As Glenmary Father Don Tranel looked out over his congregation at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Carthage to begin his homily, he quoted Dorothy from the “The Wizard of Oz”: “There’s no place like home.”
The Mass on Saturday, April 9, was the first to be celebrated at the congregation’s property on Upper Ferry Road in Carthage. Until then, the congregation, which began organizing in the summer of 2021, had been celebrating Mass at Carthage United Methodist Church.
“It had always been our desire to be in this facility for Holy Week, especially Easter,” Father Tranel said.
The Diocese of Nashville purchased the property, which includes two buildings on almost 4 acres, from the New Level Church last November. Parishioners at St. Peter had been waiting to move into the facility until renovations could be complete.
The plan is to renovate what the previous owners had been using as a hall into a worship space, while the building holding the worship space and classrooms is converted into a parish hall, Father Tranel explained. The renovations have been delayed while waiting on the contractor, he said.
But St. Peter parishioners started asking if the church could start celebrating Mass at the property, Father Tranel said. “Before you knew it, there was a mandate from the people.”
So the plan was altered, and the old worship space was prepared to host a Catholic Mass in time for the Palm Sunday liturgy.
“We turned the space that didn’t look anything like a Catholic Church into a Catholic Church,” Father Tranel said.
To convert the space, St. Peter received furnishings for the sanctuary from a convent outside Cincinnati that was remodeling its chapel, as well as an altar made of black walnut and a baptismal font that Glenmary Father Vic Subb, the former pastor of Holy Family Church in Lafayette, had been storing in his garage.
“We bought very little,” Father Tranel said.
“It has a holy and peaceful feel,” Father Tranel said of the new worship space. “That’s the most you can ask for in a church structure.”
About 80 people crowded into the church for the first Mass. “I was touched to see all these people,” Father Tranel said.
“It’s so exciting,” said Sheron Seward, who played guitar and led the singing for the first Mass. “It’s a very somber day,” she said noting that the Mass included the Palm Sunday Gospel reading of the Passion of Christ, “but maybe an appropriate day to start.”
“I’m overjoyed,” said parishioner Snowi Brune. “It was more than I ever expected.”
St. Peter the Apostle Church is the newest church in the Diocese of Nashville and the first ever in Smith County, about 50 miles east of Nashville. Father Tranel celebrated the first Mass in the county’s history in July 2021.
Since then, the congregation has been organizing. “It has been fantastic,” said Brune, who has been overseeing the church’s religious education efforts, including the RCIA program and a Confirmation class. “Everybody has stepped up.”
The weekly Masses at 5 p.m. Saturdays in the Carthage United Methodist Church hall have drawn about 50 people.
Father Tranel expressed his gratitude to the Carthage United Methodist Church and lead pastor, the Rev. Monica Mowdy, for sharing their facility with the new Catholic congregation. “It was just like having our own church,” he said. “We wouldn’t be here if not for her.”
St. Peter will continue to celebrate Mass in the current worship space until the other building, which is larger, can be converted into a church space, Father Tranel said. “We’ve got a boatload of work to do.”
For more photos from this event, check out our Palm Sunday Gallery