States Dinner Reveals Charitable Heart of the Order
Amid the celebrations of the 2,000 attendees, and before a worldwide television audience, a long-time friendship was renewed, a number of Gospel-based challenges were issued by Church leaders, and a light of loving charity that has shone in the darkness of one of the most tragic events of recent memory was recognized by the presentation of a new award. These were some of the lively dynamics that marked the Supreme Convention’s States Dinner, a traditional gathering that highlights the fun-loving, heartwarming and world-embracing soul of the Knights of Columbus.
A formal event, with Knights in white tuxedos and their wives in sparkling gowns, the dinner is also a festive gathering in which everyone, including the cardinals and bishops on the dais, wave flags and sing songs from their home states or countries. In doing so, the fact is underlined that the Catholic faith affirms their patriotic love of home while at the same time transcending simple geographical boundaries through the universal reach of the Christian faith.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson opened the program by presenting the inaugural Caritas Awards to the Catholic pastor and K of C council in Newtown, Conn., who responded with love, compassion and hard work to serve a grieving community after the tragic elementary school shooting there last December 14. The awards were bestowed “for exemplary works of charity” to Msgr. Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima parish, and St. Virgilius Council 185, based at the parish, which was represented by Grand Knight Timothy Haas.
“Those whom we honor, like the Good Samaritan, treated their injured and suffering neighbors, classmates and friends with mercy and love,” said Anderson. “They did so at a time as so many around them faced suffering the likes of which we can hardly imagine. In the midst of tragedy, as so often happens, heroes rise to the occasion.”
As part of the awards, the Supreme Council will be providing $100,000 to the parish for its continuing work of helping with the material needs and grief counseling for those affected by the deadly shooting.
In brief remarks, Msgr. Weiss said that he did what any priest would do in the midst of great human suffering.
Delivering the keynote address at the dinner was Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who said that Catholics in the West today can feel like strangers in a culture that has lost its sense of God. Yet, he added, Christians must enter the culture not only with the truth of the faith but also with the personal love that extends even to those who attack or marginalize them.
“Pope Francis is ever warning against a self-referential Church turned in on itself,” the cardinal explained. “He tells us to open the doors, to invite others in.” He continued, “Pope Francis is calling on all of us to be missionaries in our own communities. In this new millennium, business as usual is not enough. We must be a team of missionaries, moving from a maintenance mode to a missionary one.”
“We must ask ourselves, ‘What does it mean to live in a culture of unbelief; a culture which does not even know it does not believe because it still lives on the residue of Christian civilization?’ To be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church is a way of life together. The whole person is engaged.”
In remarks after the keynote, Supreme Knight Anderson recalled that he and his wife, Dorian, first met Cardinal O’Malley years ago when he was a young Capuchin priest stationed at Centro Catolico, a pastoral center for Hispanics in Washington, D.C. “Father Sean” slept on the floor of the center to avoid the bullets of the drive-by shootings that occurred in the neighborhood, Anderson said, yet he was on the streets and in the center every day to advise, comfort, and offer hope to immigrants who looked to the Church as a safe haven in a new land. The supreme knight offered the cardinal a heartfelt commendation for all he has done for individuals, families and the Church over a lifetime dedicated to God’s people.
Also speaking at the dinner were the presidents of three national bishops’ conferences: Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York; Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, Canada, and Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, Philippines.