There was the man inspired by the written words of Pope Francis. There was the agnostic professor. And there was the widow of a Baptist preacher.

All of them Tennesseans, and all of them recent converts to one of the world's oldest Christian faiths.

In the South, Catholicism is growing. The Diocese of Knoxville was recently ranked among the top 10 in the nation for its rate of adult conversions.

All Southeast Tennessee Catholic parishes, including Chattanooga's, fall under the umbrella of Knoxville's diocese, one of 195 in the United States. A diocese is a geographic collection of parishes grouped together under the governance of a bishop. And many of the dioceses producing the most converts to the church are right here in the South, according to a recent study by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

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