For the first time in 120 years, the Knights of Columbus moved its state convention out of Indianapolis this year. A Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend chapter took home a faith award, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades raised up in faith the hearts of those in attendance during a memorial Mass celebrated Saturday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Bishop Robert J. McClory of the Diocese of Gary concelebrated the Mass.
Moderate wind and rain marked the three days of the 120th Annual Meeting of the Indiana State Council of the Knights of Columbus at Grand Wayne Center in downtown Fort Wayne, April 9-11. The atmosphere inside the convention, however, was warm. From registration to dinner events, the Knights, along with family and friends, were visibly proud and appreciative to be gathering together, many donning Knights of Columbus-themed masks.
Bishop Rhoades shared his gratitude to be able to be with the attendees at the cathedral, just a short walk away, during the eucharistic liturgy.
The bishop spoke in his homily about what inspired Knights of Columbus founder Father Michael J. McGivney and what inspires the Knights of Columbus to live the charity that is at the heart of the Christian life.
“The answer is ‘our faith,’” he declared. “The charitable works of the Knights and of the Church are inspired by our faith in Jesus and His Resurrection.”
He turned to the Gospel reading on Thomas the Apostle initially doubting Christ’s resurrection before proclaiming his faith boldly.
“Our Lord in His mercy invited Thomas to put his finger in the wounds in His hands and to put his hand in the wound in His side. After he did so, St. Thomas made what is probably the greatest statement of faith in the whole New Testament. He said: ‘My Lord and my God.’
“Since I was a child, I was taught by my mother to say those words silently in my heart at every Mass when the priest holds up the Sacred Host at the consecration. I still do.”
Proclamation of the faith was not only central to the bishop’s homily but also to an award presented to a local council of the Knights during the convention.
The Warsaw Knights Council No. 4511 won a state service award for best faith program of the year. The award was in recognition of four separate prayer rallies that took place at the parish from October through January.
On Oct. 4, along a state highway, the Warsaw Knights prayed the rosary and individual prayers for the protection of all babies and their mothers. Less than a week later, at the Kosciusko County Courthouse, they prayed for the safety of the unborn, for families, and for the institution of marriage.
In December, returning to the courthouse, they prayed and sang Christmas carols for the protection of families, the institution of marriage and in celebration of the birth of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In January, for the sake of all life, they prayed another rosary and heard from four ministers, including Father Jonathan Norton of the Sacred Heart Parish in Warsaw.
Addressing the Knights later Saturday evening, at the convention, Bishop Rhoades began by thanking the Knights on behalf of all the bishops of Indiana for all they do throughout the state to serve the Church and to assist the bishops in their mission to live and spread the faith, to serve parishes and to build up the body of Christ in the five dioceses of the state. “Your service of the Gospel in this portion of the vineyard of the Lord is a great blessing to us bishops,” he told them.
Recounting some of the vast charitable organization’s history, he noted that the Knights of Columbus spread to Indiana in 1899, just 17 years after it began in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882. Its holy founder, Blessed Father McGivney, who died at the young age of 38 in 1890, would not have imagined that the order he founded would have expanded to the Midwest so quickly, he said, let alone throughout the United States and the world in succeeding years.
“I often think of how the Knights of Columbus are like the mustard seed in the Gospel. Our Order, now with over 2 million members, continues to be a force for good in countless ways, a fraternity animated by Christ’s love, that continues to respond to new challenges with the faith, love and creativity of Blessed Michael McGivney and the thousands of Knights that have gone before us. … I pray his beatification inspires us all to be re-energized with his vision and motivated by his example of holiness.”
The Knights began in Indiana in 1899, he continued. There were other Catholic fraternal orders in Indiana and around the country before the Knights, but within a few decades, the Knights of Columbus far outpaced the others.
“The Knights of Columbus began because of the pastoral concern of a holy priest,” said the bishop. “He saw the suffering of his people. He saw young men hurting and straying from the Church. He saw the ill effects on their families.”
The roots of the organization Father Givney founded were strong, he said.
“We must stay connected to those roots, to the principles and ideals of the Order and to the vision and holy example of Father McGivney. The roots are the Gospel of Jesus, faith in Jesus, active membership in His Church, active charity, care for the poor and needy, spiritual and material solidarity, and real and deep fraternity as Catholic brothers in Christ.”
Speaking for himself, as one of the bishops of Indiana, Bishop Rhoades shared his hopes for the Knights of Columbus in the midst of the challenges the Church faces today. The first, “in the midst of division and polarization in the Church and society,” was their unity in fidelity to the Church and her teachings.
“I am so grateful for the loyalty of the Knights: your solidarity with us bishops and with your priests: your commitment to the Gospel of life – all you do protect human life and dignity; your solid defense of life in the womb, your service to the poor, the disabled, and the elderly. I so admire the Knights’ solidarity with our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and around the world, your dedication to religious freedom, and your concern for, and solidarity with, our immigrant brothers and sisters.”
He challenged the Knights present to provide strong outreach the newest group of immigrant Catholic men, mostly from Latin America, and their sons and grandsons.
“There is an urgent need, in my opinion, to significantly grow and increase K of C Hispanic membership. As you know, Latinos are our fastest-growing Catholic population in Indiana and in our nation. Let’s remember our roots: immigrants, particularly Irish immigrants. Father McGivney was a son of Irish immigrants. The first Knights were immigrants or sons of immigrants.”
In closing, he expressed gratitude to the Knights of Columbus in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for their strong support of seminarians and priests and of priestly and religious vocations.
“Let’s move forward strongly connected to our roots and to the vision of Father McGivney! May we strive to imitate his virtues, his faith, his love, his hard and energetic work, and his fidelity to Jesus and the Church!”
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