In February, 1975, Bishop Carroll Dozier of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Memphis, appointed Msgr. William Kleiser to meet with a group in East Memphis about the formation of a new mission parish from the parishes of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Germantown and Holy Rosary in East Memphis. With Msgr. Kleiser serving as the first pastor, Bishop Dozier established the Church of the Holy Spirit as a community of believers attempting to make Jesus Christ present under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The small community of 60 families first celebrated the Eucharist at St. Joseph Hospital East (now St. Francis Hospital) on Park Avenue. When concerns over the overcrowding of the hospital chapel came to the attention of the fire marshals, the community of brothers at Christian Brothers High School offered the service of their auditorium to the young parish. In the summer of 1975, as new appointments were made throughout the diocese, Msgr. Kleiser was appointed to be the new rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Father John Batson, who had been serving as the director of Catholic Charities of Memphis, was appointed to be the new pastor of the community and was charged with building a church for the growing community. One thing that was a concern, was to move the place of worship to an area actually within the parish boundaries, which were set as Poplar Avenue to the north, Interstate 240 to the west, Germantown Parkway to the east, and Winchester Road to the south. It so happened that a new movie theater was being built in the center of the parish boundaries at the corner of Quince and Ridgeway, and so celebrations were moved to the new Balmoral Cinema until a permanent church building could be constructed. On Saturday, July 1, 1978, the first Mass was celebrated in the new church on the 4 1/2 acre site at 2300 Hickory Crest Drive. With the new church building completed, membership doubled during the last six months of 1978 from 200 to 400 families.
In the early 1980s, an additional four acres was acquired, and construction began on the Family Life Center which would house not only a large multipurpose gathering area, but also a large industrial kitchen and individual meeting rooms, classrooms, and nurseries to serve the parish. The Family Life Center was dedicated in September, 1985, to serve not only the parish, but also other Diocesan meetings and organizations as well as the wider community.
In 1992, the parish purchased twenty acres south of the church, to expand the parking lots, provide new athletic fields, and to accommodate a new entrance off of Messick Road. This expansion included the wooded area north of Holmes Park that provides our beautiful “natural stained glass” windows. Also in 1992, Father Batson was named a “Monsignor” by the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, at the request of the Most Reverend Daniel Buechlein, O.S.B., bishop of the Diocese of Memphis, as a very special honor for his many years of faithful service to the Church. In 1994, the parish completed the building of the new Pastoral Office Building to house the ever growing numbers of staff and ministries which serve this very active parish family.
In 1996, after serving as pastor for 19 years and “Batsonizing” many of the parishioners into active ministerial service, Msgr. John Batson retired. In those nineteen years, Fr. Rick Gantert, Fr. Michael Stewart, Fr. Bill Parham, Fr. Joe Tagg, Fr. Pete Wiethe, Fr. Joe Kerrigan, and Fr. Edward Byrnes all served as associate pastors under Monsignor Batson. Father Albert Kirk, who had been serving as pastor of St. Mary Church in Jackson, Tennessee, was named the new pastor by Bishop J. Terry Steib, S.V.D..
In 1999, the parish purchased the property at the far west end of Eastern Avenue in Germantown for the location of the new rectory and sold the rectory property on Hickory Crest Drive. The parish also completed a redecoration of the worship space, the Conference Room and the Family Life Center which was renamed the “Batson Center” in honor of Msgr. John Batson. In 2009, Father Al Kirk was also named a “Monsignor” by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, at the request of Bishop Steib. Although Msgr. Kirk was reluctant to accept the honorary title, he did so with the same humility that had characterized his service to the Church. He did make it clear though, that he would rather be called “Father Al” than “Monsignor Kirk.” In July 2010, the parish again renovated the worship space of the church, this time adding a new pipe organ to our music ministry.
In 2012, after serving as pastor for 16 years, Monsignor Albert Kirk retired and moved to Villa Vianney. In those sixteen years, Fr. Edward Byrnes (1996-2000), Fr. Richard Coy (2000-2003), Fr. Alphonse Carew (2003-2004), and Fr. Mathew Panackachira (2004-present) all served as associate pastors. Msgr. Kirk is still very active in the diocese, serving as chaplain for several organizations, teaching many classes, and helping out many parishes with Mass coverage. Father Michael Werkhoven, who had been serving as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Humboldt, and Saint Matthew Mission in Milan, Tennessee, was appointed the new pastor. Coming into a parish that in its long history has had only three previous pastors, and all three were monsignors, is a daunting task for “Father Mike”, but with a very dedicated staff and the help of Father Mathew who has been here for 10 years, he is up to the challenge.
The Church of the Holy Spirit is a vibrant community, set afire with the love and inspiration of its namesake. The mission and ministry which God has given us is evident in our short but very active history. During 2015, we
have been celebrating our 40th anniversary as a parish! We look at the wonderful insight of our founding members, the dedication of our staff and ministers, and the enthusiasm of the many families who worship and work here. We are truly blessed to be a part of such a “spiritual” community and we look forward to new members joining us as we continue our journey of faith.