Diocesan feast day chosen
By Dan McWilliams
Visitors to the Chancery office in Knoxville now have a tangible reminder of the newly designated diocesan feast day.
Workers in late August installed next to the front doors of the building a marble statue of the Blessed Virgin presenting the baby Jesus to the world. Inscribed beneath the statue are the words Christ’s mother spoke at the wedding feast at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you.”
In an Aug. 29 declaration in advance of the diocese’s 15th anniversary Bishop Joseph E. Kurtz established the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated Sept. 8, as the patronal feast for the diocese.
“From the moment in which the Diocese of Knoxville was formed on the evening of Sept. 8, 1988, by our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, we have had a special devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary,” Bishop Kurtz wrote in the declaration.
The words below the statue from John 2:5 “recall the advice and direction of Mary to the attendants serving the guests at the wedding feast at Cana, just as now these words direct our church and our world to the savior of the world, Jesus Christ,” the bishop wrote.
Diocesan chancellor Father Vann Johnston suggested the verse, the bishop said.
“It is eminently practical in that it moves our hearts as well as our minds deeper into the mystery of Christ,” said Bishop Kurtz.
The Carrara marble statue was hand-carved in Italy, weighs 1,100 pounds, and stands on a pedestal of brick and cast stone.
“The bishop reflected on having something in front of the Chancery indicating that this is a Christian building, where the church does many important things and more visibly indicating that the Chancery is associated with the Catholic Church,” said Father Johnston.
The Statue has special meaning for the bishop because it was paid for by the estate of his brother, George, who died Jan. 27, 2002.George Kurtz, who suffered from Down syndrome, moved with his younger sibling to Knoxville and quickly became a familiar face around East Tennessee.
“This has a deeply personal significance to me and to my family,” Bishop Kurtz said. “It is an opportunity for us to recall the great gift of faith in the life of my brother and the great manner in which the people of East Tennessee welcomed not only me but also my brother, George, almost four years ago.”
Bishop Kurtz credited Father Johnston for doing “a great amount of the spadework,” in selecting the statue and “helping us work out the details of a very beautiful stand and a beautiful setting for our Blessed mother.”
Thom Haeuptle of Knoxville’s Johnson Architecture, who created the blueprints for numerous church buildings in the diocese, designed the pedestal for the statue. Blaine Construction of Knoxville built the pedestal and moved the statue into place.
“The statue of our Blessed Lady showing her son Jesus to the world is for me a beautiful symbol of the efforts of our diocese, the church, seeking not only to live Christ Jesus as our Blessed Mother did but also to share him with others,” the bishop said.
Bishop Kurtz will dedicate the statue after the annual Youth Mass, which begins at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6. “It will be a very moving moment for my sisters and my family,” he said.