St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish gathers to celebrate past, present, future

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St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Tennessee Ridge recently held a Grand Reopening and Dinner on the parish grounds to welcome parishioners back to the church in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in rural Tennessee Ridge is open for the Lord’s business after a long pandemic. 

A recent Grand Reopening and Dinner on the parish grounds included Mass, the blessing of the parish cemetery, and a short program on the parish’s past, present and future. That was followed by an old-fashioned dinner on the grounds and a chance to relax in the shade of the backyard’s huge trees while children and young people played yard games and others played guitars. A parishioner took family photos as well. 

The day was as idyllic as it sounded, and it sent a clear message, according to Pastor Father Zack Kirangu. “I am so thankful that we came together to celebrate our faith as a parish after a long time of the pandemic,” he said. “We are back to do the Lord’s business, and He is good to his people.” 

Guests visit in the shade in the spacious yard at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

In addition to parishioners, guests came from Father Zack’s other parish, St. Patrick’s in McEwen, Nashville and the surrounding area, West Tennessee, and Stewart County. Parishioners and guests brought sides and desserts to go with the hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken being grilled by the parish’s seasoned grill masters. 

The day was made even more special as all were privileged to witness Joss Rye’s First Holy Communion at Mass.  

While the Grand Reopening was focused on the present moment and the opportunity to once more gather as a Christian family, Father Zack gave some perspective by bringing in the past. He spoke animatedly about the parish’s patroness, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, making her come to life for the listeners, and he followed with the founding of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish, dedicated in 1977. 

Gregg Lill, left, and his nephew Josh Lill enjoy the Pickers’ Corner at the Grand Reopening and Dinner.

Kate Morris of Humboldt, who grew up at St. Elizabeth’s, said she was fascinated with the parish history because she knew so many of the people who made it happen, but as a child, she just thought of them as part of the parish family, not as movers and shakers. 

To give a sense of where the parish stands now, parishioner Bonnie Lill gave a rundown of what programs and activities the parish engaged in pre-pandemic and what parishioners can anticipate as they move forward with the pandemic lessening.  

Roman Anthony Baylor enjoys the climbing apparatus on the parish playground.

Graduates Carney Brown and Landon Arthon were honored, as were the three confirmandi: Lyndsey “Gianna” Broughton, Wyatt “Hubert” Brown and Esme “Francis” Rye. First Communicant Joss Rye was also honored.  

Pam Rye presented the parish’s plans to expand the narthex of the church with a large portico. “If it was raining, we could still have an event like this because we could put the tables under the portico,” she said. 

Rye also said that lacking space for people to gather as they enter and leave Mass consistently deprives them of the opportunity for weekly fellowship. 

The parish is already two-thirds of the way to having the funds for the project, she added. 

“It reminded me of when we were kids, running around and playing in the yard while the grownups all cooked or did Chicken Jamboree things,” said Josh Lill, who grew up in the parish and now lives in Mt. Juliet. He added he was glad his children got to experience the event s as well. 

He also enjoyed catching up with childhood friends, getting caught up on the last 25 years of their lives and seeing their kids running and playing games in the same yard he played in.

Esme Rye celebrates a win during a game of cornhole as Wyatt Brown looks on.

 “For me, I enjoyed seeing the kids playing again, watching our kids honored after such a long time of not being together,” said parish Office Manager Valerie Brown. “Seeing all the smiling faces, meeting new friends, rekindling old friendships – it was all so good. The unity of the moment was overwhelming. We are ready to be together again.” 

“I loved this day,” said Father Kirangu, “seeing kids play and make new friends, combined with good music and good food. We need to do this more often!” 

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