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Catholic Community purchases 14.5 acres

The Catholic Community of Unicoi County has plans to build a new foundation in the community with the recent purchase of 14.5 acres of land in the town of Erwin.
Rev. Tom Charters said the location along Mohawk Drive beside of Evergreen Cemetery will serve the Catholic Community positively through helping them establish a place of their own in the future. The purchase of the land, which was finalized on Sept. 28, was made possible through The Catholic Foundation of East Tennessee, Charters said.
“It feels good having the land,” Charters said. “It will be awhile before we put up a building. Our dream right now is to put a multi-purpose building here that would serve us for Mass on Sunday, religious education, office space and classrooms.”
Charters said he is hopeful to see some construction of a church on the property in the next two years, but he said many in the Catholic Community are hoping to see more growth within the year.
“The purpose of this is that there isn’t a Catholic parish here in the county,” Charters said. “The purpose is to establish a Catholic presence here and obviously there is a need because there wouldn’t be 98 people on Sunday and 44 people enrolled in religious education – that says that there is a need here.”
Eventually, Charters said he hopes to see a church structure connect to the multi-purpose building and eventually a soccer field and a living quarters.
“Initially we will probably put up a pavillion-like structure so at least we can come out here and have picnics or church gatherings on the property,” Charters said. “Eventually that building will be enclosed. This is all step-by-step. It takes time.”
Charters said one of the main goals with building a Catholic church in Unicoi County is to bring everyone of the faith together in fellowship.
“The key thing over the next few years to come is to pull people into a community and that’s what’s happening,” Charters said. “People are eager to get involved in this. The people themselves are coming together and creating a Catholic family. They have all been strangers and have not known each other because they had to go to church in different counties.”
Many individuals within the congregation, Charters said, helped locate potential places to invest in for the Catholic Community’s anticipated and continuous growth.
“We had been looking since January,” Charters said. “We started meeting weekly to see what everyone had found.”
Charters said he is surprised by the rate of growth and interest in the Unicoi County Catholic Community to date.
“I didn’t think we would be this far in a year,” Charters said. “We started meeting together as a community on Oct. 23 of last year. We had 37 people coming to mass.”
Charters said the total membership now is at 98 individuals, which includes residents of Unicoi County and also surrounding counties.
“It is growing every week,” Charters said. “We’ve grown steadily each month. I thought there would be about 15 or 20 people when I came.”
Charters said for now the Catholic Community will need to keep relying on the receptive nature of other community- and religion- based groups in the county.
“Fortunately, the Elks Club has been good to us by renting out a space to us and we currently rent out the Armory for our religious education classes,” Charters said. “We’ve also used the Grace United Methodist Church during a couple of occasions throughout the year. They have all been very gracious to us.”

By Kayla Carter
Staff Writer
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