News and Highlights from the Convention
Newtown Heroes Receive First Caritas Awards
The 131st Supreme Convention unveiled a new award to recognize extraordinary works of charity and service. Called the Caritas Award, the honor was bestowed upon Msgr. Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, Conn., and upon Newtown’s St. Virgilius Council 185, represented by Grand Knight Timothy Haas.
“Those we honor, like the Good Samaritan, treated their injured and suffering neighbors, classmates and friends with mercy and love,” said Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, who conferred the award at the convention’s States Dinner.
Last December, the nation and the world watched in horror as a devastating elementary school shooting unfolded in Newtown that claimed the lives of 26 residents, most of them young children. In the heartbreaking work that began on Dec. 14, 2012, the day of the shootings, Msgr. Weiss and the Knights came together to offer spiritual and material support to the community, the victims and their families.
“We saw a great darkness, we saw evil visit our land,” Msgr. Weiss recounted, as he accepted the award, “but we saw light quickly overcome that darkness and goodness quickly overcome the evil. I want to thank all of you for the prayers that we received.… We realized that we were part of something bigger than ourselves; we were part of a universal Church. And your support and your continued prayers for us have made a difference in the lives most deeply impacted by this horrible tragedy.”
The first priority in the aftermath of the shooting was spiritual, and St. Virgilius Council responded swiftly. In a matter of hours, a prayer network was created that asked people to say a minimum of three Hail Marys for the victims and their families; the first responders and teachers; and the Newtown community. With the help of K of C websites, the effort gained international attention; more than 105,000 people signed up, offering a total of more than 3.25 million prayers.
The Knights also served as ushers at eight funerals, mostly for children, and helped in the parish when it was overwhelmed with messages of condolence, the arrival of gifts from across the country, and other logistical challenges.
Caroline Previdi, one of the children killed, had been saving money to help with the council’s annual Christmas toy drive for children in need. In her honor, council members raised more than $70,000 for toys.
The new award was established earlier this year by a vote of the Knights of Columbus Board of Directors and will be conferred upon future recipients when merited.
Order Takes Root in Ukraine and Lithuania
As announced in the supreme knight’s annual report, the Order recently established two councils in Ukraine and a round table in Lithuania. This is the Knights’ first international expansion since the Order started councils in Poland in 2006.
Archbishops Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv, Ukraine, and Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, Lithuania, traveled to San Antonio for the 131st Supreme Convention and delivered remarks during the Aug. 7 business session. The Lithuanian ambassador to the United States, Žygimantas Pavilionis, who joined the Knights while serving in Washington, D.C., was also present at the convention.
“Allow me to thank the supreme knight for his decision to expand the Order into Ukraine, which has experienced much persecution,” said Archbishop Mokrzycki. “Thank you for your courage and apostolic zeal. I am happy about the new local councils established in Ukraine, especially in my archdiocese. It is my great hope that the Knights of Columbus will help men and through them their families and parishes to build a community of mutual support and to experience a unity despite our cultural differences.”
The origin of the Order’s expansion to Ukraine goes back to 2005, when Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Lviv, the major archbishop emeritus of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, was invited to the 123rd Supreme Convention in Chicago. Cardinal Husar subsequently inspired nearly 100 Ukrainian men to join the Knights, among them Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv, who was a longtime under-secretary to Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who succeeded Cardinal Husar in 2011.
Archbishop Shevchuk greeted the Supreme Convention from Lviv via video: “We rejoice at becoming part of this international Catholic family of the Knights of Columbus. We are confident that the bond between the Knights and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church will enrich the journey of growth in our faith and serve to evangelize the faithful…. Glory be to Jesus Christ!”
Thanks to the enthusiastic efforts of Archbishop Grušas, a round table has also been established in Vilnius, and the Order is now seeking to establish councils in Lithuania.
In his remarks, Archbishop Grušas said, “I take this opportunity to thank the supreme knight for his initiative, personal interest and assistance in bringing the Order to Lithuania and to all the Knights who worked so hard to make sure that all this came to fruition.”
The archbishop noted that he grew up in the United States, but became more familiar with the Order while serving as military ordinary of Lithuania and “witnessing the [Knights’] excellent work done with and for the military in the United States.”
Annual Awards Session Recognizes Best of 2012-13
Each fraternal year the Supreme Council recognizes individual Knights, as well as councils, assemblies and Squires circles, for outstanding achievement in the areas of charitable outreach, membership growth and retention, fraternal leadership, and insurance sales and service. The Order’s principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism continue to guide all of the Knights’ programs and initiatives, and the recognition engendered in these awards showcases the best examples of these principles in action.
Among the winners at the 2013 Awards Session, including recipients of the International Service Program Awards, were:
• Family of the Year: Joseph and Mary Uchytil of Greenville, Wis., and their children were recognized as the 2013 International Family of the Year. Joseph, who is a member of Msgr. Gehl Council 7895, and his wife are heavily involved in their parish and in home-school organizations. All family members participate in parish life in addition to myriad other activities at church and in the community.
• Church Activity: Marikina Valley Council 6178 in Marikina City, Luzon, for “Sharing Our Faith: Chapel Construction for the Dumagat Ethnic Group.”
• Community Activity: Fairview Council 4044 in Chicopee, Mass., for its 22nd annual community Thanksgiving dinner.
• Council Activity: Father Mathaushek Council 1576 in Union, Mo., for the “Knights of Columbus Journey for Charity Tractor Cruise.”
• Culture of Life Activity: Naperville (Ill.) Council 1369 for its “Celebrate Life Mass and Dinner.”
• Family Activity: Baileyville (Kan.) 13087 for its “Ryan Sextro Family Benefit.”
• Youth Activity (tie): Jesus the King Arab Christian Council 15045 in Markham, Ontario, for its “JerusalemStudents.org” program and Donat Robichaud Council 9178 in Cap-Pelé, New Brunswick, for its “No to Bullying, Yes to Respect” program.
• Leading General Agents: George A. Spinelli of Kansas (281 percent of quota) and Anthony “Tony” W. Swanson of Nebraska (248 percent of quota).
• Leading Field Agents: Justin “J.J.” Deges of the Spinelli Agency of Kansas (655 percent of quota) and Benjamin M. Santo of the Swanson Agency in Nebraska (631 percent of quota).
• Top Recruiter: James R. Stachura Jr. of John F. Kennedy Council 1257 in Eau Claire, Wis., was recognized as the top recruiter for 2012-13 for having signed up 152 new Knights.
• Century Club: Councils that add 100 new members over suspension and withdrawals are eligible for the Century Club Award. This year’s Century Club winner is Mary, Mother of Good Counsel Council 11847 in Marcelo Green Paranaque, Luzon, with 121 new members.
Memorial Mass Features Relic of Blessed John Paul II
Emphasizing Blessed John Paul II’s “strong relationship with the Knights of Columbus,” Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv in Ukraine delivered remarks at the Supreme Convention’s annual Memorial Mass Aug. 8, which featured a special relic of the late pope.
“I believe that [John Paul II] is still close to us and he remains an inspiration for our Order,” said Archbishop Mokrzycki, who served as under-secretary to John Paul II for nine years.
The archbishop spoke at the conclusion of the annual Memorial Mass, which was offered for all deceased members of the Knights of Columbus on the final day of the Supreme Convention. The Mass featured a special relic a small amount of blood from Blessed John Paul II that was carried reverently in procession and displayed in the sanctuary for veneration. Contained in a gold vial attached to a monstrance, the relic was a gift to the Knights of Columbus from Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, archbishop of Kraków, who was also the pope’s personal secretary for many years. It is part of the holdings of the Order’s Blessed John II Shrine in Washington, D.C.
Archbishop Mokrzycki told those at the convention Mass that in the last months of John Paul II’s life, before going to sleep at night, the pope would pray in his private chapel and then go to his bedroom window to offer a blessing. “He would bless the pilgrims walking on the square, bless the Eternal City of Rome, bless the whole Church and the whole world. He would do it every day,” the archbishop said. “So today, through this holy relic, may he also bless our work as we continue to grow in faith and holiness.”
The principal Mass celebrant was Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who noted that “soon before the pope passed from this life into eternity, he whispered into the ear of one of the sisters in his household, ‘Let me go to the house of the Father.’ During this Mass for the eternal salvation of all the deceased Knights, we ask Blessed John Paul II, by his prayers, to conduct them and us into the house of the Father.”
Saint Michael Award Conferred for Service to Order
At the Supreme Convention’s closing business session Aug. 8, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson presented the inaugural Saint Michael Award to Joseph P. Schultz, a 58-year member of the Order and a former supreme director and supreme master.
Established in conjunction with the Caritas Award, the new Saint Michael Award is presented exclusively to members of the Order who have exemplified a lifetime of service on behalf of the Knights of Columbus. Schultz was recognized specifically for his work in expanding the Order to Poland in 2006.
“Without Brother Joseph Schultz’s work on behalf of establishing the Order in Poland, I confess to you that I don’t know how we would have gone about doing it with such efficiency and success,” said the supreme knight. “And so for opening an entire nation to the Knights of Columbus, Joe, we salute you.”
Schultz joined the Order in 1955 and served as the state deputy of California from 2000-2001. He was appointed a supreme director from 2002-2005 and served as supreme master from 2004-2008.
In early 2006, Schultz was part of a development team that traveled to Poland to help lay the groundwork for establishing K of C councils there. Since that time, Poland has grown to include approximately 3,000 members in more than 50 councils.