Monsignor Francis Xavier Mankel, a priest whose leadership was instrumental in helping establish the Diocese of Knoxville nearly thirty years ago, died early this past Wednesday morning at the age of 81.

Monsignor Mankel had been battling health issues in recent months and passed away at his home in Knoxville.

Monsignor Mankel’s service to the Catholic Church goes back to an era before the Diocese of Knoxville existed.  He was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Nashville in 1961, and he has been lauded by many Church dignitaries as instrumental in developing the solid foundation the Diocese of Knoxville was built upon when it was created by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

Monsignor Mankel was a Knoxville native, born at St. Mary’s Memorial Hospital on Nov. 8, 1935.  His Knoxville roots and deep personal connection with East Tennessee was often noted by Bishop Richard F. Stika who recalled Monsignor Mankel as one of the “founding fathers” of the diocese.

“I have always enjoyed spending time with him,” Bishop Stika said. “I could bring up any name in the diocese, and sometimes any Catholic name in all of East Tennessee, and he’d say ‘I knew his mommy and I knew his daddy, and his daddy was related to…’ and he goes on with the whole family tree,” Bishop Stika added. “He (was) just a wealth of knowledge of the Catholic Church of East Tennessee.”

A Funeral Mass for Monsignor Mankel was celebrated this past Tuesday, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville.