Bishop Richard Pius Miles was the first Bishop of Nashville, an assignment he did not accept easily. Yet, he would prove that he was the right man for the job. This man on a horse still inspires us and provides a vision for us of what we are responsible for doing.
Bishop Miles obediently accepted the position. He was consecrated bishop in the cathedral of Bardstown on September 16, 1838. Although a bishop, a successor of the apostles, he was still basically a missionary on horseback to a vast diocese of 42,000 square miles, running six hundred miles from northeast to southwest, without a single other resident priest, dependent on the charity of the perhaps three hundred Catholics in his diocese for his very bed, literally without purse or scrip.
Bishop Miles officially took possession of his See on October 14, 1838. Soon thereafter, he set out to visit his diocese, where there was “neither church nor clergyman.” He traveled on a horse to Murfreesboro, McMinnville, Athens, Chattanooga, Winchester, Fayetteville, Columbia, Waynesboro, Celina, Pulaski, Decherd, Memphis, Knoxville, Nashville, and more. He found Catholic families in these places and thus began his work of building the Diocese of Nashville.
He began contacting other dioceses and organizations asking for assistance. He wrote, “where I am left entirely alone to perform all the arduous duties of this hitherto cruelly neglected region, and where so much aid is needed… to repair the evils that have taken root among my poor deserted and scattered flock. I find Catholics in almost every part of the state, many of whom have for many years neglected their duties, and in many instances have lost their faith, for the want of someone to stir them up to a sense of religion. And what can a single individual do,... amidst this general desolation?”
Today, we see the fruits of Bishop Miles’ labors in this diocese with parishes, schools, and many Catholic institutions. Looking into the legends of his travels, we notice that the Bishop Miles Society (as the Catholic Foundation of Tennessee, Inc.), since 1969, has continued his efforts. The members have provided funding for projects in less fortunate areas. In the past 47 years, the society has made grants of $1,831,027 to Catholic entities in the Diocese of Nashville. For some parishes and schools, this support was essential to the success of the projects.
We have provided funding for expansion such as land purchases, church construction, renovations, and more. We have funded projects in Smithville, Dover, McMinnville, Cedar Hill, McEwen, Shelbyville, Centerville, Hohenwald, Lafayette, Cookeville, Fayetteville, Fairview, and Lebanon, to name a few.
Bishop Richard Pius Miles began building our beloved diocese 178 years ago. His successors, most recently Bishop David R. Choby, have continued to build to provide for the faithful by meeting the demands of growth in the diocese today. We also have the future to think about.
Evidence of the anticipated growth of the population in Middle Tennessee is already being seen. Many reports have suggested that counties in our diocese will see continued growth. Where Davidson County expects 21% increase in population by 2025, Rutherford County expects a 75% increase and Williamson County is estimated to grow by 99%! Wilson, Sumner, Dickson, Robertson, Montgomery and more counties all expect increased growth.
Along with this expected growth, we must also remember that nine counties do not have a Catholic “presence”. The Diocese of Nashville does not have a church, mission, or regular presence to provide pastoral care and sacraments to the population in these nine counties.
These are all reasons why the Bishop Miles Society exists and why the work of the membership is so important. Truly the work began by Bishop Richard Pius Miles continues with the guidance of Bishop Choby and the support of the Bishop Miles Society.
The membership of the Bishop Miles Society assists our Bishop by supporting projects that respond to the demands of growth in the Diocese of Nashville. The purpose of the Bishop Miles Society is to encourage donations by benefactors through memberships for the support of funding the acquisition of real estate; the construction of new real property; and additions or improvements to churches, schools and other church property in the Diocese of Nashville.
Most Reverend David R. Choby, D.D., J.C.L. – President
Very Reverend David Perkin, V.G. – Vice-President
Mr. William J. Whalen – Treasurer
Ms. Sandra Jordan – Secretary
Mr. and Mrs. J. Dell Crosslin – Co-Chairs
Mr. and Mrs. Paul Kleine-Kracht – Acting Vice-Co-Chairs
Reverend John Sims Baker – Board Member
Mr. J. Chase Cole – Board Member
Dr. and Mrs. Kent Kyger – Board Members
Dr. and Mrs. H. N. Lovvorn – Board Members
It is our hope that you will find the purpose and mission of the Bishop Miles Society important. New members are always welcome.
Thank you for your dedication to the Bishop Miles Society.
To become a member, or for more information contact:
Sandra Jordan at 615-783-0267 or email: Sandra. Jordan@dioceseofnashville.com