Pre-Convention Meetings Stress Membership and Family
Communication. Outreach. Mentoring. Brotherhood. Programming. Mission Awareness. Follow-Up.
These were some of the important themes of the annual Membership Seminar at the Supreme Convention, which was conducted by members of the Order’s Board of Directors and attended by hundreds of fraternal leaders from every jurisdiction.
Held Monday, Aug. 1, a day before the official opening of the 134th Supreme Convention in Toronto, the meeting was moderated by Supreme Director Thomas Wegener of Michigan, chairman of the Membership Committee.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson visited the seminar to deliver an inspiring address. He spoke about the responsibilities of Catholic laymen and how the new Building the Domestic Church initiative will help men fulfill their roles at home, in their parishes, in their councils and in their communities.
The initiative is designed to foster a new alliance among parishes, families and councils, for the benefit of each, he noted. It also is an ideal program for attracting young Catholic men by providing them with the resources to build and sustain the Catholic faith in their families.
“This is the greatest Catholic men’s organization in the world,” the supreme knight said, to applause, “so we need to bring more men into it. They need our help. Their families need our help. Their neighborhoods need our help. Their countries need our help.”
Citing the Order’s principles of “charity, unity and brotherhood,” he said, “If we really mean what we say, if we really live these principles, we have an obligation to grow the membership.” The three principles are needed greatly in the wider culture, he explained, so by growing the Order, Knights will serve the common good of their countries.
Saying that the Knights of Columbus must grow by “attraction,” he added, “We have to be the Catholic men that other Catholic men want to be associated with.”
Providing details on the Building Domestic Church initiative was Thomas Perretta, manager of Domestic Church Activities for the Supreme Council. He said that the initiative should be introduced in every parish that has a Knights of Columbus council. “Councils need to become the engines of lay leadership that our parishes need,” he explained.
Building the Domestic Church takes a “see the need, meet the need” approach, and should be at the heart of all membership and programming efforts, Perretta said.
He added that councils will be required to implement the Building the Domestic Church initiative to be eligible for the Columbian and Star Council awards.
In a presentation on recruiting younger members, Supreme Director Paul Lambert of South Dakota said that Knights should share their personal stories with prospects. “Each story is unique, but there will always be similarities that someone else can relate to,” he pointed out. “Tell them who you are as a man and as a Catholic, and show them how in your own life the Knights of Columbus has helped you personally, and allows you to help others.”
José Jimenez, vice president of Fraternal Mission at the Supreme Council, reported on the changes in what used to be called the Department of Fraternal Services. He said the change in the department’s name reflects its focus on pursuing the Catholic mission of the Order and assisting state and local councils in membership recruitment, programming excellence, and leadership training.
Also presenting at the seminar were Gary Nolan, vice president of Fraternal Education, Training and Ceremonials, who reported on the fraternal webinars that have been viewed by 60,000 Knights; State Deputy Arcie Lim of British Columbia, who explained how ethnic diversity in his jurisdiction has helped attract more members; and Supreme Director Javier Martinez of Texas, who partnered with Paul Lambert to demonstrate the importance of communication and outreach to build better councils and attract more members.
Supreme Knight Anderson also spoke Monday at the Canadian Association Meeting, where he said that Knights need to be the leaders who preserve their families and strengthen their parishes.
“The purpose of the Knights of Columbus is to reintroduce the concept of brotherhood, of what binds our society together and of what makes it livable,” he said. “People see our good works and they see that we are doing these works not because we have to, but because we choose to and because it is the right thing to do.”
That, he said, will attract men to join. The supreme knight urged Canadian Knights to make growing membership their number one priority for the coming year.
Also addressing the meeting was Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, who welcomed the attendees to the city. Like the supreme knight, he also reminded attendees that in a society plagued by the challenges of abortion, euthanasia and other serious issues, it is up to the Knights to set the example.
“We need to provide the example of loving interdependence that is the core of being a Catholic,” the cardinal said.
The Knights of Columbus Building the Domestic Church initiative is an important call for Knights to help families and their parishes, sad Bishop Noël Simard of Valleyfield, Quebec. “There are five verbs I would use in promoting the Domestic Church initiative,” the bishop said. “Welcome, to invite people into our parishes and councils; teach, to help learn about the faith; educate, to allow people to learn about themselves and what they can offer; heal, to help bring about change in families and society; and reach out, to invite people to join us.”
Along with conducting the Canadian Association’s business, attendees also heard a presentation on the Canadian Wheelchair Association, and received an overview on the recent World Youth Day in Kraków from Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, head of Canada’s Salt and Light Television.