Pope arrives in Iraq, promoting peace, tolerance, equality

BAGHDAD (CNS) — To consolidate peace and ensure progress, the government and people of Iraq must never treat anyone as a second-class citizen and must work each day to promote harmony, Pope Francis said.

“Fraternal coexistence calls for patient and honest dialogue, protected by justice and by respect for law,” he said March 5, addressing Iraqi President Barham Salih, other government leaders and diplomats serving in Iraq.

The appointment with civic and cultural leaders at the presidential palace in Baghdad came shortly after the pope landed in Iraq for his first foreign trip in 15 months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although he, his entire entourage and the journalists traveling with him had all been vaccinated against the coronavirus, they all wore masks during the four-hour flight from Rome.

Lowering his mask briefly to address reporters, he said he felt a “duty” to visit the Middle Eastern country, which had experienced so much death and turmoil since the 2003 invasion by a U.S.-led coalition. He put his mask back on to make his way around the plane and personally greet each member of the media.

The pope held a brief meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in a lounge at the Baghdad airport before heading into the city under tight security.

Pope Francis receives flowers from children during a welcoming ceremony with Iraqi President Barham Salih at the presidential palace in Baghdad March 5, 2021.
CNS photo/Vatican Media

Outside the airport, in five or six large groups along the highway, hundreds of Iraqis waved Vatican or Iraqi flags as the pope passed. Forced to use a bullet-proof car, the pope rode to the presidential palace in a black BMW 750i; the sedan was flanked most of the way by security officials on motorcycles, but as the motorcade neared the palace, it was accompanied by officers on horseback.

The president welcomed Pope Francis as a “great and dear guest,” expressing his gratitude that the pope made the trip “despite recommendations to postpone the visit because of the exceptional circumstances the world is going through because of the pandemic and despite the difficult conditions that our wounded nation is going through” with sporadic waves of violence.

Facing those dangers and visiting anyway “in reality doubles the value of your visit in the eyes of Iraqis,” the president told the pope.

His first speech of the trip, the pope outlined the themes expected to resonate throughout the March 5-8 visit: paying homage to the Christians martyred by Islamic militants over the past 20 years; insisting belief in one God, the father of all, means all people are brothers and sisters; encouraging a continued commitment to rebuilding the physical and social fabric of the country, including with international aid; and condemning all recourse to violence.

Repeating a phrase he used in a video message to the Iraqi people on the eve of his visit, Pope Francis told the civic authorities, “I come as a penitent, asking forgiveness of heaven and my brothers and sisters for so much destruction and cruelty. I come as a pilgrim of peace in the name of Christ, the prince of peace.”

“May the clash of arms be silenced! May their spread be curbed, here and everywhere,” the pope said. “May the voice of builders and peacemakers find a hearing! The voice of the humble, the poor, the ordinary men and women who want to live, work and pray in peace.”

“May there be an end to acts of violence and extremism, factions and intolerance,” Pope Francis urged. “May room be made for all those citizens who seek to cooperate in building up this country through dialogue and through frank, sincere and constructive discussion — citizens committed to reconciliation and prepared, for the common good, to set aside their own interests.”

Pope Francis acknowledge how Iraqis have dedicated themselves to the difficult task of building a democracy. For further progress toward that goal, he said, “it is essential to ensure the participation of all political, social and religious groups and to guarantee the fundamental rights of all citizens.”

In fact, the country’s dwindling Christian minority is not the only group that repeatedly has been denied its basic rights; Kurds, Yazidis and Mandaeans all have faced discrimination and even persecution. Under Saddam Hussein, even the Shiite Muslim majority was marginalized in many ways.

Even though he was speaking to secular leaders, Pope Francis could not fail to mention the special suffering of the Christian community, advocate for their rights and promise that they, too, would use their talents and skills to build up the nation.

Condemning violence “grounded in a fundamentalism incapable of accepting the peaceful coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups,” the pope urged Iraqis to strive to be a model of dialogue and harmony for the rest of the region.

Salih told the pope that, too often in the modern world, “opposition and polarization” are the order of the day, and people, “especially in the East, are losing the habit of pluralism, diversity and accepting the opinion of the other.”

Such an attitude, he said, “increases terrorism and the incitement to violence, hatred and committing atrocities with pretexts that have nothing to do with the tolerant spirit of the divine message. This threatens our entire future.”

Pope Francis agreed.

“Only if we learn to look beyond our differences and see each other as members of the same human family will we be able to begin an effective process of rebuilding and leave to future generations a better, more just and more humane world,” he said.

Religion, he insisted, “must be at the service of peace and fraternity.”

Nashville Catholic Radio nears its goal of raising $21,000

Catholic Media Productions and Nashville Catholic Radio are within shouting distance of their goal of raising $21,000 that will be used to pay for several projects in the coming year.

Catholic Media Productions, which operates Nashville Catholic Radio WBOU 100.5-FM as a ministry of the Diocese of Nashville, held a virtual fundraising gala on Feb. 11. Through the gala and since, Nashville Catholic Radio has raised $20,700, said Jovita Hernandez, assistant director of Catholic Media Productions.

“That’s the highest we’ve ever raised,” surpassing last year’s total of $18,975.48, said Bill Staley, the diocesan director of youth, young adult and new evangelization ministries.

People can still watch the gala and donate online by visiting NashvilleCR.com.

The success of the gala is a sign that “people believe in Nashville Catholic Radio,” Staley said. “There are listeners out there who want to see it go to new heights.”

People in Nashville can listen to Catholic programming – both produced locally and by Relevant Radio – by tuning to WBOU 100.5 FM, and people anywhere in the world can listen online at wbou.org. The station broadcasts in English during the day and in Spanish from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The money raised will be used for: improving the structure of the station’s transmitter site for maintenance and safety; expanding English-language and Spanish-language programming; adding a 24-hour a day, seven-day-a-week Spanish language online channel; and creating a Nashville Catholic Radio app.

In the summer of 2020, the diocese acquired Catholic Media Productions.

During the gala, Bishop J. Mark Spalding expressed his support for Catholic Media Productions and Nashville Catholic Radio as “integral ministries” of the diocese and urged people to listen. “Today through the broadcast of 100.5 FM and streaming through the internet of Nashville Catholic Radio, we proclaim the Gospel 24 hours a day to all those who live in our diocese and beyond,” Bishop Spalding said. “I encourage all of you to listen to WBOU.org and to tell your friends to listen. 

“I want to close with a special blessing on Nashville Catholic Radio and all of you who support it,” the bishop added. “Your prayers and donations help us proclaim the Gospel, the ministry that Jesus has commanded us to do. I encourage all of you to get involved, pray, listen and give.”

Chrism Mass returns to Holy Week, bringing a sense of unity for diocese

Bishop J. Mark Spalding celebrated the Chrism Mass for the Diocese of Nashville in Sagrado Corazon at the Catholic Pastoral Center in June 2020. It was moved to the summer last year due to coronavirus restrictions.  Tennessee Register file photo by Rick Musacchio

This year, the annual Chrism Mass will return to its traditional time during Holy Week, and Bishop J. Mark Spalding hopes the Mass will bring together people from across the diocese – within the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic – in a sign of unity.

“A concern I have about society is how we separate ourselves from each other,” Bishop Spalding said.

“A bishop’s job is always to work for communion within the Church. That means within parishes and amongst parishes,” he said.

 “The Chrism Mass will be a great celebration of the unity we have in Jesus Christ,” Bishop Spalding added.

The Chrism Mass will be an opportunity to celebrate that communion while at the same time emphasizing the breadth and depth of the diversity of the diocese in terms of culture and language, among urban, suburban and rural parishes, and the various rites celebrated “week in and week out in the Diocese of Nashville,” Bishop Spalding said.

In 2020, the Chrism Mass, which is traditionally celebrated during Holy Week, was moved to June after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the temporary suspension of the public celebration of Masses. This year, the Chrism Mass will again be celebrated during Holy Week at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 30, at Sagrado Corazon Church in the Catholic Pastoral Center.

“It’s the biggest church we have in the diocese,” Father Gervan Menezes, the episcopal master of ceremonies for the diocese, said of Sagrado Corazon. Even with the limits on the size of gatherings because of the pandemic, Sagrado Corazon, which in normal times can hold more than 3,000 people, can accommodate a bigger group than any other church in the diocese, he added.

“We want everybody to be safe,” Father Menezes said. “We’re going to use all the protocols.”

The hope is to fill Sagrado Corazon to its COVID capacity, Father Menezes said. “We want to invite people to be a part of this moment.”

Each pastor will be issued 12 tickets to distribute among parishioners. Bishop Spalding said he hopes pastors will bring parishioners with him to the Chrism Mass “to represent the diversity of the diocese itself.”

Other groups within the diocese, such as the deacons and their wives, members of the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, the Knights of Peter Claver, the Serra Club, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia and the Sisters of Mercy, among others, will also be invited to attend the Mass, Father Menezes said.

Those who cannot attend will be able to watch a livestream of the Mass online.

There are two special features of the Chrism Mass. All the priests serving in the diocese will be present to renew their ordination promises during the Mass, and all the sacred oils to be used in the coming year will be blessed.

The Chrism Mass can be a time for parishioners to reconnect with their former pastors, like they might at a family reunion, Bishop Spalding said.

“The sacred oils remind us of the service and ministry we do in the name of Jesus Christ in the world,” he added.

The sacred oils to be blessed during the Mass include Holy Chrism, which is used in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, the Oil of Catechumens, which is also used at Baptism, and the Oil of the Sick, used in Anointing of the Sick.

“Each pastor receives a portion of the oils so they can use them for the next year,” Father Menezes said.

The sense of unity across the diocese that is provided by the Chrism Mass is much needed, he said.

“COVID has brought out in us certain anxieties, fears and even angers because of the restrictions placed on each of us,” Bishop Spalding said. “As we see, God willing, the end of the pandemic before us – hopefully sooner rather than later – this gives us a moment of hope for our future.”

A year after deadly tornadoes, rebuilding and healing continues

On March 3, 2021, Catholic Charities invited tornado survivors to participate in a public art project at the McGruder Family Resource Center in North Nashville. Louis Holiday, left, watches as Jackie Gordon adds to the artwork. Photo by Theresa Laurence

It’s been one year since a line of devastating tornadoes tore through Middle Tennessee, killing 25 people, destroying homes, and upending lives.

As the powerful winds blew through North Nashville in the early morning hours of March 3, 2020, Jackie Gordon huddled in her hall closet. When she emerged, she found a large tree had crashed through the front porch and into her living room. “Power was out for about three weeks, it tore down all the power poles on the block,” she said.

Gordon, an employee at the nearby McGruder Family Resource Center, managed by Catholic Charities, came to work the next day because “I knew people needed help. A lot of people were going through this same kind of crisis.”

Immediately following the tornado, volunteers descended on the McGruder Center, which operated with no power for days, to help storm victims get needed supplies of clothes, non-perishable food, cleaning and hygiene products.

That same scene played out over and over again across Middle Tennessee in North and East Nashville, Donelson, Mt. Juliet, Lebanon, and Cookeville, some of the hardest hit communities. Members of diocesan parishes and schools sprang into action to help, collecting supplies such as bottled water and baby formula for tornado victims. The Knights of Columbus marshaled its members to donate money and manpower to relief efforts.

In the hours and days that followed the tornado that claimed the lives of 19 people in Putnam County, the hardest hit area in the state, the people of Cookeville, Putnam County and the surrounding area mobilized to provide comfort to those suffering the most.

They helped neighbors clear away the debris, repair damaged homes, recover family photos and heirlooms from the rubble, and provided food, clothing and shelter for people who lost nearly everything.

St. Thomas Aquinas Church served as a sorting center for clothes donated for the tornado survivors.

The community’s response was “a message of hope,” parishioner Ray Holbrook said at the time. People let themselves “be the hands and feet of Christ.”

Although none of those killed or hurt were parishioners at St. Thomas Aquinas, several families lost their homes, said Beatriz Alvarez, the parish secretary.

St. Frances Cabrini Church in Lebanon also mobilized parishioners to support tornado survivors and continued to offer support for a full year. Last spring, the church received a $30,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Wilson Country to help families in the county recovering from the deadly tornado.

“We just disbursed all the funds,” as of early March 2021, said St. Frances Parish Secretary Nikki Gann. “We paid utility bills for some families multiple times.”

Signs of the tornado damage are still evident driving around the area, Gann said. “People who had to rebuild from bottom to top are still not back in their houses, not back to normalcy,” she said.

Trauma, compounded

Catholic Charities offered material support and counseling to tornado survivors from day one, which continues one year after the storm. “We have clients whose homes were totaled,” said LaShunda White, Catholic Charities’ North Nashville outreach case manager based at McGruder. “We’re still paying bills for people who haven’t caught up since the storm.”

In the North Nashville neighborhood where McGruder is located, “a lot in our community do not have a lot of resources,” White said. “We have people who maybe already had some trauma,” and the one-two punch of the tornado and the coronavirus pandemic “compounded it,” she said.

“This is an economically deprived area,” said Catholic Charities client Louis Holiday, a retired North Nashville resident and a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Incarnation. “People can’t just go to the bank and ask for a loan.”

After the tornado, when he lost power for nine days, Holiday stayed in his house, keeping warm under layers of blankets and clothing and eating the food from his refrigerator before it spoiled. While he didn’t feel safe at home at that time, “at least I had a roof over my head,” he said.

Holiday said he’s seen crime and violence in the neighborhood increase since the tornado and thanked the Catholic Charities and McGruder staff for their presence there. “They have been extremely helpful to me,” he said. “Without them, I don’t know how people in this community would make it.”

While home repairs are still underway in North Nashville, developers continue to target homeowners in the historically Black neighborhood to buy their property. Gordon, who has rented her home for 13 years, said she’s seen a number of hand-written solicitations to buy the house arrive in the mail.

A year after the tornado, her landlord has decided to sell, and she has to find a new place to live by the end of the month. “It’s hard to find something in my price range,” she said. “Right now, I’m battling every morning when I wake up and look at the date.”

Even a year after the tornado, some residents are struggling to bounce back from the tornado. That’s why Catholic Charities counselors continue to stand by to offer support and a listening ear.

White described one client, who had to demolish and rebuild the house she grew up in. “Even a year later, she still needs that support,” White said. “There’s still a level of trauma that she had from being in that home for so long and seeing it destroyed.”

On March 3, 2021, Catholic Charities invited the Nashville community to reflect on their “Pathway to Recovery” on the one-year anniversary of the 2020 tornadoes. Three community locations in East Nashville, North Nashville and Donelson, displayed a sheet of plywood for survivors to share the stages of their grief and recovery.

Each location also had suggestions of how to engage with the piece, art supplies, and a trained professional to support survivors through the reflection process. The pieces from each location will come together to create a central work of art for the community, which will be displayed at various locations throughout the month of March.

“If people are still in need, we’re here,” White said. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Starting Tuesday, March 9, from 5:30-6:30 p.m., Catholic Charities therapist Kamrie Reed, LCSW, will host the first of a series of ongoing weekly virtual meetings for tornado survivors, where participants “will be invited to find support and reflect on their experience in a safe space.”

For more information, contact Reed at kreed@cctenn.org.

If tornado survivors still need construction, food or financial assistance, they can visit www.tornadorecoveryconnection.com, or call 615-270-9255.

Restoration continues on historic Assumption Church

One year after deadly tornadoes swept through Middle Tennessee, the rebuilding and healing continues. On March 3, 2021, workers at the historic Church of the Assumption in Germantown clean and stack bricks that will be used to rebuild some of the church’s exterior walls, which were damaged in the tornado. The full renovation of the 161-year-old church is expected to take another year and cost around $6 million.
Photos by Theresa Laurence

When a tornado swept through the Germantown neighborhood near downtown Nashville on March 3, 2020, the Church of the Assumption sustained serious damage, rendering it unusable. Everything inside the 161-year-old church, including the altars, artwork, pews, organ and stained-glass windows had to be removed for the extensive renovations. 

At that time, pastor Father S. Bede Price described it as “a pretty catastrophic event for the building.” Now, he says, “the damage is actually far worse than we first thought by eyeballing it.”

One year later, the church remains empty except for the network of floor to ceiling scaffolding. Much of the exterior is also wrapped in scaffolding as masonry workers begin to replace bricks blown off the building by the tornado’s powerful winds.

On March 3, 2021, the one-year anniversary of the tornado, workers cleaned and stacked bricks behind the church, pulling them from a pile where they have been lying in the back corner of the property for a year. 

“Every building was damaged,” explained Jack Goodrum, the general contractor for the Assumption renovation project. “All four buildings had to get new roofs,” he added. That includes the church itself, Father Bernard Hall next door, the rectory, and the Buddeke House across the street. Three of the roofs have been completed, and the church roof is still a work in progress.

On March 3, 2021, one year after deadly tornadoes hit Middle Tennessee, the interior of Assumption Church remains completely cleared out except for scaffolding, while renovations are ongoing.

Work has been slowed by the coronavirus pandemic, and complicated by the age of the building and the challenging of fusing modern materials and building techniques with those used 161 years ago. An elaborate steel tie-rod system had to be designed to reinforce the heavy, wood timbered roof structure, Goodrum said, just one of the adjustments needed to work on the historic church.

With masonry work, stone restoration and structural reinforcement now moving forward at the church, Goodrum is hopeful that spring will bring good momentum to the project. 

The parish’s historic bells were recently re-installed, and Goodrum expects that the stained-glass windows and some of the other interior finishes could be back in place by the summer. The steeple, which is currently in Kentucky for storage and restoration, could also be back in place by summer.

He estimates that it will likely take another full year for all of the repairs and renovations to be complete.

“We’re planning on Easter 2022 for everything to be back in place,” said Father Price. “We have to have patience.”

Insurance will cover much of the estimated $6 million project, but “we will have to do some fundraising,” Father Price said. Even before the tornado, it was difficult for the small parish to maintain the church, which is one of the oldest in the diocese. “We’re a poor parish and we’ve deferred so much maintenance for so long,” he said.

Assumption is a popular wedding venue, and “a big chunk of our income comes from weddings,” Father Price said. Losing that revenue for two whole years is a challenge for the parish, but “we’ll make that up,” he added. 

“We hope to raise enough money to restore it to its original condition,” Father Price said of the church’s interior.

Parishioners, travelers, engaged couples and others have been drawn into Assumption by the beauty of the historic church, but now people are drawn to the parish by the celebration of the Latin Mass. Three out of four Masses Father Price celebrates every weekend are now in Latin, and they are the most well-attended. 

For the last year, the parish has been celebrating Mass in Father Bernard Hall (the old Assumption school building) and the Buddeke House. Even though space is temporary and tight, “I see new faces,” continuing to join, Father Price said, some of whom have never been able to attend Mass inside the church.

The Syro-Malabar Catholic community has also been based at Assumption in recent years, bringing another language and culture to the historic parish.

The church, which was built in 1859 to serve the Catholic German-speaking community in the city, has seen many changes in the neighborhood and people it serves.

“Given its historical value and architectural value for the Church in the Diocese of Nashville, the Church in Tennessee,” there was never a question that Assumption would be rebuilt, Father Price said. “It’s a unique church. It survived the Civil War, two world wars, and two pandemics. It’s not going anywhere.”

“The people understand this church is the Diocese of Nashville,” Father Price said. Throughout its long history, people have moved from Assumption to help establish other parishes, and “practically every old Nashville Catholic family has a connection to this church,” he said.

Hand-in-Hand Options board looking to future growth

Pope John Paul II High School was the first school in the Diocese of Nashville to offer the Hand-in-Hand Options program to serve students with intellectual and developmental delays. There are now three schools offering the program. Hannah Dodd, who was a student in the Hand-in-Hand Options program at St. Ann School before coming to JPII for high school, works on an assignment during class. Photo by Andy Telli

The board of directors of the Diocese of Nashville’s Hand-in-Hand Options program is looking to the future of how Catholic schools will serve students of all ability levels.

“The board is working diligently to provide the programs the teachers need and our families need to make sure all of our students reach their fullest potential,” said Kathy Boles, director of exceptional learners for the diocese’s Catholic Schools Office.

“Like all schools, we have students who need support services, and we want to offer evidenced-based interventions to meet the needs of our students,” Boles said.


“As our schools continue to grow, so does the number of students needing support,” she added.

The board, which was organized in May 2020, is conducting a strategic planning process, with the help of consultant Cissy Mynatt, to identify goals and objectives to implement in the next three to five years that will help the program grow, Boles said.

“The plan will look across the diocese at what we need,” she said. The board hopes to finish the process by the late spring.

The Hand-in-Hand Options program was first established at Pope John Paul II High School in 2004 to serve students with intellectual disabilities. “The board is looking at how do we provide support for a broader range of students,” said Elise McMillan, the president of the Hand-in-Hand Options board, including those with autism, ADHD, learning disabilities and other disabilities.


“We’ve got to figure out how to do it strategically and do it in a good way that benefits everybody,” McMillan said.

That includes continuing to offer professional development opportunities for the learning support specialists as well as all the professional educators in diocesan schools, so they can help students with a broad range of needs and abilities, Boles said.

“We’re working to make sure schools have the staff with the training needed to meet the students’ needs, using best practices and evidence-based interventions,” Boles added.

“We want to really build that capacity within the diocese,” McMillan said.

The strategic planning process has helped the board set its priorities moving forward, McMillan said.

Currently, the Hand-in-Hand Options program is serving 19 students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in three schools: JPII, St. Ann School and St. Matthew School. Schools across the diocese are also serving the needs of more than 200 students with diagnoses such as dyslexia, ADHD, language delays and others.

As the program is growing, the diocese wants to “strengthen what’s happening in the schools al-ready,” Boles said.

“Administrators, educators and support professionals at all the schools have done an amazing job throughout the years and are excited to further develop their skills for the good of all our students,” Boles said.

The board will be important in that effort, she added.

In assembling the board, the diocese tapped individuals with a broad range of experiences and expertise, including those in the medical, legal, and financial fields. It also included people with knowledge of the Middle Tennessee area and local Catholic community, and experience with students who have learning differences. The board includes parents of current and former students in the Hand-in-Hand Options program. “We wanted a broad lens,” Boles said.

The board was established with nine members. “We intentionally started with a smaller board,” but it will grow in the future as the board determines what other areas of experience would be helpful, Boles said.

“In addition to the board members, we have committee members from the community who have even more expertise,” Boles said. The committees will work on the specific areas of budget and finance, advancement and program oversight.

McMillan brings both personal and professional experience to the board. Her son, Will, was in the first class of students in the Hand-in-Hand Options program when it was established at JPII.

“We saw what a difference it made for Will and the difference it’s made for other families,” McMillan said. “From the first day that he was on the Pope John Paul II campus there was respect, there were the same high expectations the school had for all students, there was a wonderful sense of community.”

McMillan is the co-director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, which is one of the nation’s top research, training and service centers.

The board has been working hard in its first year, Boles said. “The amount of work that’s been done has been amazing,” Boles said.

That work, as well as the Hand-in-Hands Options program, has the support of Bishop J. Mark Spalding and diocesan Superintendent of Schools Rebecca Hammel, Boles said. “Bishop Spalding, as well as Rebecca, is committed to serving all of the diocese’s students.”

To donate to the Hand-in-Hand Options program, visit www.dioceseofnashville.com/hand-in-hand-options-program/.

Pope John Paul II High School was the first school in the Diocese of Nashville to offer the Hand-in-Hand Options program to serve students with intellectual and developmental delays. There are now three schools offering the program. Hannah Dodd, who was a student in the Hand-in-Hand Options program at St. Ann School before coming to JPII for high school, works on an assignment during class. Photo by Andy Telli

Hand-in-Hand Options board offers variety of experience

The Hand-in-Hand Options board of directors have been working since May 2020 to improve the program. The members offer the board a variety of experience and expertise.

The members include:

• Elise McMillan, president. McMillan is the co-director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, a research, training and services center that is part of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt University.

She and her husband Tom are the parents of three young adults including their son Will, who has Down syndrome and was in the inaugural Hand-in-Hand class at Pope John Paul II High School.

• Joe Sullivan, vice president. Sullivan was born and raised in Nashville, and is a graduate of Holy Rosary Academy, Father Ryan High School and Tennessee Tech University. He is a 30-year banker. He and his wife Linda are moving back to the Nashville area so their youngest son, Ryan, who has Down syndrome, will be able to attend the Hand-in-Hand Options program when he is eligible.

• Ed Warner, secretary. Warner is a native Nashvillian and graduate of St. Edward School, Father Ryan High School and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He currently is a General Partner of Warner Partners, LP, a Franklin-based real estate investment firm. Warner and his family are parishioners at St. Edward. He has a friend whose daughter has Down syndrome and is in the Hand-in-Hand Options program at St. Matthew School. Warner said he has seen how the Hand-in-Hand Options program has helped her.

• Chad Handshy, treasurer. Handshy is the Assistant Head of School for Finance and Advancement at Currey Ingram Academy where he has been for the last 14 years. Prior to that, he held administrative roles at Vanderbilt University, Webster University in St. Louis, and Washington University in St. Louis. He and his wife Jennifer reside in Franklin where they raised their four children. They are parishioners at Holy Family Church in Brentwood.

• Carolyn Baker. Baker is a career educator. She has a doctorate from Vanderbilt in education. She taught at Overbrook School for 14 years; was an adjunct at Aquinas College, University of St. Thomas and Springfield College (satellite campus) in Houston. Baker founded the Nashville Catholic Middle School Forensic League. She was involved with starting the Hand-in-Hand program at Pope John Paul II High School and St. Ann Catholic School.

• Kay Sappenfield Dodd. Dodd is a lifelong Catholic from Nashville who is a Senior Vice President with Pinnacle Bank. She is one of six children and an alum of Father Ryan. She and her husband of 33 years, John Dodd, have four children. She was on the original formation team of the Hand-in-Hand Program, and her daughter is a sophomore in the Hand-in-Hand Options program at JPII. She is a parishioner of St. Henry Church in Nashville.

• Helen Duhon. Duhon is a charter member of Holy Family Church in Brentwood, and she  served as the parish’s first Youth Leader. Duhon worked as the lead speech pathologist in Metro Schools for several years before opening her private practice. She served on many professional boards, with the most recent being the board of directors at Currey Ingram Academy. She recently sold her company and is retired.

• Dr. Paul Heil. Heil practices general pediatrics at Old Harding Pediatric Associates where he has a number of patients with special needs. Heil and his wife, Joyce, have been married for 33 years. They have three children between 20 and 30 years of age. Their daughter Jillian had Rett Syndrome and died at the age of 11. His entire family was profoundly affected by her life and gained perspec-tive about individuals with physical challenges and developmental differences.

• Father John Sims Baker. Father Baker is the pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro. He is originally from Ashland City and is an alumnus of St. Pius X School in Bordeaux.

Committee members include:

• Finance and Budget: Chad Handshy, chair, Father John Sims Baker, Bill Gavigan, diocesan Director of Exceptional Learners Kathy Boles, and diocesan School Superintendent Rebecca Hammel.

• Advancement: Kay Dodd, chair, Joe Sullivan, Chad Handshy, Kathy Schwartz, Lorie Lytle, Ed Warner, Carolyn Baker, Bill Gavigan, Jenni Moscardelli, Boles and Hammel.

• Program Oversight: Helen Duhon, chair, Jena Galster, Emily Lanchak, Dr. Paul Heil, JPII Head of School Mike Deely, St. Matthew Principal Tim Forbes, St. Ann Principal Anna Rumfola, Boles and Hammel.