The Diocese of Knoxville marked the beginning of a new era on Sunday.
Church leaders broke ground on a new Sacred Heart Cathedral. Bishop Richard Stika led the ceremony, along with other prominent leaders of the Catholic Church, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, Cardinal William Levada, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the most senior of the nine congregations of the Roman Curia in the Vatican and Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop Emeritus of Philadelphia.
The church leaders blessed the site and the cornerstone that will be used in construction.
Gov. Bill Haslam, Rep. Jimmy Duncan, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett also attended the groundbreaking.
An outline of the new worship space was painted on the lawn to give parishioners an idea of the size of the new structure. The new cathedral will increase the worship space from 7,500 square feet to 20,000 square feet and expand seating capacity from a little more than 500 to about 1,000.
"It's not only a big day, it's historic. Usually in the life of a diocese you only build one cathedral, when our diocese was created they just took the largest church in Knoxville, which is no longer. So this is the time when our diocese comes together from all across East Tennessee to say we are making a statement this is our home and this is why we are staying at this location," said Bishop Stika.
Site work is already underway for the cathedral. Construction is scheduled to begin in June with an estimated completion of fall 2017.