By Charlie Johnston
After 26 hours on the bus, I arrived in Nashville shortly before Noon on Tuesday, June 16. I was met by Fr. Dan Reehil who took me to my hotel. I freshened up a bit, then Luke, who would be my driver for the next couple of days, picked me up to bring me to dinner at the Rectory at
St. Edward’s Church. The committee included Fr. Dan, who is Associate Pastor, Janet and Steve Wilgenbusch, primary coordinators of my visit, Pam and Doug Kimbro, and the Pastor, Fr. Mark Nolte sat in.
We had appetizers and conversation to begin, then a marvelous gazpacho that Pam made was served. It had shrimp in it…but the secret ingredient was watermelon. At first, I thought it was tomatoes. I would never have thought of adding watermelon, but it tied it all together, Magnificent! It quickly became clear what a vibrant parish this is. They have all manner of well-attended adult educations groups and a
vigorous Cursillo group. Apparently, it had been in a bit of decline. Nashville Bishop David Choby appointed both priests to the Parish last year at nearly the same time. It was striking to see how well they work together. They each do their own thing, yet they are mutually supportive and helpful to each other in a quiet, but very effective way. Their partnership was so striking it called to mind when Jesus sent disciples out two by two. Parishioners I met over the two days gushed over how the Parish has come to life under the stewardship of these two young priests.
Wednesday morning began with Mass celebrated by Fr. Dan. He had me read – to serve – so I would be able to go to the oldest Church in Nashville, St. Mary’s, at noon and receive there as well. In his homily, he gave a marvelous insight, worthy of deep contemplation.
Referencing the point of Scripture where we are exhorted to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, Fr. Dan said in the original Aramaic, that means be complete as our Father is complete. That is marvelous! Who can be perfect? But many of us act in ways that are incomplete, that are not consonant with the fullness of the humanity God gifted us with. I will be pondering that insight for a good, long time.
Then it was on to breakfast at Pam Kimbro’s home. She wanted to make sure I got a good, southern breakfast. Well, she succeeded, but it wasn’t just A southern breakfast…it was more like four. She had heaping mounds of potatoes, grits, sausage patties, bacon, eggs, biscuits, gravy, fruits and jams. I tucked into my plate with gusto – but figured I am going to have to start setting aside time for exercise each day if I don’t want to blossom up to about 500 pounds on these trips.
I went to Mass at St. Mary’s in downtown Nashville, the oldest Catholic Church in the Diocese and, once, its Cathedral. I loved the fact that it made use of communion rails. It was a Novus Ordo Mass…which suits me fine…but the priest
faced the altar with the people and used the communion rail to distribute communion. I love both of those practices. I was met there by an Irish musician, Colm Kirwan. He had been at the dinner the night before. We went to have coffee and chat for a while…about what he is doing, his love of the Catholic Church, his music, asnd his native Ireland. He played one of the songs he wrote, “Never Alone,” for me as we drove. What a marvelous blend of Celtic and Country. I noted that and he said he calls his music, Celtic Country.
I had dinner with the Wilgenbusches before coming over to give my presentation at St. Edward’s. They videotaped it – and as soon as it is done and they send me a copy, I will put a link up to it in the top bar. I was surprised that Susan Skinner, the woman who publishes the Veil of Veronica website, lives in Nashville and came to my presentation. I sandbagged her during the question and answer period and had her say a few words. She was shaking a little, but she is a trouper and did a great job. As it turns out, the woman, Veronica, who was murdered and sparked Susan’s deepening conversion and for whom her website is named, was a parishioner at
St. Edwards where I had been invited to speak. One of those little divine “coincidences.” They were only expecting 20-30 people for my presentation, but a good 60 showed up. It wiped us out of the Flame of Love booklets Tony Mullen provided, so I did not have any for Atlanta. But Tony is going to ship some out to each city I visit from here on out, so you will be able to get a copy if I am in your town after this.
Thursday morning, Mass was celebrated by Fr. Mark, with Fr. Dan and a new priest con-celebrating. What joyful enthusiasm Fr. Mark exudes when he speaks! I can easily see why the parishioners are so excited and vibrant with this marvelous pair of priests. Fr. Dan took me to breakfast at a little restaurant, appropriately named “Holy Chow,” and I prepared to head on out to Nashville. It was a warm, southern welcome to kick off these visits. God bless Nashville – and especially, the people of St. Edwards Parish community.