A Reporter's Notebook
The Knights of Columbus has not only been making news during its 126th Supreme Council Meeting in Quebec City, it has also been commenting on the news.
On Tuesday, for the opening Mass and the States Dinner, three members of the Supreme Council’s communications department served as expert commentators for Catholic television networks that were broadcasting the proceedings live. In the main lobby of the convention center, the three networks had set up mini studios with cameras and microphones.
Patrick Korten, Vice President for Communications, appeared on the Eternal Word Television Network with news anchor Raymond Arroyo. Andrew Walther, director of media relations, was a commentator on Salt and Light Television, which broadcasts throughout Canada, and Peter Sonski, director of public relations, appeared on the Boston-based CatholicTV.In addition, the Catholic Channel on the satellite radio network Sirius, was broadcasting live.
It was a wonderful opportunity for the Knights of Columbus to explain its inner workings and its public works, and to highlight the role of the laity in the Church.
A Plea for the Holy Land
Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal spoke at the opening business session, thanking the Knights of Columbus for their financial help supplied to the Latin Patriarchate through the Pacem in Terris Fund. Earnings on the $2 million fund support schools, affordable housing and job training program of the Latin Patriarchate.
His Beatitude Twal reported on the increasingly difficult situation for Christians in the Holy Land due to the conflicts between Arabs and Jews, as well as religious exclusion and persecution against Christians.
Because Christians are fleeing the Holy Land and due to the low birthrate of Christian women, Christians make up less than 2 percent of the population in the area, he said. Christians leave to find a better life elsewhere and to escape unemployment, high housing costs and dangers in a hostile environment.
“Christians leave to find a better life, but they cannot find another Holy Land,” he stressed. “Here are the roots of our faith, where Jesus was born, where he preached, where he died and where he rose from the dead.”
His Beatitude Twal pleaded with Knights to continue their financial support and prayers. “Help us, please, to fulfill our mission so we can be an agent of healing and reconciliation between two peoples in conflict, the Jews and the Arabs,” he said.
Pinning Their Hopes
The spirit of friendship and fraternity reached fever pitch at the traditional Pin Exchange on Monday evening, when delegates and their families gathered in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel to trade souvenir pins from their respective jurisdictions.
“Do you have a Missouri?”
“How about a Maine?”
The calls went out as participants dropped pins in plastic bags or placed them on very crowded lapels and breast pockets. Children were the most enthusiastic traders, but one bishop also was part of the fun.
“I do this every year,” said Bishop Placido Rodriguez of Lubbock, Texas. He wore a wide Texas cowboy hat with his clerical collar, and handed out Texas pins in the shape of spurs. “Usually I come with my cowboy shirt and boots, but I didn’t have time to change this year. Still, it’s a great deal of fun.”
Standing with the Nebraska delegation, Mary Conrad had a bag full of pins and was looking for more. “I haven’t even counted how many I have,” she said. “This is a great way to meet people and talk and get to know everyone from all over the world.”
Her husband, Nebraska State Deputy Michael Conrad, had a smaller collection of his own. His most prized pin, though, was the one his 17-year-old daughter, Katelynne, designed for the Nebraska State Council. She was back home, preparing for her first year of college.
The pin is gold letters on a Marian blue background. An image of the Blessed Mother holding the baby Jesus is set within the Knights of Columbus emblem. The motto of Conrad’s administration is set around the perimeter of the pin: “Faithful Servants of Your Son.”
“She is very talented,” a proud Conrad said. “She sat down and did this design in 10 minutes.”
One honored guest in Quebec is not a Knight, but has been to a number of past conventions. Elisa Najera Gualito, daughter of the Supreme Director from Mexico, Javier Najera Cabrales, attended this year’s meeting with a star quality about her. The 21-year-old won the Miss Mexico competition last October and a month ago placed fifth (fourth runner-up) in the Miss Universe pageant.
“I love the Knights of Columbus because of their great support for family values,” she said. “I am very proud of my father also, that he is a representative from Mexico. I have always enjoyed coming to the annual meeting.”
Her mother, Maria Gualito de Najera, said she was proud of her daughter’s answer during the Miss Universe pageant, when she was asked what makes a woman happy. “I said, to live a balanced life of family, work and service to the community,” Elisa recalled.
Time Out: A Tour Along the River
A visitor today can still share the thrill that French explorer Samuel de Champlain must have felt 400 years ago as he sailed along the St. Lawrence River and spotted the rocky prominence that would mark his new settlement of Quebec.
Dozens of convention delegates and their wives got just that thrill on a Sunday afternoon sightseeing cruise. The ship, the Louis Joliet, began at Place Royal, where Champlain first established his “Abitation” on July 3, 1608. The tour boat sailed a few miles to the Orleans Island Bridge, where passengers received a stunning view of the Montmorency waterfall, which is billed as higher than Niagara Falls. It was a great introduction to the area and its history, as the tour guide, dressed in the 17th century garb, told the story of the city, old and new.
Lee Bailey, a district deputy from Iowa, and his wife Pat were excited by the boat trip, despite the overcast skies and high winds. “I’ve been a Knight for 25 years but this is my first convention,” said Bailey. “I have totally enjoyed all my time with the Knights and this is a highlight.”
His wife said that she put a lot of sightseeing on the schedule. “I heard this is a great city, a wonderful place to walk and explore,” she said. “We are making this both a convention and a vacation, because we’ve never been to Canada before.”
Lawrence Sosnowich, District of Columbia State Deputy, took the boat ride to relax before the hard work of the next few days at the convention. He was with his wife, Mary, and State Chaplain Father Nestor Iwasiw, who was attending his first convention.
“I tried as hard as I could to get him to come, and he finally said he would,” Sosnowich said. “I told him that this is an experience never to be forgotten. He had knowledge of the Knights from the council level, but here you get a sense of the size of the entire Order brought together under one roof. It’s a different level of fraternity.”
Russell Jos. Romero and his wife Helen were taking the sights from inside the boat. He is a retired field agent from Louisiana attending his fourth convention. “There’s no better way to bring together getting into charitable works, making a living as an agent, and being a part of the social fraternity,” Romero said.
His wife said, “The Knights of Columbus is my love, too. The Order has been very good to us.”