Knoxville parish gets a makeover

Amanda Welsh
Then-Archbishop-elect Thomas Zinkula blesses the renovated kitchen at St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville in September as a parishioner looks on.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Cris Schwanebeck enjoys making cinnamon rolls after Mass at St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville. Thanks to new renovations and versatile combi ovens, he can make more than 100 at a time. The improvements enhance parishioners’ ability to meet informally after Mass and get to know each other. The parish recently completed $500,000 worth of renovations to the church building with hopes of making it more accessible, functional and modern.

A group of parish leaders began meeting in 2021 to plan renovations. The outdated kitchen had been on parishioners’ minds for nearly a decade, said Schwanebeck, a parish lay leader. The gas stove had problems lighting and gas leaked into the hall. “We usually shut off the gas line unless it was in use,” he explained. The kitchen often became crowded during events due to the layout of the appliances.

The parish had set aside money from the 2016 sale of two buildings and the subsequent investment income that it generated. The parish’s Knights of Columbus council and Altar and Rosary Society made $35,000 and $40,000 donations, respectively. 


The parish had enough funds to demolish walls in the kitchen/parish hall and start fresh. They purchased two Rational combi ovens with six shelves each. The ovens can bake six different things at one time at different temperatures, Schwanebeck explained. “It’s all computerized.”

Contractors installed an ADA-compliant family bathroom in the parish hall, a storage closet and a pantry. Additional amenities include a dual coffee maker, an island with two sinks, a garbage disposal and new flooring. The Altar and Rosary Society offered input on the color scheme, opting for a neutral palette.

The parish had money to refinish and reupholster pews and replace carpet and flooring in the worship space. Contractors removed some front pews to make room for wheelchairs and shortened a few in the back to allow more room for caskets. The bathrooms near the worship space received upgrades, too: new toilets, touchless bathroom sink faucets and graffiti-proof dividers. An anonymous parishioner donated funds for a new crucifix.

Construction began in fall 2021 and concluded about a year later. Then-Archbishop-elect Thomas Zinkula blessed the crucifix and renovated rooms this past September, a few weeks before his installation as Archbishop of Dubuque.

Longtime parishioner Bev Jones spent many years prepping food in the old kitchen and offered input for the new design and amenities. She was grateful to see the dated, burnt orange countertop replaced with something modern and neutral. When the renovations were complete, her church friends surprised her with a gag gift: a tray made from the old countertop. “Once I started unwrapping, I knew exactly what they’d done,” Jones said. “They had a good laugh and I did, too!”

She used the new kitchen during the parish’s annual spaghetti dinner earlier this year and was able to cut food prep time in half. The rearrangement of appliances made the kitchen feel much larger, she said. Now she’s looking forward to the parish’s fall dinner on Nov. 5, the first since 2019.

Schwanebeck hopes St. Anthony’s updates will help draw people in and make them feel at home.

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