of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in this undated photo. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved use of the company’s one-shot vaccine Feb. 27, 2021. CNS photo/Johnson & Johnson, Handout via Reuters.

The teachings and pronouncements of the Catholic Church are often nuanced, reflecting complicated questions of faith, morality and ethics that confront us in the modern world. And often the nuance is lost in the sound and the fury that surrounds so many of society’s most contentious issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents one of those complicated situations that requires a nuanced response.

The coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson was recently approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. News of the vaccine’s success in trials raised hopes that it might help bring an end to the suffering.

But the news also raised some difficult questions about the moral suitability of using vaccines developed, tested, and/or produced with the help of abortion-derived cell lines.

“Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines raised concerns because an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them, but not in their production. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however, was developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines raising additional moral concerns,” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said in a statement.

Archbishop Naumann and Bishop Rhoades have been active on their respective committees for many years and speak often about the importance of pro-life issues.

More than 500,000 people in the United States have died because of the pandemic. Scientists and researchers have done tremendous work in a very short period of time to produce vaccines that hold great promise in slowing, even eliminating, the spread of the virus.

In most instances, people do not have a choice of which vaccine to receive. And health care providers, because of significant production and distribution issues, often do not have a choice about which vaccine they can offer to people.

The Church recognizes these complications.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged that ‘when ethically irreproachable COVID-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process,’” the bishops said. “However, if one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen. Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.”

The Church has long advocated that the pharmaceutical industry stop using abortion-derived cell lines in developing vaccines and other treatments and is not abandoning that position now. The lives lost to abortion should never be reduced to raw materials for a production process, and researchers should continue to work to find moral and ethical alternatives.

But the pandemic poses a unique threat to human life. “Given the world-wide suffering that this pandemic is causing, we affirm again that being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good,” Bishops Rhodes and Naumann added.

Many overlook the nuanced position of the Church, and others focus only on the conflict. Lost is the goal of the Church’s position: to ease suffering and to serve the common good. It is certainly not an easy choice between two important goods that might seem to be in opposition to each other: If we have no other option than to accept the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, will we participate in the moral evil of abortion and its consequences?

The Church is reassuring Catholics that if no other options are available, receiving any of the vaccines serves the common good.

Jesus takes on human suffering to draw even closer to people, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A Christian life should be filled with amazement — astonishment at the son of God suffering and dying for humanity and awe at realizing how precious and loved people are in his eyes, Pope Francis said.

“Can we still be moved by God’s love? Have we lost the ability to be amazed by him?” the pope asked in his homily during Palm Sunday Mass, marking the start of Holy Week.

“Let us be amazed by Jesus so that we can start living again, for the grandeur of life lies not in possessions and promotions, but in realizing that we are loved and in experiencing the beauty of loving others,” he said at the Mass March 28.

Palm Sunday Mass, the liturgy that begins with a commemoration of Jesus entering Jerusalem among a jubilant crowd, began with a small procession toward the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica with a few dozen concelebrating cardinals and bishops walking ahead of Pope Francis.

Due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions, Holy Week and Easter celebrations at the Vatican were to be celebrated primarily in the basilica with a very small congregation

Broadcast and livestreamed over a wide range of media, the pope preached in his homily about Holy Week marking an important time to be amazed by Jesus, who completely overturned people’s expectations.

Instead of being “a powerful liberator at Passover,” he arrives on a lowly donkey “to bring the Passover to fulfillment by sacrificing himself” and, instead of triumphing over the Romans by the sword, “Jesus comes to celebrate God’s triumph through the cross,” the pope said.

What is amazing, he said, “is the fact that he achieves glory through humiliation. He triumphs by accepting suffering and death, things that we, in our quest for admiration and success, would rather avoid.”

And even more astonishing is that he endures all this pain and humiliation “for us, to plumb the depths of our human experience, our entire existence, all our evil. To draw near to us and not abandon us in our suffering and our death. To redeem us, to save us,” the pope said.

With his love, sacrifice and salvation, “now we know that we are not alone: God is at our side in every affliction, in every fear; no evil, no sin will ever have the final word,” he said.

“Let us ask for the grace to be amazed,” he said, because not only is a Christian life without amazement “drab and dreary,” how can people proclaim “the joy of meeting Jesus, unless we are daily astonished and amazed by his love, which brings us forgiveness and the possibility of a new beginning?”

Pope Francis asked that people begin Holy Week with this sense of amazement, by gazing upon Jesus on the cross, and saying to him, “Lord, how much you love me! How precious I am to you!”

“With the grace of amazement we come to realize that in welcoming the dismissed and discarded, in drawing close to those ill-treated by life, we are loving Jesus. For that is where he is, in the least of our brothers and sisters, in the rejected and discarded,” the pope said.

After the Mass and before praying the Angelus, Pope Francis recalled this was the second Holy Week celebrated during the COVID-19 pandemic. While last year was experienced more as a shock, this year “it is more trying for us” and the economic crisis has become very burdensome.

The devil “is taking advantage of the crisis to disseminate distrust, desperation and discord,” he said, but Jesus is taking up the cross, taking “on the evil that this situation entails, the physical and psychological evil, and, above all, the spiritual evil.”

“What should we do?” he asked.

People should be like Mary, the mother of Jesus, and follow her son, he said.

“She took upon herself her own portion of suffering, of darkness, of confusion, and she walked the way of the Passion keeping the lamp of faith lit in her heart. With God’s grace, we too can make that journey,” the pope said.

Franklin neighbors host outdoor Stations of the Cross

The Blackburn family of St. Philip Church in Franklin prays the Stations of the Cross together in their Westhaven neighborhood on Friday, March 26.

Last year, when churches were shuttered during Holy Week and people were figuring out how to navigate the newly enacted coronavirus restrictions, some neighbors in Franklin had an idea—for 14 different households to each post one of the Stations of the Cross on their front lawn. 

 “I thought it was a great idea,” said Franklin resident Ashley Blackburn, a parishioner at St. Philip Church in Franklin, who headed up a similar effort in her Westhaven neighborhood this year.  

 The Stations were only up during Holy Week last year, but this year, Blackburn reached out to neighbors to see if enough people would be interested in keeping the Stations up for all of Lent. She got an enthusiastic response, and now hopes to make the effort an annual event.  

Henry Blackburn, whose family belongs to St. Philip Church in Franklin, examines the second Station of the Cross in front of a home in the Westhaven subdivision, where neighbors set up an outdoor Stations trail for Lent. 

 She created an email with information about the Stations of the Cross that neighbors could circulate, and a friend posted the information on the neighborhood Facebook page.  

 Jeff Carroll, a designer and St. Philip parishioner, printed and laminated each of the images, which are attached to stakes and posted near the street on each of the lawns.  

 He also created a map to show people where each of the Stations are located along the 2.8 mile trail through the Westhaven neighborhood. But, “this really isn’t about me,” he said. “I’m just proud our neighborhood is participating in the Stations.” 

 On Friday, March 26 Blackburn, her husband and four of their five children biked the Stations of the Cross trail, which they typically did every Friday in Lent. They brought their own prayer guide to read at every stop along the way.   

“With COVID still lingering and people still hunkering down, this is a great way to get people to do the devotions and live their faith outside their homes in a real way,” Ashley Blackburn said.  

 “I think this will be an annual thing,” she added.  

New transitional deacons urged to use gifts to serve others

Bishop J. Mark Spalding ordained seminarians Nonso Ohanaka and Brent Thayer as transitional deacons on Saturday, March 27. Both men are studying at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and plan to be ordained priests for the Diocese of Nashville in 2022. Bishop Spalding presents the Book of the Gospels to Deacon Thayer. Photos by Andy Telli

Bishop J. Mark Spalding asked Diocese of Nashville seminarians Nonso Ohanaka and Brent Thayer during their ordination as transitional deacons on Saturday, March 27, to use the gifts God has given them to serve the Church.

“What kind of love does Jesus ask of us? A love that constantly gives for another,” Bishop Spalding said in his homily during the ordination Mass celebrated at Sagrado Corazon Church in the Catholic Pastoral Center.

Deacons Ohanaka and Thayer, both studying at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, are scheduled to be ordained as priests in 2022.

 When people make the great promises to the Church, whether in Baptism, Holy Orders, religious life, or marriage, Bishop Spalding said, “We make those promises … as though Christ is working through our very selves. 

Bishop J. Mark Spalding joins hands with Deacon Nonso Ohanaka.

“Whenever I say that I do, it means I am doing for others,” he said. “You are called to serve and not be served.”

“You’re going to be a sign and symbol to the world that I gave everything and absolutely in the way Christ gave for the good of others,” Bishop Spalding told Deacons Ohanaka and Thayer. “The world more and more doesn’t understand this type of promise. …

“But in the sacrifice … the world is made better, and we need it. We’re starving for it,” he added. 

As deacons, their role will be to draw people “into the light that is Jesus,” Bishop Spalding said.

“Look out into the world, see those on the margins, and love them and bring them in,” Bishop Spalding said. “The diaconate always goes out to the poor and brings the poor to the Church and the Church to the poor. Never forget that.”

“Everything about it was beautiful,” Deacon Thayer said of the ordination. “I’m looking forward to serving the people more” as a deacon.

Deacon Thayer preached his first homily on Palm Sunday, March 28, at St. Catherine Church in Columbia, where he had served over Christmas break. “I had such a great experience there, I wanted to go back.”

Deacon Ohanaka preached his first homily on Palm Sunday at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church, where his family often attends Mass.

At the start of his ordination, “my heart was beating fast,” Deacon Ohanaka said. “Once I gave the promise of obedience, I had a lot of peace.”

To see a video of the ordination Mass, visit the Diocese of Nashville’s Facebook page.

Diocese celebrates Palm Sunday

Parishes across the Diocese of Nashville welcomed more people back to church on Palm Sunday, the first day that Bishop J. Mark Spalding restored the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. 

At parishes large and small, indoors and out, people gathered for Mass on March 28, eager to experience the first Holy Week liturgy together in person. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, all churches were closed during Holy Week; liturgies were livestreamed as priests celebrated them in private. 

For Palm Sunday 2021, church communities were able to celebrate together again.  

At Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Springfield, approximately 150 people attended the Palm Sunday 10:30 a.m. Mass in English, which was typical for that Mass. Even more were expected for the Spanish Mass later in the day.  

About 600 people attended the 11 a.m. outdoor Mass at St. Henry Church in Nashville, which was also typical attendance in recent weeks. The parish is holding as many Holy Week liturgies as possible outside this week, and taking reservations for indoor Masses. They expect more people to return for Easter Sunday.  

The triumph of the cross: The hope of Holy Week

This is a painting by Matthias Grunewald entitled “The Small Crucifixion.” Few artists have conveyed the scene of the crucifixion with the intense realism that Grunewald brings to his composition. CNS photo/Samuel H. Kress Collection via National Gallery of Art

In his passion, Jesus’ sufferings were unequaled. For the Son of God offered himself as a sacrifice for all. No one, not even the saintliest person, can take on the sins of all people in every time and place. Only God can, and did.

It is this gift of faith, at the heart of our Lenten journeys, that Matthias Grunewald, master German painter, brings to life in a vivid painting titled “The Small Crucifixion.” We are invited to reflect not only on the historical event of the Lord’s crucifixion, but the redemptive meaning of Jesus’ suffering love, poured out for all humanity and for each of us.

Grunewald’s image is particularly poignant in these challenging pandemic days as we walk the via crucis, the path of Jesus’ paschal journey from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.

Grunewald’s best-known masterpiece, the “Isenheim Altarpiece,” was commissioned for the high altar of the church of the Monastery of St. Anthony in Alsace. There, patients suffering from the plague were treated.

In that large altarpiece, Grunewald depicts a crucified Christ whose body is scourged with plague-type sores. Patients bearing the pain of their physical afflictions found spiritual comfort as they gazed on the crucified Jesus and found consolation in the mystery of his suffering.

“The Small Crucifixion” was, most likely, a personal devotional image, intended either for a domestic setting or a private chapel. Here we are drawn into the reality of Jesus’ passion. Color, line, form and composition convey, with remarkable expressive power, the depths of Jesus’ abandonment and the extreme physical suffering of a crucifixion.

His gaunt body is racked with scars of torture. His emaciated face and bowed head evoke his unbearable agony. Under a piercing crown of thorns, the scarred face of Jesus bleeds. His tattered loincloth gives evidence of the depravity of his tormentors. Few artists have conveyed the scene of the crucifixion with the intense realism that Grunewald brings to his composition.

Jesus’ crucifixion is set in a bare landscape painted in an unusual greenish blue color, evoking the Gospel detail that, at the hour of his passing, the sun darkened and creation itself groaned.

Visitors who stand in front of this painting in its museum setting cannot help but notice that the small panel bends outward into the viewers’ space. Grunewald leaves no room for one to remain a passive bystander or objective onlooker in the face of Jesus’ sufferings.

From the center radiates the Lord’s outstretched arms with twisted hands and contorted feet stretched over the cross. His hands and feet convey the divine anguish over human alienation from God. Obedient even to death on a cross, Jesus’ self-offering rises as a perfect oblation through his gnarled fingers that strain upward to the heavens.

His ankles, twisting beneath the brute force of the nail that pierces his feet, evoke the chains of human alienation. The crossbeam strains downward not only under the mass of his wounded body but from the full weight of divine mercy that takes the form of crucified love.

On either side of the cross are Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the beloved disciple, St. John the Evangelist. Mary’s robed head is bowed with her hands clasped in prayer, as she shares uniquely in her son’s suffering. John conveys the agony of this faithful disciple. Kneeling in anguished meditation at the foot of the cross is St. Mary Magdalene.

Their perspective is meant to be ours as we contemplate Jesus’ passion. Grunewald’s vision allows us to glimpse the relentless mercy of God as it takes the form of suffering love on the cross. We are invited to receive the gift of divine crucified love poured out on the world and on each one of us.

Good Friday is good news in that death no longer has the final word on the human condition. As we enter into the mystery of Jesus’ passion and death on the cross, we are filled with hope in the victorious power of God who will raise him from the dead.

And as we journey from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, Grunewald’s image evokes our vocation to live the new life of the risen Christ.

We know and believe in faith that the horror of Jesus’ crucifixion will most certainly give way to the radiant glory of his, and our own, resurrection. And so we pray, “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Jem Sullivan, educator and author, contributes a Scripture column to Catholic News Service and is the author of “Believe, Celebrate, Live, Pray: A Weekly Retreat with the Catechism.”

Cathedral moves the tabernacle back to the sanctuary altar

Bishop J. Mark Spalding celebrated Mass at on the Solemnity of the Annunciation at the Cathedral of the Incarnation March 25, 2021. It was the first Mass at the cathedral after the tabernacle was moved from a side chapel to the main altar. Photos by Rick Musacchio

The tabernacle of the Cathedral of the Incarnation, which has been moved to several locations within the church during its long history, has been returned to its original location on the high altar in the sanctuary.

Moving the tabernacle was part of the Cathedral’s ongoing restoration efforts, Pastor Father Eric Fowlkes said. In past restorations, the tabernacle had been relocated from the altar to chapels on either side of the altar, most recently the chapel on the right side of the altar as seen from the pews.

The Church’s guidance on the location of the tabernacle in churches allows for different options and different perspectives, Father Fowlkes noted. “The perspectives have changed and developed over the years,” he added.

All the locations of the tabernacle throughout the history of the Cathedral, which was completed in 1914, have been legitimate, he said.

But as the Cathedral has been planning its current restoration, “consideration has been given to the sanctuary, the side chapels, and the architectural integrity of the building,” Father Fowlkes said. 

Church guidance calls on parishes to consider and respect the architecture and history of the church when considering where to place the tabernacle, Father Fowlkes said. 

Altar servers process to the altar at the start of the 12:10 p.m. Mass on Thursday, March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, which was the first Mass after the tabernacle at the Cathedral of the Incarnation was moved from a side chapel to the main altar. During the Mass, Bishop J. Mark Spalding reposed the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle in its new location.

“After prayerful reflection, consultation with the bishop, discussion with the parish, especially parish leaders, the decision was made to return the Blessed Sacrament to the high altar.”

By giving the tabernacle more visibility on the altar, it gives the parish the opportunity to show its love and respect for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Father Fowlkes said. “The Cathedral was constructed in such a way that the tabernacle had a special place of honor” on the altar, he said.

The Cathedral hired experts to move the tabernacle from the side chapel to the altar.

“It was complicated to move,” Father Fowlkes said. “It’s very heavy and quite valuable and delicate.

“The planning took some time. The actual move took a couple of extra days,” he said. “It required building a platform, a lift and very special handling of the tabernacle.”

The move was completed on Wednesday, March 24, one day before the Feast of the Anunciation, the patronal feast of the Cathedral, Father Fowlkes said.

On the Feast of the Anunciation, Bishop J. Mark Spalding celebrated the 12:10 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral and reposed the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle in its new location.

Parishioners have been excited about the move, Father Fowlkes said. “People have been taking pictures and videos.”

With the move of the tabernacle complete, Phase II of the renovation, which has included restoration of the ceilings over the side aisles, lighting improvements, and restoration of the Stations of the Cross, will continue with renovation of the side chapels.

The chapel on the left side of the altar will be renovated as the Chapel of the Annunciation, honoring the Incarnation of the Lord, Father Fowlkes said. 

“It will have a beautiful new look with beautiful artwork,” including a bas-relief of the Annunciation and symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the ceiling, Father Fowlkes said. 

The chapel on the right side will be renovated as the Chapel of the Passion of the Lord, with artwork depicting the crucifixion and symbols of the Lord’s Passion on the ceiling, he added.

Work on both chapels will begin soon and should be complete by June, Father Fowlkes said.

Cloister seniors mark Tennessee Tree Day by planting 100 trees to help re-leaf Nashville

Members of The Cloister Tree Project and other residents gather March 19, the eve of Tennessee Tree Day, for the launch of their plan to plant 100 or more trees in the 240-residence Cloister at St. Henry in West Meade. Photos by Judy Moon

Residents of The Cloister at St. Henry, a community of Nashvillians 55 and older, are lifting their shovels to help re-leaf Nashville. On March 19, the eve of Tennessee Tree Day, the residents launched a five-year project to plant more than 100 trees in their community.

 “Urban reforestation is part of a more universal goal to address climate change,” said Bill Baker, the chair of The Cloister Tree Committee. “Tree planting programs are explicit, major goals among nations, states and localities, including Metro Nashville. Good citizenship and stewardship call for our Cloister community to do its part.”

 The Cloister Tree Project aims to plant 100 or more trees in the 240-residence community over the next several years. It is coordinating with Nashville Public Works horticulturist Jennifer Smith, The Nashville Tree Conservation Corps, The Nashville Tree Foundation, and Root Nashville Cumberland River Compact.

 Baker said The Cloister project dovetails with local and state efforts. “We hope our work will inspire other communities to do the same,” he said.

Over the last few years, the Metro region suffered extensive losses of its tree canopy from tornados, severe wind storms, flooding and even the Christmas Day bombing downtown that destroyed many of the trees in the entertainment district.

The Cloister Tree Project Chair Bill Baker and Josephine Chromy throw symbolic shovelfuls of soil on one of the 100 trees the community plans to plant. Looking on are Nancy Huggins and Mary Sue Jones.

 Re-leaf projects are underway across the Midstate, especially in hard-hit areas of North and East Nashville and Donelson. The efforts to restore the city’s tree canopy — long a source of pride for Nashvillians — are part of a private and public partnership to improve Davidson County parks, such as Centennial, Warner and Shelby, as well as create new ones. Improving existing greenways and establishing new ones is also part of the greening of the Metro region.

 The Cloister at St. Henry was built 40 years ago on land that was originally the farm of Henry and Emma Neuhoff. The rolling landscape had few trees at the time of construction of the village and has lost many over the years to storms and disease.

 “It is important, particularly now, for all of us to pull together to help solve our existential climate problem,” Baker said. “Trees are the lungs of our communities and our planet. They breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen and water.”

 Tony Spence, a spokesperson for The Cloister project, said that the plantings will be in the community’s common spaces, and project members are encouraging residents to plant additional trees in their individual lawns and gardens. The Project also has a Legacy Tree component, coordinated by Charles and Ann Riddle, in which residents can fund and support new trees in memory of people important in their lives.

 The five-year project will focus on both canopy trees, such as maple, oak, ginkgo and holly, and understory trees, such as redbud, dogwood, and flowering crab and non-bearing fruit trees. Planners are considering other Southern trees as well.

 Kim Shin, a member of the project and an environmental engineer, is working on a satellite photo time sequencing of the new trees as a chronicle of the project’s success. 

Spence said that residents have responded enthusiastically to the project, and it has spurred discussion of other projects to transform The Cloister landscape.

 “The Cloister residents already are very engaged in their living environment, so it has been a happy situation to have their support for the Tree Project,” he said.

 “A rise and renaissance of The Cloister’s trees will enhance the beauty of our community and improve the health and quality of our lives.” Baker said. “It is our small step to better stewardship of God’s creation.”