Paraclete now part of Diocese of Knoxville

Becky and Karl Fillauer

From The East Tennessee Catholic, May 6, 2012
Book, gift store will be a nonprofit ministry after gift from Fillauers By Bill Brewer 

The Paraclete, a staple for Catholics across the diocese for books and gifts, is now part of the Diocese of Knoxville.

The diocese took ownership of the retail outlet April 1 when Karl and Becky Fillauer, who started the Paraclete in May 1987, made it a gift to the diocese.

The property transfer includes a commercial building on Erin Drive the Fillauer family gave to Sacred Heart Cathedral in December.

Discussions between the Fillauer family, longtime Sacred Heart parishioners, and the diocese on the future of buildings the family owns adjacent to Sacred Heart began about a year ago, according to Father David Boettner, Sacred Heart pastor.

The store, originally located on Broadway near the Fourth and Gill neighborhood, relocated to 417 Erin Drive off Northshore Drive in 1990, shortly after the diocese formed.

“Karl Fillauer’s vision for The Paraclete was as a ministry,” said Father Boettner. “He was participating in a lay leadership program and saw it as a way to enhance faith. Originally, his intention was running the store as a way to reach out to Catholics and those of other faiths.”

In gifting The Paraclete to the diocese, the Fillauer family wanted to ensure that the store would continue to be a resource for Catholics in East Tennessee, Father Boettner said.

“Karl is a very successful businessman in his own right and this was not one of the ventures he saw as a profit-generating business, but rather as a ministry,” Father Boettner said.

Mr. Fillauer and his family own and operate Fillauer Companies, a leader in the production of orthotic and prosthetic products.

Mr. Fillauer said hard work by those involved in starting and operating the business has contributed to The Paraclete’s success and growth through the years, noting that for many years the store required financial assistance but now enjoys positive cash flow.

“The name of the store was suggested by Father Francis Chaisson to be The Paraclete. The word Paraclete means the Holy Spirit but it also means ‘called to the side of’ and has been translated as ‘counselor,’ ‘comforter,’ and ‘consoler,’ all of which apply to The Paraclete ministry,” Mr. Fillauer said.

“The Fillauer family, including our sons Michael and David, are very pleased with the transfer of ownership to the Diocese of Knoxville, which will ensure continued growth and stability. We are also hopeful that when people have a choice, they will choose to purchase from The Paraclete instead of buying from a catalog or some other source,” he added.

To operate The Paraclete, the diocese has created a nonprofit organization called Diocese of Knoxville Paraclete Christian Books and Gifts. Serving on the new nonprofit’s board are: Mr. Fillauer; Father Boettner; Monsignor Al Humbrecht, pastor of Holy Spirit Church in Soddy-Daisy; Deacon David Lucheon, finance officer for the Diocese of Knoxville; and Paraclete manager Vonnie Spicer.

Father Boettner said The Paraclete will remain in its present location and the current staff will continue to run it. One change under consideration, according to Father Boettner, is giving the store an Internet presence.

“It’s a new venture for us. We’re excited about working with the staff of The Paraclete,” Father Boettner said. “Any profit from the store will be used to support charity.”

Mrs. Spicer said Paraclete customers won’t see any changes initially, but she anticipates the business will continue to expand, noting that it’s the only Catholic books and gifts store in East Tennessee.

She hopes to increase sales with churches in the diocese. “We would like them to think of us before anyone else,” said Mrs. Spicer, who manages the store with daughter Tricia Sellers.

The mother-daughter management team believes it is important for the store to continue its religious mission.

“The store has truly become a ministry and that’s one of the things that will stay. It will remain a ministry and that’s important,” Mrs. Sellers said.

Spicer has worked in The Paraclete since its inception, starting as a volunteer worker, and said the business succeeds because of the ministry and the fact customers have always been the focal point.

“It’s not about the sale. It’s putting customers on the right path, whether we connect the customer with a specific product, a priest or a novena,” Spicer said. “We are often told how unique this store is.”