College Councils celebrate 50 years of fraternity at their annual gathering
Nearly 200 Knights from more than 85 councils throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico gathered in New Haven, Conn., Oct 2-4, 2015, to continue a tradition of fraternity, discourse and networking that began more than 50 years ago in the halls of Boston College. Since that first College Councils Conference, attendance has grown and the location has changed, but the annual gathering remains true to its original purpose.
Realizing that college councils faced unique challenges that can best be addressed by gathering college Knights together to share ideas and best practices, members of the Boston College council — under the leadership of Grand Knight David McCreesh and Conference Chairman William Higgins — organized in the fall of 1965 the first College Councils Conference. Invitations were sent to the Order’s other college councils, inviting their members to a weekend conference at Boston College in February 1966.
This first College Councils Conference brought together student representatives from 11 councils. During the two-day summit, college Knights discussed drafting a college councils handbook and passed a series of resolutions, one of which called for the conference to be an annual event sponsored by the Supreme Council.
From 1966 until 1970, councils at Niagara University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Dallas took turns hosting the conference. In 1970, the Supreme Council took on the logistics of planning and organizing the conference. Since then the conference has been held in New Haven, Conn., except for the event which was to take place in 2001. The conference for that year was canceled, due to its proximity to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Each year the event has grown and evolved, yet it retains its original identity — a conference for college Knights led by college Knights. It maintains a conference chairman and relies on the College Councils Advisory Board to offer suggestions for speakers, topics and presenting breakout sessions.
For the 50th anniversary of the conference, the college Knights united under the theme “You Shall Be My Witnesses.” The weekend was geared toward this theme, helping equip the conference attendees with energy and knowledge of how best to serve as global missionaries of the new evangelization in their campus communities. Together with representatives from the Supreme Council, college Knights celebrated the faith and the Order’s roots, gained insight on how to hold better council proceedings in the coming fraternal year and applauded those councils that have gone above and beyond in their service to Church, Order and community.
The 2015 conference’s advisory board, responsible for the planning and implementing of many of the activities, included Chairman Henry Dickman, University of Notre Dame Council 1477; Vice-Chairman Samuel Becker, Harvard University Council 14188; Brian Burns, University of Scranton Council 4032; Ryan Olivieri, Texas A&M University Council 10624; Zachary Hoopes, Virginia Tech University Council 11323; Christiaan van Nispen, The George Washington University Council 13242; Michael Kudra, Baylor University Council 13577; Matthew DePaula, Louisiana State University Council 15064; and Riley Bauer, Southeast Missouri State University Council 15294.
“I hope that the attendees come away from the conference with an understanding that, by being a Knight of Columbus, they are part of a national and even international movement to increase and improve the impact that the Catholic Church is having on the citizens of the world,” said Chairman Dickman.
He explained how membership in the Order has changed his life. “Before joining the Knights, I saw faith as an individualistic endeavor,” he said. “The Knights of Columbus changed my perspective on that and helped me to understand that talking about faith and about our roles as Catholic gentlemen is one of the best things we can do with our free time, and one of the best ways we can grow and develop. Being a Knight has helped me to grow as an individual more than any class I took.”
For a young man in college, he said, Knights of Columbus membership offers “the chance to explore his faith without fear of negative judgment or pressure from others.”
Attending his second conference, Chairman Dickman found the event to be a way for men from throughout the Order to come together to learn what other councils are doing and what initiatives the Supreme Council is implementing at the international level. “The conference opened my eyes up to this Catholic network that truly does exist … it helps to connect young Catholics together,” he added.
This year’s conference was opened on Oct. 2 by Thomas J. Perretta Jr., manager of College Councils and Young Adult Outreach, who welcomed the college Knights to New Haven and spoke on the legacy of the College Councils Conference. Attendees also enjoyed a reception and tour of the Knights of Columbus Museum, as well as a buffet dinner and evening social at the Omni Hotel.
On Saturday, Oct. 3, an opening session lead into a series of training sessions, panels and presentations. These activities focused on best practices, leadership development, membership motivation, council marketing and public relations, developing a council’s social media presence, and effective event planning.
There were talks regarding upcoming initiatives and goals within the Order, as well as a segment titled “Father McGivney’s Founding Vision,” presented by Thomas Smith Jr., executive vice president and chief insurance officer. These events were held simultaneously with training sessions and discussions for financial secretaries and chaplains tailored specifically to their needs.
Later in the day, the agenda included a visit and Mass at St. Mary’s Church, the birthplace of the Order and the church where Father McGivney celebrated the liturgy for the first Knights 133 years ago. The Mass for the college Knights was celebrated by Dominican Father John Paul Walker, who serves as pastor of the historic church.
An evening social and the annual Awards Banquet, which gives recognition to the outstanding achievements of councils for the 2015 fraternal year, concluded Saturday’s events. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson was the keynote speaker for the banquet.
On Sunday, Oct. 4, the college Knights attended the closing session, which included a presentation on World Youth Day 2016 by Dominican Father Jonathan Kalisch, director of chaplains and spiritual development.