ROGERSVILLE—On Sunday, January 8, Father Bartholomew (Bart) O’Kere and members of St. Henry Catholic Church in Rogersville hosted the Cathedral Dedication Stone for the new Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral in Knoxville.

The Dedication Stone is a part of the new Cathedral’s cornerstone that represents the connection of all East Tennessee parishes. The cathedral will be the center of the Knoxville Diocese worship.

Pope Francis blessed the stone on Oct. 14, 2015 at the Vatican in Rome. The stone was presented to the Pope by Bishop Richard F. Strika, Bishop of the Knoxville Diocese.

After the blessing, the Cathedral Dedication Stone began its pilgrimage through the Diocese of Knoxville on November 26, 2016. Members of the Knights of Columbus of the Diocese of Knoxville escort the stone to parishes, mission churches, Catholic schools and homes of the consecrated men and women. The Diocese of Knoxville stretches from Chattanooga, Knoxville and Johnson City.

According to Father Bart, “The Cathedral Dedication Stone is purely the brain child of his Excellency, Bishop Richard F. Strika.”

The stone weighs about 17.5 pounds and harvested from a quarry in East Tennessee. The stone measures 34” across, 34” deep and 30” tall. It is presented in a thick, enclosed case and is visibly displayed in the sanctuary of each church it visits to allow visitors to faithfully see, touch and offer prayers for the construction of the cathedral.

“This is the first time that this diocese has ever seen such a stone,” said Father Bart. “It was an awesome celebration.”

A prayer is designed with the dedication in mind:

“May our new Cathedral be a visible sign of our unity with the universal Church and our Bishop, and may we, as living stones, be built into a temple acceptable to the Lord, Amen.”

During the host church’s Mass, the congregation prays:

“Heavenly Father, through the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we ask your continued blessings upon the Catholic Xa of East Tennessee as we strive to be the face, the hands, the feet and the heart of Jesus. As we continue to grow as the Diocese of Knoxville and celebrate our unity with the Bishop of Rome, may this Dedication Stone of our New Cathedral be a reminder of our unity as one. We ask this through the intercession of the patron saints of our diocese, The Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul II, but especially through our Lord, Amen.”

The dedication stone stayed one week at St. Henry Catholic Church before moving to their sister parish, St. James the Apostle Church in Sneedville on January 15.

The Cathedral Dedication Stone will end its pilgrimage on Nov. 25, 2017 at the Scared Hearts Cathedral. Construction of the $25 million cathedral is predicted to be finished March 2018.