Friday, April 04, 2008

onward and upward you must press

The Catholic Charities Annual Dinner Gala took place last night in downtown Knoxville. My wife and I had a great time, mainly because there were so many people there that we knew, including Fr. Ragan Schriver who greeted everyone as they arrived. We said a brief hello in the hotel lobby to Bruce Hartmann. I found out today that Bruce is number 39 on BusinessTN's 2008 Power100 list. Had I known last night, I would have congratulated him. Before dinner we had a nice chat with Fr. Eric Andrews near the cheese tray. All three have been my guests on a public affairs radio show over the past two and a half years.

At seven o'clock the crowd moved into the ballroom at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Our seats were at table 26. My wife and I both thought we were losing our minds as we looked for our table. Tables 24, 25 and 27 were all lined up in a row as were the rest of the numbered tables. Eventually we found table 26, out of sequence on the far right of the room. The salads and desserts were already in place at each of the tables. The salads were all the same but the desserts alternated between cheesecake and chocolate cake. People all over the room jockeyed for position so they could sit in front of their preferred dessert.

The after-dinner entertainment was by the Smokyland Sound Barbershop Chorus. The singers walked right past our table on the way to their risers. As soon as I saw them, I secretly hoped they would sing "The Roses of Success" from "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." While the senior members of the group sang their first couple of songs, two others stood against the wall near our table waiting to go on. My wife and I recognized one of them as Jim, a member of the All Saints choir. The two wore tuxedo shirts and bow ties but not the sequined vests that the others had on. At that same time, someone at our table wanted coffee. A helpful priest jumped up and asked Jim to serve our table. We could read Jim's lips as he explained that he was only there to sing.

Fr. Michael Woods interrupted Fr. Ragan's closing remarks to publicly thank him for all his hard work as director of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee. The thanks were delivered roast-style as Fr. Michael teased Fr. Ragan about his vegetarian diet and his casual attire. We learned that Fr. Ragan and several other priests got stranded in Atlanta when their connecting flight to Missouri was canceled. They were supposed to attend the ordination of Bishop Vann Johnston. Speaking of bishops and Knoxville's current lack of one, Fr. Michael jokingly put on a red skullcap during his remarks. When we spoke with him later, he was very relieved to hear that the Vicar General, Monsignor Xavier Mankel had gone home just before the comedy commenced.

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