Glenmary priest named Man of the Year

Posted: 12/20/2016

Father Steve Pawelk, pastor of St. Teresa of Kolkata in Maynardville, Tenn., knows what a rare honor it is to be named Union County’s 2016 Man of the Year. The 2010 Religious Congregations and Membership Study showed the 19,000-citizen strong county in East Tennessee had fewer than 350 Catholics. Former recipients of the award included a county commissioner of 29 years and a two-term mayor.

Father Steve has only been in the area for five years. But for many of the residents, it feels like he has always been there.

“We absolutely adore him,” said Chantay Collins, director of the Maynardville Public Library. “He is what all priests should strive to be. He is nonjudgmental and always there to listen at any time. He is one of the good guys.”

Union County’s population being less than 1 percent Catholic makes Father Steve’s honor even more significant. The community has embraced Father Steve and his church, partly because he has become such a cheerleader for Union County causes. Instead of setting up his own food pantry when moving to the area, Father Steve plugged into the existing food pantry.

Union County Children’s Charities has an annual Christmas toy drive, Under the Tree, that benefits 500 needy children. Father Steve said St. Teresa of Kolkata was the first church to set up a table for collections.

“It is not what I have done that has been significant, it is that I have been supporting what the county has been doing,” Father Steve said.

He is an ever-visible presence. In addition to performing in a local dance troupe, Father Steve is a friend of the mayor, and is well known in town. Jeanne Schlagetter, a parishioner at Holy Angels in Sidney, Ohio, recently visited Father Steve on a mission trip and said she could tell a lot about Father Steve’s personality by meeting people in the community.

“You can tell he likes to cut up and he is very approachable,” Jeanne said. “You can tell his heart is in the right place.”

The Union County Business and Professional Organization give the Man and Woman of the Year awards each year. Candidates are nominated anonymously and selected by a committee.