St. Ann to celebrate 100 years as Catholic beacon in West Nashville

For 100 years, St. Ann Church at 51st Avenue North and Charlotte Avenue has been a hub of Catholic life and a beacon for the faith in West Nashville. 

“We’re a stable and connected part of the community,” said St. Ann’s pastor, Father Michael Fye. “We have open doors to anyone who wants what we have to offer, which is the Catholic faith and the teachings of Jesus.” 

The parish will celebrate the centennial jubilee of its founding with the blessing and dedication of a new grotto featuring a statue of St. Ann and her daughter the Blessed Virgin Mary, on Monday, July 26, and a free parish festival on the church grounds, Saturday, July 31. 

St. Ann Church, which is celebrating its Centennial Jubilee this year, was first located in
the converted Byrd Douglas plantation house located at 51st Avenue North and Charlotte Avenue.

“I think celebrating the centennial is an appropriate way to give thanks to God for what he has been doing for 100 years,” Father Fye said. 

The parish began as St. Peter’s Mission in 1917, a mission of the Church of the Assumption in North Nashville. Father Peter Pfeiffer, a Franciscan priest serving at Assumption, agreed to drive out to what was then the outskirts of the city once a month to celebrate Mass in a room above the Close and March Hardware Store at 49th Avenue North and Charlotte. 

The first Mass was celebrated in October 1917 with 115 Catholics present. 

The first floor of the house was remodeled to serve as the church, photo above, and the second floor for use as St. Ann School.

The community quickly grew as more Catholics, many of them working for the nearby Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Rail Line, moved into the area. Bishop Thomas Byrne established the new parish, named after St. Ann, in 1921.  

Father Henry Japes, a former pastor of Assumption, gave a bequest that was combined with money raised by the community to purchase the former Byrd Douglas plantation house, then known as the Thomasson House, at the corner of 51st Avenue and Charlotte. The home, with a large front lawn, was remodeled to be used as a church on the first floor and a school on the second. 

The school, which was staffed by the Sisters of Mercy from its founding in 1921 until 1992, is the oldest diocesan school in the City of Nashville.  

A new church building was built in 1939 on the lawn in front of the original church. That church building was replaced with a new structure – the current church – in 1960, while Father Edgar Kelly was pastor. The church underwent a major renovation in 1993 and the Parish Life Center was built in 1998, during the 25-year tenure of Father Philip Breen, the longest serving pastor in the parish’s history.  

The current rectory and school were built in 1947 when Msgr. Edward Dolan was pastor. The Neidert Hall gymnasium was built in 1965 during Father Kelly’s tenure. 

Emmett and Peggy Forte have been long-time parishioners at St. Ann Church, which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding this summer. Emmitt grew up in the parish, and Peggy joined the parish after they were married.

‘Part of our life’ 

Emmett Forte, 88, has lived nearly his entire life in the shadow of St. Ann Church. “I consider myself the oldest continuous member of St. Ann parish,” he said. “Even when I was in the service it was still my parish. Even when I was in school (at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville) it was my parish. I came home most weekends.” 

Forte was born in 1933, the fourth of five children of Henry and Anna Louise Seibert Forte. His father’s family were among those that settled in the Paradise Ridge area of Joelton and helped establish St. Lawrence Church. His mother grew up in North Nashville in Assumption parish. 

St. Ann School students gather for the May procession in 1927.

Her father bought property on both sides of Park Avenue between 52nd Avenue and 53rd, Forte said. His uncle, George Seibert, who was a carpenter, began building houses on that block, and the Forte family moved into the house at 5211 Park Ave., where Forte was born. 

“I was born a block from the church,” Forte said. “When you live that close to the church, church was just part of life. It wasn’t something you just went to on Sunday. … It was just part of our life.” 

His mother served as the parish organist for 35 years, and Forte graduated from St. Ann School, as have his four children and several of his grandchildren. His great-grandson, also named Emmett, is currently a student at St. Ann. Two of his daughters, Judy Graham and Karen Herrmann, are teachers at the school. 

Growing up in the 1930s and 1940s, St. Ann parishioners living in the neighborhood around the church formed a tight community, Forte said. 

“Pop Neidert (the namesake of the school gymnasium) ran the Gulf Service Station at Richland Creek on Charlotte,” Forte said. “I worked at that service station all during high school.” 

The neighborhood, unlike its thoroughly urban feel today, still had a country feel to it then. “There was nothing from the creek to White Bridge Road. It was farmland,” Forte said. “The neighborhood boys we always played football in the cow pasture right behind Neidert’s service station,” which was located where the Metro Nashville Police Department’s West Precinct now sits. 

After graduating from Father Ryan High School, Forte served in the U.S. Air Force.  

“When I got out of the Air force, I told myself there’s no way you’re even going to look at a girl until you get through college,” Forte said. “That didn’t happen.” 

He met Peggy Curley, who grew up in the Cathedral of the Incarnation parish, when she and a friend started a senior CYO group at St. Ann. She and Emmett married in 1957 and moved into St. Ann parish. Their daughter Barbara Hember was the first child baptized in the current church. 

Mrs. Forte later served as the parish secretary for nearly 25 years. 

‘A nice bubble’ 

The Fortes raised their children to also be closely attached to the parish. 

“It was part of my life from the very beginning,” said Herrmann, who graduated from St. Ann School in 1977 and later from St. Bernard Academy. “Everything we did as a family was connected to the school and the church. … It was home really, just part of who we were.” 

As in her father’s youth, the St. Ann community was tight-knit when she was growing up, Herrman said. 

“I used to think everybody in the world was Catholic,” she said. “It was a bubble, but it was a nice bubble.” 

She returned to St. Ann as a teacher and has been there for nearly 27 years. Herrmann sent her three sons to St. Ann and her grandson is a student there now. “I wanted my kids to be a big fish in a small pond,” Herrmann said. “I always felt it was a good launching place.” 

‘Open and welcoming’ 

St. Ann has grown in recent years, mirroring the growth of the entire city and the changes in the neighborhoods around the church. 

“Roughly speaking, we had about 450 active families two years ago and now we have 600 plus,” Father Fye said.  

The school’s growth has matched the parish’s. When Anna Rumfola was named principal in 2018, the school had 117 students. This year it’s enrollment will be 183, she said. 

“Our school has more students in it than it’s had in probably more than a decade or more,” Father Fye said. “Which is incredible when you consider national and even local trends.” 

The school has made a concerted effort to raise its awareness among young families looking for school options, he said. “A lot of people didn’t even know we were here before.” 

The demographics of the parish are reflecting the larger trends in the diocese, Father Fye said. St. Ann has large Hispanic and Vietnamese communities, and the parish is fairly evenly split among new parishioners and those who have been there for years, he added. 

“The community is very open and welcoming,” Father Fye said. “We’re making explicit efforts to live the faith in a vibrant and confident way.” 

“We put love above all things. Love, mutual respect and understanding and sacrifice is what makes a community real,” he added. “A community is united around someone or something. That’s what makes them a community. Whether they are life-long parishioners or new to the parish, if they’re united in the love for Jesus, that’s the foundation for which you can build a culture that the community shares.” 

Centennial Celebration 

St. Ann Church is hosting several events as part of a year-long celebration of its Centennial Jubilee — “Radiating Christ for 100 Years.” 

This spring the parish hosted a women’s retreat and a concert and began a project to plant 100 trees in the city over the next year. 

On Monday, July 26, the parish will honor St. Joachim and St. Ann, the parents of the Blessed Virgin, with a Mass at 5 p.m. celebrated by Bishop J. Mark Spalding. Following the Mass, a new grotto, featuring a statue of St. Ann and Mary, will be blessed and dedicated. 

The parish will welcome its families and the community to a free parish festival on the church grounds, Saturday, July 31.  The event will run from noon until 5 p.m. for all ages, with a separate event for those 21 and older beginning at 6:30 p.m.  The bishop will be joined by U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, diocesan Superintendent of Schools Dr. Rebecca Hammel, Metro Councilwoman Kathleen Murphy and others for a special salute and video presentation at 2:30 p.m. 

Sponsors of the Centennial Celebration include Choate Construction, Maxwell Roofing and Sheet Metal, Bradley Health Services, The Forte Family, The Hooper Family, Tara and David McGuire, Ascension Saint Thomas, Southern Made, WMV Production, Cumberland Creative, the Diocese of Nashville, Father Ryan High School, Pope John Paul II Preparatory School, St. Cecilia Academy, tpmbLAW, the Marchetti Family, Burgundy Group, the Pitt and Reed Families, Donna and John Braniff, and others.  

In August, the church and school will celebrate the installation of a historical marker recognizing their history in the neighborhood. It will be one of several activities the school will sponsor to celebrate the Centennial Jubilee through the year. 

For more information about the Centennial Celebration, visit

Pastors of St. Ann 

Here is a list of the pastors at St. Ann Church, which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding this year. 

  • Father Joseph E. Leppert 
  • Father George L. Donovan 
  • Father William Freihammer 
  • Father William Neidert 
  • Father Charles N. Quest 
  • Father William K. Graw 
  • Msgr. Edward Dolan 
  • Father Edgar M. Kelly 
  • Father Coleman M. Ballinger. 
  • Father Joseph E. Wesley 
  • Father Allan J. Cunningham 
  • Father John L. Kirk 
  • Father Philip M. Breen 
  • Father Joseph P. Edwige Carré 
  • Father Michael C. Fye 

For Bishop Spalding, priesthood ‘ultimately it’s about Christ’

It can be difficult to hear God’s call to the priesthood or religious life. 

“There’s a moment when a person has to have the courage to say, ‘Yes, I want to truly discern this call,’” said Bishop J. Mark Spalding. “That moment when you say, ‘I need to get this question answered.’” 

For Bishop Spalding, that moment came between his junior and senior year at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, Kentucky. After a night of tossing and turning, he said, he decided to talk to a priest at his high school. 

“He was calm, cool and collected,” Bishop Spalding recalled. “He was just the right person I needed.” 

That first step on the journey of answering the question of whether God was calling him to the priesthood led to his ordination as a priest on Aug. 3, 1991. Bishop Spalding will publicly mark the 30th anniversary of his ordination by celebrating the 11 a.m. Mass on Sunday, Aug. 8, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville. 

“I thank God for that call,” said Bishop Spalding. 

‘A very Catholic family’ 

When presiding at the ordination of a new priest, Bishop Spalding likes to remind them that their formation began in their home. For him that was in Washington County, Kentucky, as the oldest of the three children of Mary Aileen and Joseph Lawrence Spalding. 

“I grew up in a very Catholic family,” Bishop Spalding said. “It was part of who we were, and all we did in life was built around our faith.” 

In his family were several examples of people who had discerned God’s call to religious life. His mother had an uncle who was a priest and an aunt who was a religious sister, and his father’s two younger sisters are Ursuline Sisters still serving in the Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky.  

“All around me in my foundational years growing up I had a vocation in the Church put before me,” Bishop Spalding said. “I saw men and women who loved it, who enjoyed it, and who were living a purpose-filled life. 

“They were people who were content with the life they had chosen,” even if it wasn’t always an easy life, Bishop Spalding said. “Seeing that contentment in them, it drew me to ask questions. Is priesthood right for me?” 

Besides his family, he also had the example of his parish priests who not only preached about priestly vocations, but “probably more powerfully lived it in a wonderful way that drew me in as well.” 

After high school, Bishop Spalding began his seminary formation at St. Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad, Indiana. 

“To go to the seminary doesn’t make you a priest the first day,” Bishop Spalding said. “It helps you wrestle with this call God has put in your heart.” 

He tells men who think they might have a call to the priesthood, “Be open to it. Don’t be fearful, don’t react negatively, and don’t dismiss it. Ask God to respond to it,” Bishop Spalding said. “It will be a question you will have to answer. Because if you don’t answer it haunts you.” 

Formation in the seminary “allows one to grow in peace and confidence in the vocation to the priesthood,” Bishop Spalding said.  

And if a man decides God is calling them to a different vocation, “at least you will be at peace that you did everything that you could to answer the question ‘Am I being called to the priesthood,’” Bishop Spalding said. 

‘A wonderful day’ 

Bishop J. Mark Spalding kneels before Archbishop Thomas Kelly of Louisville, second from right, during his ordination as a priest on Aug 3., 1991, at the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Kentucky. Bishop Spalding was announced as the 12th Bishop of Nashville in November 2017. His episcopal ordination and installation was held in February 2018.

After graduating from St. Meinrad in 1987, Bishop Spalding attended major seminary at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, where he earned graduate degrees in religious studies and later in canon law. 

He was ordained by Louisville Archbishop Thomas Kelly at the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Kentucky, the same cathedral where Nashville’s first Bishop, Richard Pius Miles, was ordained a bishop before taking the reins of his brand new diocese. 

“It was a wonderful day, lots of emotions, mostly gratitude,” Bishop Spalding said of his ordination. 

“Family and friends … they all came together for this wonderful celebration of priesthood,” he said. “You got the glow of the moment.” 

After the ordination, Bishop Spalding walked out of the cathedral where he was greeted by his brother priests applauding for him. “In that moment, you’re one with them,” Bishop Spalding said. “It’s something I will never forget and always cherish.” 

It was his brother priests who helped shape his own priesthood. He served as associate pastor under four pastors before he was appointed a pastor himself and he drew from the example of each of them. 

Father Pat Creed, the first, spoke often of St. John the Baptist’s message: Christ must increase; I must decrease. 

Next it was then-Father William Medley, who now is the Bishop of Owensboro, who spoke often of the need for stewardship and people’s involvement in parish life. 

From Father Charles Thompson, now the Archbishop of Indianapolis, Bishop Spalding learned the importance of organizational skills in leading a parish.  

And from Father B.J. Breen, who was also serving as the Vicar General of the Archdiocese at the time, Bishop Spalding learned the importance of having a positive outlook even in the face of difficult challenges. 

His first appointment as a pastor came in 1999 at Immaculate Conception Church in LaGrange. At the same time, he was taking on more responsibility at the archdiocesan level, serving as the Judicial Vicar and Director of the Metropolitan Tribunal and later as Vicar General. 

With students, he often uses the saying: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest, until your good is better and your better is best.” 

It’s advice he follows himself, Bishop Spalding said. “We should always be bettering ourselves. … You keep studying and you keep looking at what your ministry is and what your called to.” 

What stands out to him about his priesthood, Bishop Spalding said, are “the great occasions God put me in. Not only good times, but difficult times as well.” 

At happy occasions such as weddings and baptisms, “If you have the eyes of faith, a lot of times you can see the love of parents for their children or the love a couple have for each other.” As a priest, he has rejoiced in being part of those moments. 

“It’s the same thing on the other side,” he said. “I’ve been in situations absolutely heartbreaking, and yet knowing there is no other place that God would want me to be than right here in this moment bringing to this family the presence of Christ coming from the sacraments of our Church.” 

‘A disciple of Jesus Christ’ 

In November 2017, he was announced as the 12th Bishop of Nashville, and his episcopal ordination and installation were held on Feb. 2, 2018. He brought all the lessons of his priesthood to his new role in Middle Tennessee, Bishop Spalding said.  

For Bishop Spalding, being a priest is to be “a disciple of Jesus Christ. A person who knows the person of Christ and loves him and cares for what he was and what he is for us right now in this day and time and to live according to his words and his deeds and his very life upon this earth, a life worth living.” 

His advice to his brother priests is “accept the gifts God has given you. They’re going to be used in ways you’ve never dreamed of,” Bishop Spalding said. “And simply show the same mercy to yourself as you show to others, and you’ll be fine. 

“It’s not about you; ultimately, it’s about Christ,” he added. “Don’t forget that.” 

Bishop Spalding’s 30th anniversary 

To mark the 30th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, Bishop J. Mark Spalding will celebrate Mass at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 8, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville. 

On hand will be Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, the metropolitan of the Louisville province, which includes all the dioceses of Kentucky and Tennessee. Bishop Spalding served as a priest in the Archdiocese of Louisville with Archbishop Kurtz before his appointment as the 12th Bishop of Nashville. 

The Mass will be livestreamed on the Diocese of Nashville’s Facebook page. 

Be an angel carrying God’s message to grandparents, the elderly

Sunday, July 26, is the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. It was established by Pope Francis, who is 84, to remind the elderly in our families, our parishes and our communities that the Church is always with them. 

“The whole Church is close to you – to us – and cares about you, loves you and does not want to leave you alone!” he wrote in his message for the day. 

Caring for and respecting the elderly, as well as highlighting their importance and gifts, have been recurring themes throughout Pope Francis’ papacy. All too often, the elderly can be forgotten and marginalized, but the pope reminds us that the faithful are called to reach out to the seniors in their lives along with all members of the human family. 

That may never have been more important than during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the elderly were the most susceptible to the coronavirus and most at risk of becoming seriously ill and of dying. Although it was for their protection, so many found themselves alone and isolated from their loved ones. Families were forced to communicate through panes of glass and over the internet. 

“The Lord is aware of all that we have been through in this time,” the pope said. “He is close to those who felt isolated and alone, feelings that became more acute during the pandemic.” 

The Lord sends angels to console people in their loneliness and to remind them God is always with us, the pope said.  

We are those angels. It is up to us to carry God’s message to our grandparents and the elderly that the Lord is with us always. Let us make the effort and take the time to see those hidden in the shadows, to reach out to our grandparents, to show them the same love that they have showered upon us during our lives.  

The family is often called the domestic church. It is where we learn the faith and we learn that living our faith can send ripples of grace and love through the lives of all whom we encounter. As we send out those ripples, don’t forget to direct them to our grandparents and all the elderly. 

Cynthia Hasenberg, deacon’s wife, dies at 68

Cynthia Anne Hasenberg, 68, of Goodlettsville, the wife of Deacon Rock Hasenberg of St. Lawrence Church in Joelton, died on Monday, July 19, 2021, due to complications related to the stroke she suffered on Friday, July 16. 

Visitation will take place at Anderson and Garrett Funeral Home on Thursday, July 22, from 4 p.m. until the beginning of the Rosary Service at 7 p.m. 

A funeral Mass will be held at St. Lawrence Church, 5655 Clarksville Highway, at 10 a.m. Friday, July 23. Interment will follow at St. Lawrence Catholic Church Cemetery.  

Mrs. Hasenberg and her husband were involved with the Diocese of Nashville’s prison ministry. “They formed an exceptional team, bringing faith and joy to prisoners on a weekly basis,” said Deacon James Booth, director of the diocesan prison ministry. “Cindy and Rock simply were the Catholic presence at DeBerry Special Needs Prison. Cindy will be deeply missed by all who knew her.” 

Mrs. Hasenberg was preceded in death by her father Richard Zanone. 

Survivors include her husband Deacon Rock Hasenberg; children Mara (Jonathan) Wiley, Christie (Stephen) Kretsinger, Diana (Andre) Tuxford, Barry Hasenberg, Anne (Robert) Engels, Kathleen Saller, Roxanne (Clint) Baker, and Joseph-Friedrich Hasenberg; mother Josephine Zanone; siblings Monica Havins, Gina Mountain, Rick Zanone, Charles Zanone, Serena Walsh, Joanna Reindel, and Paul Zanone; grandchildren Grace Wiley, Paul Kretsinger, Teddy Kretsinger, Sam Kretsinger, Antonio Tuxford, Nicolai Tuxford, Lucas Engels, Nadia Engels, Sonny Saller, Richard Saller, Raymond Baker and Thora Baker; and many other extended family members. 

Anderson and Garrett Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements. 

Pathways to Possibilities sets new record in a difficult year

Demetrius Kelley, left, the managing partner of Rodizio Grill The Brazilian Steakhouse and the Melting Pot Fondue restaurants that were destroyed in the Christmas bombing in downtown Nashville, talks to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville Executive Director Judy Orr for a video shown as part of the Pathways to Possibilities fund-raiser. Kelley and others told their stories of how Catholic Charities has supported them. Pathways raised $214,000 this year, a record for the event.

Click here for a full video of the conversation.

In a year when many non-profit organizations were hampered by donor fatigue, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville had its most successful fund-raising effort ever. 

Pathways to Possibilities, which was a virtual event this year featuring videos of people talking about the support they received from Catholic Charities, recently closed with a total raised of $214,000. That represented a significant increase from the 2020 total of $135,000.  

“We were thrilled with the response to Pathways,” said Judy Orr, executive director of Catholic Charities. “Though it was a virtual event, the video presentations really inspired people to support us. We are grateful to those individuals who paid it forward by sharing their personal stories of triumph over crisis.” 

In Catholic Charities’ nearly 60-year history, “it was the largest event we’ve ever done,” said Gene Gillespie, development director for Catholic Charities. “It sets the stage for us going forward.”  

“You hear this was a year of donor fatigue. We obviously didn’t experience that,” Gillespie said. “Most of our individual donors gave consistently throughout the year and again at the end of the year with Pathways.” 

“The money will be utilized across all of our services that Catholic Charities offers,” Gillespie said, which includes helping people meet basic needs such as food and housing, job training and workforce development, refugee resettlement, counseling and emotional support, emergency assistance and disaster relief. 

The last 18 months, with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the March 2020 tornadoes that cut across Middle Tennessee, the Christmas day bombing in downtown Nashville that forced people out of their homes and businesses to close, and the spring 2021 floods, highlighted the many ways Catholic Charities helps those in our community in need, Gillespie said. That, in turn, helped make Pathways to Possibilities such a success, Gillespie said. 

“It elevated Catholic Charities to a point that we were one of the first responders the city and other organizations were calling, and with that it brought more awareness to the work Catholic Charities does and the community we serve,” Gillespie said.  

The many challenges Catholic Charities responded to affected people from all parts of the community, said Keith King, Catholic Charities’ director of community relations and communications. 

“Catholic Charities is uniquely positioned to help people across all sectors,” he said, from the homeless living on the street to those who lost their homes to the tornadoes and flooding, as well as businesses shut down by the bombing and those struggling to stay open and pay their employees through the pandemic. 

“We’re going to help them all,” King said. 

One of those helped was Demetrius Kelley, the managing partner of Rodizio Grill The Brazilian Steakhouse and the Melting Pot Fondue restaurants that were destroyed in the Christmas bombing. Kelley told his story in a video shown as part of this year’s virtual Pathways to Possibilities. 

“I had to wake up all 13 managers at 7 o’clock in the morning on Christmas and tell them the building has probably been destroyed, you probably don’t have a job,” Kelley said. 

He was able to land another job, but three days into training, he was diagnosed with COVID, and later so was the rest of his family. “I’m like, you have to be kidding me,” Kelley said on the video. “It’s like they kept on coming.”   

On top of those challenges, Kelley and his wife were expecting a baby.  

“All of sudden I opened up the mail and it’s a check from Catholic Charities. It’s a godsend to me … I’m going to be able to be OK for a couple more months. Even missing my training, it’s not going to be sending me down some spiral. I’m going to be good,” said Kelley, who had never before needed help from a charitable organization. 

“Catholic Charities will lift you up when you’re at a point when you feel like you’re at your lowest,” he said. 

“When you feel like you don’t have any way out, and you’re trapped, and you don’t know what’s going to come, and everything is dark, you get that little ray of sunshine that kind of peaks over that cloud and all of sudden you go whoa there’s actually some hope,” Kelley said. “And then you feel the love and warmth and support. All you want to do from that point on is to be able to pay it forward to some people because of all the love that I got.” 

The stories of how Catholic Charities helps people in the community in a wide variety of ways struck a chord with area businesses and their foundations, which decided to be sponsors for this year’s event, Gillespie said. 

“We went out aggressively to speak to corporate sponsors,” Gillespie said. “In sponsors alone we raised $144,000. These are individuals who were giving donations of $2,500 up to $30,000.” 

The event had 39 sponsors. “We touched everything from banks to law firms to packaged food companies,” Gillespie said. “We reached the gamut and we’re looking at building on that for the coming year and working with other corporations.” 

The presenting sponsor for this year’s Pathways to Possibilities was the First Horizon Foundation. Other sponsors included:  

  • Platinum: Cushman and Wakefield, a commercial real estate services firm, and the Diocese of Nashville. 
  • Gold: Ascension Saint Thomas and the Bass Berry and Sims law firm. 
  • Silver: HCA Healthcare/TriStar Health; Kroger Company Zero Hunger/Zero Waste Foundation; MCC Nashville; Regions Bank; Taylor, Pigue, Marchetti and Blair, PLLC, law firm; Lloyd and Elizabeth Crockett; Chris and Bubba Donnelly; Mark and Lori Morrison. 
  • Bronze: Centric Architecture; Gresham Smith design firm; Holladay Properties; Iroquois Capital Group; JPMorgan Chase and Co.; LBMC professional service solutions provider; Pinnacle Financial Partners; Sims Funk law firm; Truist Bank financial services company; Vanderbilt University; Adrienne and Steve Hayes. 
  • Supporting: BancCard; Bone McAllester Norton PLLC Attorneys; Bradley law firm; Catholic Business League; Father Ryan High School; Fifth Third Bank; Holy Family Catholic Church, Brentwood; Nashville Catholic Business Women’s League; Parris Printing; Pope John Paul II Preparatory School; the Tennessee Register; Farmer, Purcell, White and Lassiter law firm; Mike and Donna Nunan; John and Rochelle Reding. 

“They want to be part of helping us providing services for the people in the community,” Gillespie said. 

“I just want to really thank all of our individual donors and our corporate sponsors,” he added. “Considering everything that happened this year, the donors made everything Catholic Charities was able to do this year possible.” 

Polly Curran, St. Edward cafeteria manager, ‘loved all the kids’

Pauline “Polly” Derrick Curran

As the cafeteria manager at St. Edward School for 28 years, Pauline “Polly” Derrick Curran looked after the children at the school like they were one of her own 10 children. 

“She loved all the kids,” said her daughter Helen Akin. “She took care of the kids for sure.” 

“It’s funny how many people who came to check on her who claimed to be the 11th Curran,” Akin said. “That shows you how Mama made people feel, that they all thought they were the 11th Curran.” 

Mrs. Curran, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday, died peacefully at her home surrounded by her family on Friday, July 9, 2021.  

A funeral Mass was celebrated on Friday, July 16, at St. Edward Church in Nashville, where Mrs. Curran was a longtime parishioner. 

Mrs. Curran was born in Nashville. Her family moved to Lawrenceburg when she was a child and she attended Sacred Heart School there through the third grade. After the family moved back to Nashville, Mrs. Curran attended Christ the King School and St. Bernard Academy, where she graduated in 1950. 

She married her high school sweetheart, Paul Curran Sr., the summer after she graduated from high school. They were among the first families at St. Edward, where the Currans raised their 10 children. 

“She was so patient. She was never a yeller,” recalled Akin. “She was definitely always there for us. … When we were having times of trouble, she always said depend on God. 

“She was very faithful to the Catholic Church, and she taught us to be faithful,” Akin said. “I feel all the way up to her death, she was guiding us and steering us to God and never to lose faith in God.” 

Mrs. Curran prayed the Rosary every day, and when she saw someone was struggling, her daughter said, she would send them a copy of one of the “Jesus Always” series of books.  

“She loved all her ‘Jesus Always’ books,” Akin said. “She had a whole stack of them by her bed that she would read.” 

“She also knew how to make us laugh,” Akin added. “That’s one of the things she said, you have to have laughter. And she gave us that too.” 

She retired from St. Edward School in 1995 after her husband died, but a year or two later went back to work at DCI Dialysis Clinic. “She only planned to work there for a few years, but end up working there 11 years,” Akin said. “They were good to her, and she made a lot of good friends there.” 

Mrs. Curran celebrated her 90th birthday on June 26, just two days after her doctor suggested she enter hospice care, Akin said. The family went forward with plans for a large birthday party. “She was adamant that yes we were going to have that party. All of the brothers and sisters, all the children and grandchildren were there. It was so beautiful.” 

Mrs. Curran was preceded in death by her parents Pauline Morgan and Howard Dunn Derrick; her husband of 45 years, Paul B. Curran, Sr.; siblings, Bill Derrick, Eddie (Shirley) Derrick, Tommy (Barbara) Derrick, and Monnie (Ray) Watson. 

Survivors include her children, Paul (Peggy) Curran, Jr., Danny (Rosemary) Curran, Katie Curran, Mary Ann (Richard) James, Chuck (Pam) Curran, Jeannie Curran, Mark (Sherry) Curran, Bill (Peggy) Curran, Michael Curran, and Helen (Randy) Akin; siblings, Connie Derrick, Jim (Linda) Derrick, Mike (Betsy) Derrick, Bob (Sue Ann) Derrick; 29 grandchildren; more than 40 great-grandchildren; and numerous grandchildren who are not by blood, but by genuine love and care. 

Memorial contributions can be made to the Father Joseph Breen Endowment Fund at St. Edward Church. 

Marshall Donnelly Combs Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements. 

Bishop connects with parishes with online meetings

Bishop J. Mark Spalding has been meeting online with pastors and parish representatives of all the Diocese of Nashville’s parishes since November 2020. The bishop started the meetings after the pandemic made it difficult for him to visit parishes in person.  Photo by Andy Telli

The COVID-19 pandemic trimmed one of a bishop’s most important responsibilities, connecting with the people of his diocese. 

Normally, Bishop J. Mark Spalding would make those connections on visits to the Diocese of Nashville’s 59 church communities. Those visits were sharply curtailed to avoid putting people in danger of contracting the coronavirus. 

But the bishop found a way around the hurdle by scheduling online meetings with pastors and parish representatives of the Diocese of Nashville’s 59 church communities. 

“The key thing for a bishop is to connect and communicate with the people,” Bishop Spalding said.  

During the course of the pandemic, the bishop, like people across the country, was using Zoom calls to conduct meetings. “I thought of using Zoom to connect with the parishes,” he said. 

Beginning in late November 2020, Bishop Spalding has been meeting online with each of the parishes in the diocese, starting with Immaculate Conception Church in Clarksville and finishing with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Tennessee Ridge on Wednesday, June 29. 

“It’s taken six months or so to get to all the parishes,” Bishop Spalding said. Because the bishop had to coordinate his schedule with that of the pastors and parish representatives, “it took that long to make it all happen,” he  said. 

“Overwhelmingly, people know how the technology works,” having used it for business meetings at their jobs or to stay in contact with family, Bishop Spalding said. And when there were glitches with the technology, he added, “we all had a good spirit about it.” 

Invited to participate in the meetings with the bishop were the pastor, the parish council members, the parish finance council members, and if there was a parish school, the school board. 

Each meeting had a similar agenda. 

“First thing, I sort of go through the past year,” said Bishop Spalding, who made a point to thank each pastor “for their courage and creativity” in getting through the obstacles of the past year, which was highlighted by tornados, floods, a Christmas Day bombing in downtown Nashville, protests against racism, a bitter presidential campaign, and the pandemic. 

He also talked about the accomplishments of the diocese in several areas. The Vocations Office has done good work helping the diocese’s 20 seminarians in formation, with several more scheduled to begin their seminary studies in the fall, Bishop Spalding said. 

The Vocations Office has also overseen the formation of a class of permanent deacon candidates as they moved closer to their ordination scheduled for 2023, while also organizing a new class of deacon candidates that will begin in August, the bishop added. 

“All this happened during the pandemic,” Bishop Spalding noted. 

He also talked about the decision to open the diocesan schools for in-person learning with the proper protections in place during the last school year. 

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Bishop Spalding said. “Although there were many challenges, it was a good decision for our children, for our families, for the schools.”  

The bishop talked about all the good work done by Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville responding to several natural disasters, the Christmas bombing, and the economic disruption the pandemic caused for people. He also mentions Catholic Charities’ upcoming Tennessee Serving Neighbors program, which will use a grant from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to open offices in several rural counties in the diocese. 

Local and state officials have expressed their appreciation for all the work of Catholic Charities, Bishop Spalding said. 

He talked about plans for new parishes opening in the diocese, from small communities forming in locations some distance from current parishes to the new Mother Teresa Parish established in Nolensville. 

Bishop Spalding also asked about any issues facing the parishes, Bishop Spalding said. “Just like people have different personalities, parishes have their particular personality,” he said. 

All of the parishes have taken on the challenges of the last year-and-a-half “with their own unique gifts,” the bishop said. 

If a parish is dealing with an issue that a diocesan office or ministry can help with, Bishop Spalding said, he referred them to the appropriate person or office, “reminding them we’re here for you and with you.” 

“A key part of this is you’re not alone. … that’s one of the great gifts of the Catholic church,” Bishop Spalding said. “We’re all tied together here in the Diocese of Nashville.” 

Bishop Spalding ended the meetings by talking about the upcoming Legacy of Faith, Hope and Love campaign to raise $50 million to create or increase endowments to support ministries such as vocations, Catholic schools and Catholic Charities far into the future. 

During his meetings, Bishop Spalding has also emphasized that it is time for the faithful to come back to their parishes “now we’re on this side of the pandemic and God has been with us.” 

In the last year-and-a-half, the bishop said, people’s anxieties have increased as they faced the pandemic, natural disasters and rising racial and political tensions. “Part of the reason we’re feeling the way we are is we’ve been away too long,” Bishop Spalding said. 

“In isolation we can be distant from one another,” he said. “That can create tension and a sense of loss.” 

He wants his parish meetings to reignite a sense of unity in the diocese, Bishop Spalding said.  

His task is to “connect, communicate and remind people we’re in communion with each other. The Church is a communion,” and the bishop is a symbol of that communion, Bishop Spalding said. “He is a person that represents the whole.  

“All our parishes are united in the name of Christ Jesus,” he said. “I get to remind everybody this is who we are.” 

Community begins organizing a new parish in Smith County

A group of Catholics interested in forming a parish in Smith County gathered for Mass, followed by a meeting to discuss the project, at the Carthage United Methodist Church on Thursday, June 24, 2021. It was believed to be the first-ever public Catholic Mass celebrated in Smith County. Nancy Picou receives communion from Glenmary Father Don Tranel. Photos by Andy Telli

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In the more than two centuries since Smith County was founded, it has never been home to a Catholic church. 

But a group of interested Catholics, led by Glenmary Home Missioner Father Don Tranel, have begun the work to establish a parish there. 

“They’re pumped. They’re excited. They can’t wait,” Father Tranel said of the group. 

Mia Figlio Miller, the Director of Youth Ministry at Carthage United Methodist, who grew up as a parishioner at St. Henry Church in Nashville and graduated from St. Cecilia Academy, welcomes the group.

On June 24, Father Tranel celebrated a Mass at the Carthage United Methodist Church that was attended by 81 people, including Father John Hammond, Vicar General of the Diocese of Nashville. It was the first publicly celebrated Mass ever in the county, Father Tranel said. 

In a meeting after the Mass, Father Hammond said he nearly came to tears thinking about it being the first public Catholic Mass celebrated in Smith County. “That’s amazing,” he said. “May we celebrate a million more.” 

“I never dreamed there’d be an interest in having (a parish) here,” said Martin Burns, who has lived in Smith County since 1983 and is a parishioner at St. Frances Cabrini Church in Lebanon. 

Burns grew up in Donelson as a parishioner at Holy Rosary Church, where his family were charter members when that church was founded in the 1950s. Now he is following in his family’s footsteps and helping to establish another parish. 

“It’s pretty exciting,” he said. 

Glenmary leads the effort 

The Glenmary Home Missioners were founded in 1939 to bring the Catholic Church to people who live in counties, primarily in Appalachia and the rural South, where the Church is not effectively present. 

The diocese invited Glenmary, which already staffs Holy Family Church in Lafayette, to research the possibility of starting a parish in Smith County, Father Tranel said. “The response was overwhelming.” 

Father Don Tranel talks to one of the people interested in forming the church, after the Mass and meeting.

Father Tranel moved to Smith County in January 2021 to start laying the groundwork for a new parish. He spoke at Masses at St. Frances Cabrini, Holy Family and St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Cookeville to announce the effort. He then began gathering names and addresses of registered parishioners who live in Smith County. 

“Once I got the names, I sent letters” inviting those interested in starting a Catholic church in Smith County to a meeting on May 27 at the Smith County Chamber of Commerce offices in Carthage. Thirty-four people showed up. 

“They offered their gifts” for the effort, Father Tranel said. “To hear their stories, to hear their emotion, that was all kind of wonderful.” 

Chris Woodard has been a parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville for 48 years. Even after her family moved to Smith County in 1986, she continued to drive one hour each way to Our Lady of the Lake.  

“I tried going to closer parishes, but I didn’t feel the same family feeling” as at Our Lady of the Lake, Woodard said. 

But when a friend from the parish who also lives in Smith County, Michael Manor, called to let her know about the May 27 organizing meeting, she reached out to Father Tranel. 

When she attended the meeting and saw more than 30 people there, “I was going wow,” Woodard said. “I thought we would have eight or 10.” 

“I was so impressed,” she added. “You could feel we were all striving to get this church together.” 

The group scheduled a second meeting on June 24 that was attended by 81 people, including several people from surrounding parishes that were lending their support to the effort. 

“It’s overwhelming to have this many people interested,” Woodard said. “The meetings were fantastic, and I think our numbers will grow.” 

‘We’re just ecstatic’ 

The June 24 Mass was held on the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, which is six months before Christmas. In his homily, Father Tranel asked, “What will this community be six months from now on Christmas Eve?” 
“There’s energy here in Smith County,” he said. “We want to share our Catholic faith with all Catholics in Smith County and all the non-Catholics.” 

“Our faith doesn’t demand we know all the answers. Our faith only demands that we not be afraid of the questions,” he added. “And you know what, we’re not afraid.” 

Michael Manor has been hoping the diocese would start at parish in Smith County for some time. His family have been attending Our Lady of the Lake since they moved to Middle Tennessee in 2009 and continued going there after moving to Smith County in 2014. 

“We really connected to that community,” said Manor, who has served as the Grand Knight and Faithful Navigator of the Knights of Columbus council and Fourth Degree assembly at Our Lady of the Lake, as well as a catechist for the confirmation class there. He and his wife, Lisa, have seen all five of their children confirmed at Our Lady of the Lake. 

But when he heard from a non-Catholic friend that people were starting a Catholic church in Smith County, he was quick to offer his help. 

“We’re just ecstatic, absolutely excited about it,” Manor said. 

“For me it’s a blessing. I truly believe the Holy Spirit is working,” Manor said at the June 24 meeting. “All it takes is all of us to make it happen.” 

Finding a home 

One of the first issues the community had to settle was scheduling a regular weekend Mass. At the June 24 meeting, Mia Foglio Miller, the Director of Youth Ministry at Carthage United Methodist Church who grew up in Nashville and graduated from St. Henry School and St. Cecilia Academy, offered the use of the Methodist Church facility to have Mass as the community forms. 

“They’ve been so good to us,” Father Tranel said of the Methodist Church. 

The first weekend Mass was held at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 3, and 54 people attended. 

“It was a pretty good turnout,” Burns said. “I was pretty content with that.” 

The community will continue celebrating Mass at the Methodist Church until it can find a more permanent home, Father Tranel said.  

“In this endeavor you have to strike when the passion is high,” he said of the efforts to secure a permanent location. “You have to give the people something tangible.” 

Father Tranel decided to start with the English-speaking community but said he will soon be reaching out to the Hispanic community in the area to invite them to join the effort to start a new church in Smith County. 

“They will be invited to the table, and in due time we will devote lots of time and effort into this,” he said. 

Father Hammond encouraged the community at the June 24 meeting. “Tell your friends, spread the word,” he said. “That’s your job to keep pointing to the Lamb of God.” 

Bishop J. Mark Spalding “is with you in spirit,” Father Hammond said. “Our entire community of faith in Middle Tennessee is with you.” 

Leaving a legacy 

For Manor, Woodard, Burns and others, helping to establish a parish in Smith County means leaving their current parish – and the friends they made there – behind. 

“It takes a lot of faith and trust to start a parish. It takes a lot of faith and trust to make the difficult decision to leave behind a community you love,” Father Hammond said during the June 24 meeting. 

“I’ve had mixed emotions,” Woodard said. She is involved in several ministries at Our Lady of the Lake, “and the church family feeling is very strong,” she said. 

But she’s fully committed to the Smith County project. “I think it’s God’s calling.” 

“Being called to help with starting the church is something I feel I have to answer,” Woodard added. 

“I’ve learned you don’t say no to God,” she said. “I’ve finally had to succumb and listen to God’s voice and do what he requests me to do. And the blessings and the pleasure I get from that know no bounds.” 

Woodard has said her goodbyes to her friends at Our Lady of the Lake. “I need to be 100 percent committed” to the Smith County effort. 

“It was a tough call” to leave St. Frances Cabrini, Burns said. “Father James, I love him to death. I think he’s very good for our parish,” he said of the parish’s pastor, Father James Panackal. 

But he wants to support the effort in Smith County, Burns said. 

“We have strong connections to Our Lady of the Lake,” Manor said. “But to me this is really bigger than myself or my family. It’s a huge legacy that we could leave for our kids and hopefully their kids down the road.” 

SCA grad competes at U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials

Adreanna Parlette, a 2017 graduate of St. Cecilia Academy, competed at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials in the long jump. Parlette, who will graduate from Belmont University in August, was named the 2021 Ohio Valley Conference’s Female Field Athlete of the Year.  Photo courtesy of Belmont University 

Coming into this track and field season, Adreanna Parlette was trying to recapture the form that made her a star at St. Cecilia Academy.  

She ended up exceeding even her expectations, qualifying the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the long jump on June 24 in Eugene, Oregon, and finishing 17th out of 24 women competing for three spots on the Olympic team. 

“She’s in pretty elite company,” said Cameron Harvey, associate head coach of the track and field team at Belmont University in Nashville where Parlette competes collegiately. After qualifying for the Olympic Trials, “no matter what happens, you are among a very small percentage of female athletes.” 

“I was competing against the best of the best,” said Parlette, who graduated from St. Cecilia in 2017. “It was exciting. I didn’t feel any pressure. I felt like I belonged.” 

That wouldn’t have been the case before she transferred from Jacksonville University to Belmont in 2019.  

Parlette had lost a lot of confidence, Harvey said. “There were some struggles believing she could still compete.” 

But Harvey, who remembered Parlette when she competed at St. Cecilia, told her, “I think there’s potential for you to be back to where you were.” 

During the indoor track season in the winter of 2019-20, Parlette started to show improvement. “Then COVID hit,” Harvey said. 

The break in competition turned out to work to Parlette’s advantage. “I didn’t really believe in myself that much,” Parlette said. “COVID came and I had an opportunity to address that component in my life.” 

Parlette stepped up her training during the pandemic, focusing on the mental aspect of the sport. When she returned to competition in the 2021 spring season, the improvement was apparent. She was named the Ohio Valley Conference Female Field Athlete of the Year. At the conference championships, she won the long jump, finished second in the heptathlon, fourth in the 110 meter hurdles and seventh in the high jump. She also qualified for the NCAA East Regional. 

She set a personal and school record in the long jump at a meet in April with a jump of 6.50 meters, or 21 feet 4 inches. After that jump, Harvey said, “I started wondering what the mark is to qualify for the trials. … She might have a chance.” 

“It was a long journey” to qualify for the trials, Parlette said. 

Before the trials, she heard from her former teachers and coaches at St. Cecilia, “They’ve been people who’ve supported me post high school,” Parlette said. “They mean more to me than just high school teachers. I will stand by that school. I think they do great things there.” 

Parlette and her twin sister Isabella were students at J.T. Moore Middle School when they applied at St. Cecilia. Their aunt had graduated from St. Cecilia, and “my mom always wanted me and my twin sister to go get a private education.” 

The staff at St. Cecilia worked hard to get the Parlettes the financial assistance they needed to attend, she said. “That’s who they are,” Parlette said. “They supported me and my sister since before we even got there.” 

She got more of that kind of support during her four years at St. Cecilia, Parlette said. “I had a community,” she said. “St. Cecilia pushed me to do everything.” 

Besides track, she was involved in advanced choir and the theater guild. “St. Cecilia helped me to thrive in a busy schedule,” said Parlette, who converted to Catholicism while at St. Cecilia and now attends St. Ann Church in Nashville. “Going off to college I definitely was prepared from that standpoint.” 

Parlette will graduate Aug. 13 from Belmont with a degree in corporate communications and marketing. She has one more year of eligibility left and plans to compete next year as a graduate student studying strategic communications and leadership. “I want to go into corporate training and development,” Parlette said. 

She will have a new goal on the track: to do well at the U.S. Track and Field National Championships. “I’d probably be going against the same people I saw at Trials.”