Father Bill McNeeley, Pastor
Fr. Bill McNeeley grew up in Norris, TN. Before entering seminary, he served in the United States Navy and earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. He and his wife Sherri were married in 1980 and are the parents of three grown children and four grandchildren. In 1985 he received a Master of Divinity degree and was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church.
Over the next fifteen years as an Anglican priest, Fr. Bill became disillusioned with the moral and theological decline in the Episcopal Church, and by the year 2000, he could not recognize the church in which he was raised. Nevertheless, he always had a hunger for the history and theology of the early church. He took annual retreats at the Abbey of Gethsemani and felt increasingly drawn to the Catholic Church. One day he checked out a copy of The Catechism of the Catholic Church from the local library. That evening, after reading for about 15 minutes, he looked over to his wife, Sherri, and said, “Hey! This is what they were supposed to teach us in seminary!” Over the next couple of weeks, he read the whole Catechism and was hooked.
In October 2000, he resigned from his parish in middle Tennessee and moved his family home to Knoxville. He was received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2001. Over the next several years, he continued his studies and pursued the “Pastoral Provision,” a process for ordained ministers of protestant churches to be reconciled with the Catholic Church. Finally, on March 21, 2005, his petition for ordination was presented by Cardinal Ratzinger to St. John Paul II on their last work session before the Holy Father died. The petition was approved, and Fr. Bill was ordained a Catholic priest on June 3, 2007.
Since then, he has served in several parishes in the Knoxville area, most recently at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Alcoa, where he was an associate pastor for eight years. Next, he was assigned as pastor of Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville, where he enjoys the most fruitful and rewarding ministry of his career. “Being at Holy Ghost Church has been like restoring a beautiful antique. A little hard work and collaboration with the lay leadership have paid off nicely.” In addition to repairs to the roof and upgrading the sound and camera systems, the side altars for Sts. Mary and Joseph were painted with gold leaf décor added that enhanced the beauty of our church as it has our faith in Jesus Christ. Under Fr. Bill’s leadership Holy Ghost Church continues to support home school ministry and serve as a haven for “All things traditional.” One can see this in its music and liturgy, including the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. The parish is also very diverse, including a sizeable and very active Hispanic community and even a small but growing African community that celebrates Mass monthly in their native Swahili.
With the centennial of our present church building just five years away, Fr. McNeeley’s goal is to make necessary improvements to church facilities to better position Holy Ghost for the next 100 years of ministry.
Father Valentin Iurochkin, Associate Pastor
Fr. Valentin grew up in Russia and was baptized at the age of 14 when he heard the call to the priesthood. His family left Russia in 1997 to live in the United States. They currently live in Michigan.
At the age of 18 he entered the novitiate in Tajikistan (Dushanbe). A year later he started seminary in Italy, studying philosophy, Latin and Greek languages. He speaks six languages: Russian, Ukrainian, Italian, Spanish, English, Chinese (Mandarin), Greek and Latin.
In 2014 he was sent to Ukraine to help at the minor seminary during the invasion of Crimea. Every two months he was supposed to leave the country for Belarus. At the night of the invasion he was crossing the border of Belarus and Ukraine when the train he was on was stopped by the Ukrainian border patrol at 2:00am. The military searched the train with German Shepherds. Father Valentin was the only Russian on the train and he barely escaped deportation back to Belarus, as his paperwork was in order.
In 2015 Fr. Valentin went to Argentina to study Spanish. He returned to Italy that year and at the end of the year he was sent to the Philippines and Taiwan to study English and Chinese. He was trained to be a priest for the underground Church in mid-China, prior to his ordination.
In 2018 he was ordained as a deacon and a year later as a priest on March 25, 2019 in the Philippines. In July 2019 he obtained an indult from Pope Francis in order to take a leave of absence from his Argentinian community.
He met with Bishop Stika in 2019 and was invited by him to serve in the Diocese of Knoxville. He was assigned to Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga, where he served as Parochial Vicar until being reassigned to Holy Ghost in February 2024. He’s looking forward to serving our English, Latin and Spanish communities and to playing piano recitals for our parishioners.
Deacon Gordy Lowery
Deacon Gordy Lowery and his wife, Fran, are natives of Geneva, NY. He was transferred to Tennessee in 1995 with Philips Consumer Electronics. He converted to the Roman Catholic faith in 2001. Deacon Gordy was ordained on June 9, 2007. Before his transfer to Holy Ghost Church in August 2014, he served at Holy Trinity Church in Jefferson City, TN
He graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science Degree. He later went on to the University of Tennessee and received a Master of Science degree in Human Resource Development.
Deacon Gordy and Fran have been married 47 years. They have two children and one grandchild.
Deacon Gordy and Fran are coordinators for the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Deacon Gordy is the spiritual director of the Legion of Mary both for the adults of Holy Ghost Church and the children at St. Joseph School. Deacon Gordy and Fran are also involved in RCIA, visiting newly weds, visiting recent widows/widowers. Deacon Gordy is currently leading the Hispanics in Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on the 4th Tuesday of each month.
Deacon Gordy and Fran are so happy to be part of the spiritual family at Holy Ghost Church.
Deacon Scott Maentz
Deacon Scott was raised in Holland, Michigan. Career moves brought him to many places around the country and he settled in Tennessee in 2001 with his wife Christine. They have five children and fourteen grandchildren.
Deacon Scott was ordained a permanent deacon in June 2016 at Sacred Heart Cathedral by Bishop Richard F. Stika.
His primary ministry is to the homeless, heading up the Knoxville Bridge Ministry for the diocese, which serves a hot lunch monthly at the Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM) outdoor courtyard in downtown Knoxville. You can learn more about Deacon Scott at his website, deaconscott.com, where he publishes his homilies and other items of interest to him.
Deacon Dave Venesky
Deacon Dave is originally from Syracuse New York where he attended a Catholic grammar school and served as an altar boy at Sacred Heart Basilica on the west side of town. He graduated from LeMoyne College, a Jesuit college located in Dewitt, NY, in 1970 with a degree in Business administration with a minor in accounting. After graduation, he worked for a large blue chip corporation in the states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.
Deacon Dave worked for Syracuse University as the Business manager of Syracuse University Bookstores for twenty years before leaving to start his own business. He started a company that sold and serviced major home appliances and water heaters, furnaces, and central air conditioners for twenty-five years. During this time Deacon Dave volunteered for the Diocese of Syracuse and supplied kitchen and laundry appliances for several parishes, priests and nuns of the diocese. He was a member of St. Johns Church in Liverpool, NY, serving as a lector, eucharistic minister and performed building maintenance and repair for over thirty-four years.
Deacon Dave married his best friend, Mary, fifty one years ago and they have two children. In 2008 he was semi-retired and moved to East Tennessee. He served as a lector, eucharistic minister, and food pantry associate at Immaculate Conception Church. He is also Third Degree Knight in Council 645, serving as its treasurer for several years, before entering formation to the diaconate in 2017.
Deacon Dave was ordained in June 2022 and assigned to Holy Ghost as our third permanent deacon. He and Mary are thrilled to be here.
Deacon Bob Hunt
Deacon Bob Hunt is originally from Northern Virginia. During college, he took a break from his studies to join the Claretian Volunteers, a volunteer organization sponsored by the Claretian Fathers. After a year serving a parish in the bootheel of Missouri, he made his way to Memphis, Tennessee to work for a summer at Joseph Leppert Catholic Worker. Deacon Bob decided to stay in Memphis, where he met and wed his beautiful wife, Margaret, in 1989. They have three daughters and one grandchild with another on the way.
Deacon Bob graduated with a BA in History and in Philosophy and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Memphis State University. He found his real calling, however, as a Registered Nurse, earning a diploma in nursing from Methodist Hospital School of Nursing. Deacon Bob has worked as an RN for almost thirty years, mostly in pediatrics but currently in behavioral health.
Deacon Bob has been teaching the Catholic faith for over forty years, as a CCD teacher, a teacher at a Catholic high school, an Adult Faith Formation instructor, an RCIA team member, or a homeschooling father. He writes a monthly column for the East Tennessee Catholic and a blog entitled Thoughts and Prayers for the Faithful with a link on the website of the Knoxville Diocese. Deacon Bob was ordained in June 2022. He looks forward to assisting with liturgies and with catechesis at Holy Ghost.