In 1916, when the E.I. Dupont Company erected a small town at Old Hickory to house workers for their powder plant, the small Catholic population worshiped in the town Community Center. After the Armistice in 1918, Dupont dismantled their plants and most of the workers left.
Naming the Mission
Dupont returned in 1923, and the church showed a census of 13 households. Services were held in various buildings with priests coming from Nashville to serve workers and their families working at the Dupont plant. By 1942, Bishop William L. Adrian, Bishop of Nashville, gave boundaries to this fledgling community, and the mission was named St. Stephen. The Dupont Company loaned the congregation the use of a house at 1710 Riverside Drive for services with priests and altar boys coming each Sunday from Holy Name Church. The company later initiated a redevelopment program and donated land on 15th Street and Hadley Avenue for the growing Catholic population.
The First Pastor
In 1953, a new church was built at a cost of $35,000, with some help from the Catholic Extension Society. Fr. James Hitchcock was the first priest designated as pastor in 1956. Pastors after him included Fr. William Stelling, Fr. Daniel Clements, and Fr. Owen Campion.
In the early 1970’s, the parish needed a rectory and education building. By 1975, there were 60 families attending Mass: 28 from Old Hickory and the balance from Hermitage, Mt. Juliet, and Donelson. This meant that about half the attendance came from outside the parish area. Because the Hadley Avenue property was landlocked, and the area around Mt. Juliet and Hermitage was rapidly being developed, the search for a new location began. The present site of 16 acres was purchased on Lebanon Road, in Wilson County, from the Baltz family. There was a farm house and a barn on the property. The house was renovated to serve as the priest’s residence and was also the site of religious education classes on Sunday and meetings during the week. The barn was cleaned out, refurbished, and became the new worship space. With Fr. Bob Roeser, a Salvatorian, as the first permanent pastor, St. Stephen took on the role of a true parish, with a full schedule of Masses and a Parish Council. The first building project on the property was the design, planning, and implementation of the Holy Family Center, which included offices, classrooms, and an assembly hall with kitchen. This was completed in 1980 at which time there were 350 registered families. The cost was $535,000.
The house on the property was old and in need of more renovation and repairs. The pastor and Parish Council agreed to sell the house, have the buyer move it, and rent another house in an adjoining neighborhood until a new dwelling could be built.
By 1984, Fr. Michael Johnston was the pastor, and the parish had increased to 500 families. With the growth of the parish, the barn could no longer accommodate the crowds at the Masses. The difficult decision was made to take down the barn and erect a new worship space, one that could seat 500 people at each service. So, another building project was begun with the demolition of the barn and construction of a worship space. Cost of this project: $627,000. Weekend Masses during this 13 month period were held in the Hall of the Holy Family Center.
The New Rectory
In the spring of 1987, a house bordering our property came up for sale and it was purchased as the home for the priests. This was an integral piece of property for the parish. The 3 bedroom, 2100 square foot house seemed to fit our needs for a long time to come. Cost: $98,000.
In 1991, Fr. David Perkin was assigned as our new pastor.
With the continued growth and development of West Wilson County and the Hermitage area, our parish also continued to grow. By 1998, the parish census showed the parish had 850 families. Also around this time the interest rates on our loans decreased and the parish paid off all three debts. The parish started to look toward the future and what would be demanded of a suburban church in the 21st century. The corner lot of Lebanon Road and Brookhollow Drive had been on the market for a while and was climbing in price. The Finance Board and pastor, Fr. Pat Kibby, decided that if the parish would ever need to expand, this property would be vital. The corner lot was purchased for $125,000 and increased our grounds to 20 acres.
After this loan was paid, attention was placed on our buildings and grounds. Prior to this, only repairs were made to the buildings. Starting in 1999, a large renovation project was begun to improve the aesthetics of the land and buildings. A terraced courtyard was added to adjoin the Holy Family Center and the worship space with outdoor seating and meeting spaces. The assembly hall, the sight of many functions, was given a rejuvenation, and the kitchen was completely redone with new cabinets and appliances. The classrooms were completely refurbished, and several rooms had new walls installed. Mechanically, almost all heating and air units were replaced. A new parking lot adjoining the upper lot with the exit drive was constructed, and the whole parking area was repaired and resurfaced. A new playground was added and improvements made to the Prayer Garden.
Also important to note in 1998, a fourth Mass was added on Sunday evening to accommodate the newly formed Life Teen group. This ministry, geared toward teenage youth, has its own liturgy and band and a special “Life Night” following Mass. Because of our continued growth, the parish is always on the lookout for space needs. When the house at 200 Brookhollow came on the market, it was purchased as the new residence for our priests. The house at 108 Brookhollow was converted for use as a new Parents’ Day Out facility on the upper level and retreat / meeting space on the lower level. In 2004 the house at 204 Brookhollow went up for sale. The parish purchased this property to be used for visiting clergy and meeting space for parish groups.
A New Church Building
In 1999, Father Steve Wolf became our new pastor. Around this time our diocese as well as the nation began to experience the decline in priestly vocations. Also, our weekend Masses were once again almost at capacity. A Feasibility Task Force was established to look at our parish, diocese, and the community at large to see if a new church building was something we needed and could afford. The group consensus was that with the growth in Mt. Juliet and the possibility that some day we may not be able to have four Masses on a weekend, a new church building was indeed inevitable. A Master Site Plan was established followed by the design of a new church building. In 2002, there were 1060 registered families.
Breaking ground for the new building took place in the fall of 2006, and clearing of the land came soon after that. The new church building was dedicated on February 2, 2008, with Bishop David Choby as the celebrant. The building was designed by Fowlkes and Associates and American Constructors constructed the building at a cost of $5.5 million. The new church connects with the old church by way of a vestibule containing a large entry space, two sacristies (one for the sacristans and one for the clergy), and two restrooms. The main space, where all of out liturgical celebrations take place, is roughly 11,900 square feet and will comfortably seat 1000 people at one time. The Adoration Chapel adjoins the church on the north side and is open 24 hours a day.The old church space is available for parish activities, especially on Sunday mornings for coffee and donuts, the Stewardship Fair, Art Fair, and other functions.
Moving Forward in Faith
In July, 2009, Father Pat Kibby was reassigned as pastor of our parish.
We are proud to be a part of this vibrant community of 1,422 families. We have beautiful, well-maintained buildings and grounds and hope that in the next year we can be debt-free. The people of St. Stephen have a sense of belonging to a welcoming, caring, and active community as evidences in our many parish ministries.
The Holy Family Center
The Holy Family Center was designed by Thomas & Miller Architects and constructed in 1979. The upper level contains parish offices, the parish library, and eight religious education classrooms.
In the lower level is the Assembly Hall, a versatile gathering area used for meals, receptions, and meetings; the Lounge, which adjoins the Hall; and the parish kitchen. Parishioners can rent the Assembly Hall for private gatherings. For more information contact the parish office at (615) 758-2424.