We Are Called
Yes, my brother knights. We are called.
From the founding of our order in 1882, our order has been based on three principles: charity, unity and fraternity. We have not wavered from these principles but have developed specific means to meet the challenges each principle presents.
Initially, we were called to perform works of charity for our deceased brothers’ widows and orphaned children. The development of our various insurance programs have, for the most part, taken over this responsibility. As the insurance programs grew, the principle of charity has taken on an expanded focus to include acts of charity for persons not related in any way to members of the order. Including, but not limited to, aid to fellow Christians in Iraq as they try to recover from the scourge of ISIS. And aid to our fellow Knights in Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas as they rebuild from the devastation of last year’s storms.
Yes, we have been called upon to support works of charity far beyond the boundaries of our parish, the diocese and even the church. In addition to works of charity, we have been called to support and defend the church and our faith at all levels from our local parish, our diocese and all the way to and including the Vatican. The Knights have been called upon to furnish support for our Catholic grade schools, high schools and universities as well as the young men and women who attend them.
We are called to defend the unborn as well as the aged and infirm. We have been called upon to support those in training to serve us. The list is huge and continues to grow. The tasks before us are many. Each presents its own challenges and opportunities. None are easy; if they were, there would be no challenge and no need for the Knights to undertake them.
The list of tasks has been with us for a good while. In 1973, the Texas State Council held its annual organizational meeting in Galveston. As with most previous and subsequent organizational meetings, the primary concern appears to have been membership and retention. However, additional topics discussed that weekend included Pro-Life activities, family involvement, church work, youth work, community participation, council activities and charitable projects. We find ourselves years later still challenged by these same topics.
…What can we do to encourage our current members to take a more active part in council activities?
Our council is organized to meet and succeed in accomplishing these many tasks. You all heard the worthy Chancellor call for the 12 committee reports. Each one is focused directly or indirectly on one or more of these tasks.
From the formation of our Order, the primary focus of the Knights of Columbus has been the family. Fittingly, family activities leads the list. As I previously stated, the care of members’ widows and orphans has, for the most part, been taken over by our insurance programs. But support of the members and their families goes beyond monetary support. It includes supporting the needs of the bereaved in the immediate future. That support can be expressed by attendance at the services for the deceased, a word of condolence, an offer to help with driving or possibly a meal for the survivors. Remember your First-Degree lesson – “charity does not consist of gifts of money alone. . .”
Council activities is one way we build the second and third principles of our Order: unity and fraternity. As we work together to achieve a desired goal, we learn to appreciate the skills and knowledge of our brothers. The second and third principles of our Order bring us together as a unified group so that we can undertake the many tasks that challenge us as a council.
Parish activities is how we support our parish. Support of our parish is not limited to money or labor. It includes participation in various other parish activities, as ushers or readers, as Eucharistic ministers and choir members. These are worthy services, but let us not forget teaching in our Faith Formation program, becoming an RCIA sponsor, membership on various parish committees and active participation in other parish activities. Additionally, we need to support the other non-parish organization activities as they also support and meet the needs of the parish and our parishioners.
Youth activities. The youth of our parish are our future. Many will move away after they have grown, but what we do may well decide how they will serve the church and the parish where they will live. Hopefully, they will be replaced by young men and women who themselves were supported by the council in the parish where they grew up.
Community activities. As Knights, we are called to set the example for others to follow. This includes how we work within our community outside the parish. Our support of Duncanville’s program to aid residents in need is an example. The support of our first responders by providing them with the equipment to enjoy a lunch is another.
Seven additional activities have been recognized as having such importance that they have been elevated to an equivalent status: Membership, Retention, Awareness, Pro-Life, health, Knight Hands and Concessions. Each is essential to the health of the council. Together, the 12 outline our council program.
A while ago, Brother Greco loaned me the book, “The Knights of Columbus in Texas 1902 – 1977.” The book was created to report on the first 75 years of the Knights in Texas on the occasion of their Diamond Jubilee. It shows that, over the years, membership in the Texas Knights has had a steady if somewhat sporadic growth with the emphasis shifting from quantity to quality. Retention has had a similar record with the main problem of members losing interest in the activities of the council. During the years 1952-77, there were a few years when more members left the Order than joined. Over the years, several attempts have been made to determine why members decide to leave the Order. Time and time again, the number one cause was a loss of interest. The local council did not meet the expectations of the member, resulting in a lack of interest in council activities.
We currently have a membership of over 240 men. A few of them participate in one or more council activities during the year. Most pay their dues. Roughly 10 percent attend one or more council meetings a year. The problem is two-sided. First, we need to ensure that a potential new member understands what the Knights are about. We cannot expect to meet the expectations of every man of the parish. All men are called, but not all are chosen. Secondly, what can we do to encourage our current members to take a more active part in council activities? One of the reasons given repeatedly for a loss of interest on the part of new members was a feeling of isolation. They felt that they had been welcomed into the council but then ignored by the membership. How can we fix that issue? This feeling of isolation could also contribute to the lack of participation by older members.
One of the reasons given repeatedly for a loss of interest on the part of new members was a feeling of isolation. They felt that they had been welcomed into the council but then ignored by the membership.
There should be no question that each of our 12 activities could be improved. In many cases, that improvement is directly dependent upon more bodies participating in the activity. Membership in the Knights can be a very rewarding experience but, as it has often been pointed out, the rewards of membership are highly dependent upon the effort one puts into the program. Yes, brothers, we are called. And it is time to pick up the challenge to make our council even better than it is.
The Lecturer is appointed by the grand knight to provide both educational and entertaining programs to the council. He is responsible for the ‘Good of the Order’ portion of council meetings. In order to provide members with informative and educational programs, he must be knowledgeable and aware of all council programming. Wendell and wife Connie celebrated their 35th anniversary in March. They have three grown children and seven grandchildren. They left New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They were initially put up by a nephew who lives in DeSoto and decided to make their permanent home here.