St. Theresa Heritage Partners NEWSLETTER

ISSUE #2  •  AUGUST 2021


THE OLD SAINT THERESA - CROSS ROADS SCHOOL

On June 26, construction began on the new Saint Theresa Heritage Partners’ first project – turning the old school into a new Saint Theresa Family Life Center to house programs serving all ages in the families of the whole community. Excitement is building as it slowly evolves. 

THE NEW SAINT THERESA FAMILY LIFE CENTER

Construction Progress
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SAINT THERESA FAMILY LIFE CENTER
MUSEUM OF HISTORICAL PHOTOS

With a $10,000.00 grant from the Sisters of Charity, the walls of the hallway of the new Family Life Center will feature a historic photo museum of early missionaries, pastors, Sisters, parishioners and students, as well as some of the religious Sisters, priests and a Brother who came from Saint Theresa Church. Father Knott has been working hard to gather old photos and will continue to do so over the next year. He is interested in seeing some of your old parish photos – the older the better. Call him (502-303-4571) before you send them to be copied so that a determination can be made as to their possible usefulness. Below is a sample.

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SAINT THERESA HERITAGE PARTNERS
We Are Going to Need Your Help Very Soon


Thanks to a major gift from Father Ronald Knott and a few of his friends outside the parish, Phase One of the school renovation has been underwritten! With those funds secured, the Archdiocese of Louisville gave us permission to begin Phase One (the outside) of our project. It started on June 26, 2021.

Phase Two (the inside) of our project is in the planning phase. We will need some generous gifts from our Saint Theresa Heritage Partners soon, especially a few major gifts. We need to have the funds in hand before the Archdiocese will approve our moving into Phase Two. We are on a roll! Let’s get it done!

If you can help, please call Fr. Ronald Knott (1-502-303-4571 jrknott@bellsouth.net) or Fr. Robert Ray
(1-502-216-9290 rray@twc.com).

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ISSUE #1  •  MAY 2021

A TWENTY-EIGHT YEAR OLD DREAM

Given at the 175th Anniversary Celebration of St. Theresa Church, September 26, 1993 

Rev. Ronald Knott


Introduction

I am always deeply honored to be invited back home to preach, but especially this time; the 175th anniversary of the founding of our parish! This is truly an historic occasion! This is indeed holy ground! A special welcome to my famous “roommate,” Archbishop Kelly, and to my fellow priests also from this parish, as well as to any of the Sisters who came from here or served here. 

Every time I stand in this pulpit, I am reminded of the gospel that I just read. I realize that it is pretty nervy to compare oneself to Jesus, but there are some obvious similarities here. Jesus is back in his home town of Nazareth. He is invited to read the Scriptures and give the homily. As he began his homily, “all present spoke favorably of him; they marveled at the appealing discourse that came from his lips.” They also asked, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” But in the second half of the homily, Jesus stepped on some toes. He said some things they did not want to hear. “At these words the whole audience in the synagogue was filled with indignation. They rose up and expelled him from the town, leading him to the brow of the hill on which it was built and intending to hurl him over the edge.” 

Today, I want to do two things. I want to talk about the past and I want to talk about the future. You may “marvel at the appealing discourse that comes from my lips” as I review our glorious past. You may even ask yourselves, “Is this not Jim and Ethel’s boy?” But you may not marvel at some of the things I am about to say about your future. You may even want to drag me to the hill behind Joe Ray’s place and throw me into the river! So I left my truck running in the parking lot, just in case! 

I. The Past

I come to you today as both a son of the parish and as somewhat of a specialist in reviving old churches. I am up to my eyeballs in trying not only to restore an old cathedral building, but also trying to revive a congregation that almost died out. The similarities between these two places are many. Fr. Badin, the first U.S. priest, gathered both congregations: St. Theresa in 1805 and St. Louis (our original name) in 1806. St. Theresa Parish has had three churches, the first of which was built in 1818. The Cathedral Parish has had three churches, the first of which was built in 1811. Bishop Flaget, our first bishop, consecrated both of our second churches: St. Theresa in 1827 and St. Louis in 1831. He is buried in the Cathedral undercroft. Bishop Spalding consecrated both of our third churches: St. Theresa in 1861 and the Cathedral in 1852. The famous architect William Keely designed both St. Theresa Church and the Cathedral. (By the way, I was pastor of Bishop Spalding’s home parish in Calvary from 1980-1983. Father Henry Vessels of this parish was pastor of that same church for a short while before me.) The Sisters of Loretto opened St. Theresa Academy in 1866 and stayed till 1869. Like some of you, I went to the first and second grades in that old Academy building. The first colony of Sisters of Charity arrived in 1870 and will leave this year. The same Sisters of Charity opened Presentation Academy in what is now the Cathedral basement in 1832. 

Both of these parishes have long, proud and parallel histories that must be preserved. But both of us are facing uncertain futures. Just because we have been around for almost 200 years does not automatically insure that we will have a future. When I came to the Cathedral in 1983 it was celebrating its 172nd anniversary as a parish. It had shrunk to 200 registered members. The school had already closed in 1952. The old Office of Planning was suggesting that the parish be closed and merged with another parish and that one of the big suburban churches be designated as the cathedral of the archdiocese. People had been sitting around for years, watching it decline and waiting for it to fix itself. But we have grown from 200 people to 2,000 people in the last ten years. All I have done in these last ten years is to rally the troops, talk people into believing in the future and to spiritually renew the people who worship there. A miracle is taking place up there as we speak. 

You face a similar crisis here at old St. Theresa. With the priest crisis upon us, you too will surely be hearing more suggestions about mergings and closings. The next time it won’t be the school, it could be the rectory. I hope not, but folks the handwriting is on the wall! Wake up and smell the coffee! We may run out of priests, but this place does not have to die! You must do more than be proud of your history; you must have a vision. You must know where you want to go, be willing to sacrifice to get there and quit waiting for somebody to rescue you. “Without a vision, the people perish!” (Proverbs) Do you have a clear idea of where you want to go from here? Who is going to rally the troops? Are you willing to put your blood, sweat and tears into having a future? These are the pertinent questions facing you on your 175th anniversary. You do not need permission from the chancery to save yourselves! But if you don’t have a plan for yourselves, don’t be surprised if someone develops a plan for you! 

II. The Future

Well, my truck is still running and I haven’t been dragged out of the pulpit yet, so let me skate out on thin ice a little further. Let me make some practical suggestions from what I have learned at the Cathedral. This is not a plan, but merely some rough ideas. They need not be taken word for word. They are simply meant to get the juices flowing. 

(1)  Refuse to accept the pessimism and despair about the future of our churches. I am sick to death of all that! When I arrived at every parish I have served as pastor, I was told by the people who preceded me: “Don’t get your hopes up. Nothing much can be done here! We’re too small, too poor, too far away, too this and too that!” The best cure for the death of one institution that has outlived its usefulness is to give birth to a new, more useful one! Get over your inferiority complex! Think big! If your only goal is mere survival, you might as well go ahead and dig the grave. Why not start a ST. THERESA 2000 PROJECT? Decide what you want your future to be in the year 2000 and go for it!

(2)  Good ideas attract money. If you have a good, sound idea, you will be surprised where money can be found to accomplish those dreams. The average family around here still has a lot more money than the people who built the church, the academy, the school, the convent and the rectory. The Cathedral parish did something nobody thought was possible a few years ago: they pledged $1.5 million dollars in one day. Nobody has any money for an unneeded project. If it is a good and needed project that everybody is behind, the money will be there! Most of the money for the revitalization of the Cathedral is coming from the community around us; about 75% of it from non-Catholics! We started the Cathedral Heritage Foundation. Why not start an Alumni of St. Theresa Organization? They are all over the country and they carry a deep love for this place with them. Your plans must be good, serious, clear and well presented. You may have to hire a competent parish staff person to organize and run it. You only get one shot at something like this: no tacky, half-baked effort will do! With this kind of organization, your “homecoming picnic” could expand and attract people from everywhere. It could be an occasion not only to celebrate your history, but also the progress you are making in accomplishing your new dream!

(3)  Any plan must flow from getting back in touch with your fundamental mission and purpose. The Sisters of Charity have given you a seed gift. They have given you the school and the convent. It would be a tragedy if all you did with it was rent it out for a few measly bucks just to maintain the status quo! Before you decide what to do with these buildings, go back and take a good, hard look at your mission and purpose as a parish. Start with Sunday worship. It has to be good. It has to be of the highest quality: music, preaching and environment. Secondly, you surely know that today adults as well as children need good religious education. Regular education is now being taken care of by the County. Thirdly, look around at the needs that are not being met. The elderly are living longer and retiring earlier. You may need a Senior Citizen Center. More and more mothers are working than ever before. You may need a Child Care Center. You could even employ some of your retired people to help staff it. Government money is available for such projects. Whatever you do, develop your plan by looking at the Gospel and then looking not at the needs of the past, but the needs of the present.  The parish hall could become a Senior Citizens Center. The school could become a first-class Family Life and Education Center for adults as well as children. Rent it out when you’re not using it. People in Louisville are always looking for quiet, peaceful spots for youth retreats, cursillo, marriage encounters. The convent could become a day care center for children of working parents. The Meade-Breck Center could still meet the recreational needs of the community! This beautiful old church could continue being the spiritual heart of the whole operation! Get a master plan. Call it ST. THERESA 2000. If you can’t implement all your dreams at once, do it in phases! But have a plan - have something to work toward!

(4)  One of the problems of the church today is that we have young people with no memory and old people with no vision. Teach the young the facts about their religious heritage. Why not designate one room for a nice little museum? Collect and preserve your history before it is lost or destroyed. If it’s good enough, people will come to this historic spot from everywhere to see it!  One exhibit could be your master plan for the future: sketches, blueprints, charts and, of course, a box for donations. This will ensure that you keep your eyes fixed on the future, as well as the past! Such a museum could move some to remember the parish in their wills. It might move some visitor to make a bequest! It will make you proud of yourselves! It might even generate some of that old-fashioned energy that created this parish to begin with!

(5)  This parish has produced 8 priests, 38 sisters and 1 religious brother. We could use some more - right away if you don’t mind!

Conclusion

Your future really depends on you and nobody but you! What you do in the next few years will make you or break you. When we began our revitalization project at the Cathedral, I adopted this quote from St. Francis and gave it to everybody I could: “Trust God. Believe in yourself. Dare to dream!” Maybe a better one for you is a quote from St. Theresa herself: “Anyone who realizes that he or she is favored by God will have the courage necessary for doing great things.” Print it up and stick it on everything! 

The people who started St. Theresa had a vision. Times have changed. Needs are different. St. Theresa is at a crossroads. With the school closing and the priest shortage, St. Theresa needs to renew its vision. the problem with a long history is that people tend to start taking it for granted, tend to think it will go on forever by itself. It never has gone on by itself. It has been kept alive by dedicated, faith-filled, generous and imaginative people. My hope is that another generation will step forward and look forward, preserving the old dream by creating new traditions that will last for another 175 years. Thank you! 

BELOW: The old school, St. Teresa Academy


FATHER KNOTT ANNOUNCES MAJOR GIFT

At His 50th Priesthood Celebration at St. Theresa

May 23, 2021

Two years ago, around the time of my 75th birthday, I started updating my “end of life” plans as mandated by the Archbishop and started to think of the things I should do to “get my house in order” so I could file them away and get on with living what’s left of my life. 

I knew I could be buried in the priest section of Calvary Cemetery in Louisville with fellow priests, with Archbishop Kelly with whom I lived, with Archbishop McDonough who ordained me and with Bishop Maloney who confirmed me. However, I had already decided that I would much rather “come home” and be buried with you! 

With the help of my brother, Mark, we had my tombstone designed and installed next to Father Johnson and Father Buren. At the top, summarizing what I think of my 50 years as a priest, I put these words. SIMPLY AMAZED – FOREVER GRATEFUL. They summarize exactly how I feel today - SIMPLY AMAZED – FOREVER GRATEFUL! At the bottom, summarizing the big circle back home that I will have made when all of this is over, I put the words. HOME AT LAST!

Being a year late, I have had a lot of time to think about this celebration. I kept remembering what I did at the celebrations I have had when I have left my parish assignments in the past. I have always tried to resist taking gifts from the parishes I leave and have tried to embrace the practice of giving them gifts of gratitude! Today, I want to continue that tradition. I want to tell you about the gifts I brought you today – one of which I have been working on, and saving toward, for the last twenty years. In my spare time during those years, I have taken on extra work so that I could give most of what I made to charities. Besides my full-time jobs, in my spare time, I have presented over 75 parish missions in three states, published 37 books and given well over 150 priest retreats and convocations in 9 countries. Being quite a bit obsessive/compulsive by nature, my motto has been “Anything worth doing is worth over-doing.” 

From all these Parish Missions, priest convocations, book publications, second jobs and not taking vacations, I have made some extra money - most of which I have donated to projects at Saint Meinrad Seminary and projects down in the Caribbean Missions. I am happy to tell you today that I have not given it all away. I have saved some of it for you. 

So today, in the name of myself and Father Bud, in honor of both of our 50th priesthood ordinations, I would like to offer you one check representing some of the money I made speaking and writing and another check that I took out of my retirement savings. If I continue to live simply, with my nursing care policy, Social Security check and diocesan pension, I will have enough left to take care of myself. I have always had Saint Theresa in my Will, but I realized recently that I wanted to give it to you now - while I am alive.  There is no joy, for me, in holding it in the bank! As Cardinal George of Chicago said before he died, “The only things we will take with us when we die, is that which we have given away.” I am praying that my gift will inspire two or three more people, with roots here and who love this place as much as I do, who are able and willing to join me in making a major gift to this project! 

I shared some of these project ideas when I preached at Saint Theresa’s 175th Anniversary Celebration 28 years ago, I shared them with the Saint Theresa-Saint Mary Magdalen’s Men’s Club 16 years ago. Recently, I invited Father Bud to join me in this dream because we both love you, and feel loved by you, and we want to give something back in our senior years.

I met with Father George and Deacons Beavin and Sears several weeks ago. Father Ray and I made a presentation to the Parish Council on May 6. In a nutshell, here is what we proposed to them and I would like to reveal today.

I asked Father Ray, who is so good in his attention to individuals and details, to lead us in establishing the SAINT THERESA HERITAGE PARTNERS, We hope these “alumni” from everywhere will offer you, who are doing such a good job of keeping the parish going, some additional help in preserving, caring for and expanding the spiritual heritage of Saint Theresa Church.

Using the funds that I am offering you, using my doctorate degree in “parish revitalization” and using my experience in several church renovation projects, I am offering to lead you in the restoration of our old school building and turning it into a new SAINT THERESA FAMILY LIFE CENTER to serve all the age groups of this parish and the wider community. My hope is that we can provide you with some first-class programing spaces to do that.


Now the Parish Council will, of course, need to get final approval from the Archdiocese for our renovation plans.  Friends, no matter what, I want to remind you that there is no rescue party out looking for you!  To save this place, you are going to have to do something to save yourselves! Surely, you already realize, and COVID has made it worse, that we are about to lose the next generation if we do not try to do something like this to intervene pretty soon.

As evangelist Joyce Meyer said, “You can be pitiful or you can be powerful, but you can’t be both!” I used to ask to the people of the Cathedral almost every Sunday when I started their $22,000,000.00 revitalization process, “Who said we only get one “golden age?” We ended up creating a second “golden age” at a time when most people thought revitalizing that parish was hopeless! To help that struggling Cathedral parish with such an ambitious project, we started the Cathedral Heritage Foundation to secure the help of the surrounding community. Since we were revitalizing our role in serving the whole community, not just Catholics, they ended up donating 67% of that $22,000,000.00!

The similarities between these two places are many. I am proud to have had a foot in both! Father Badin, the first priest ordained in the US, gathered both congregations: St. Theresa in 1805 and St. Louis (the original name for the Cathedral Parish) in 1806. St. Theresa Parish has had three churches, the first of which was built in 1818. The Cathedral Parish has had three churches, the first of which was built in 1811. Bishop Flaget, our very first bishop, consecrated both of our second churches: St. Theresa in 1827 and St. Louis in 1831. Bishop Spalding consecrated both of our third churches: Cathedral in 1852 and St. Theresa in 1861. The famous frontier architect, William Keely, designed both St. Theresa Church and the Cathedral

My friends, let us start today creating that new “golden age” here at Saint Theresa! We cannot go back and reclaim the past,” but we can go forward and claim the future!  An infusion of money can help, but that alone will not work unless we all believe and work as if we believe that this renewal is possible. In this new partnership between present and former parishioners, I believe, with faith and effort, our future can be at least as bright as our past, maybe even more so, even during times like these!  Personally, I am interested in the revitalization of the faith in this community, more than just a restoration of its buildings. I want to see a revival of the Catholic faith today, not a just museum to the faith as it used to be! Know that Father Ray and I are making our gifts and talents available to you as we walk into that future together! We are excited about all this, but this dream will not happen unless you become excited about it too!

Fr. Bob Ray and Fr. Ron Knott

For more information, contact:
Fr. Knott, jrknott@bellsouth.net or 1-502-303-4571.
Fr. Bob Ray: 502-216-9290 or  rray@twc.com

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