Three executives from the Department of Fraternal Services shared their insights with the chaplains and then answered questions in a workshop setting. The theme throughout was that the role of the chaplain at the state and local council level is absolutely vital, and ways must be developed to improve communication and collaboration between council members and their chaplains.
Fred Abraham, executive vice president of Fraternal Services, emphasized the dramatic effect that a chaplain’s presence and input can have on a council.
“Your role as spiritual advisor is crucial,” he said. “As the largest Catholic lay organization for the Church, collectively we can be the strong voice to fight all the evils of our society, whether it is in support of God’s law on marriage, life in all its stages, religious liberties or standing up for the infirmed, disabled or elderly of our communities and our nation.”
He mentioned 10 ways chaplains can collaborate and encourage their parish-based councils, including:
1. Proclaim proudly that you, as a priest, are a Knight.
2. Have regular dialogue with the grand knight.
3. Identify potential leaders from your congregation for the Order.
4. Find collaborative programs that will benefit the council and the parish community.
5. Hold a retreat for the Knights or establish other forms of spiritual formation.
6. If you are unable to attend monthly meetings, attend a meeting each quarter to start, or at least provide a spiritual message to be conveyed to the membership at the meeting.
7. Encourage the grand knight to develop and support strong youth and family programs that will form a basis for future membership growth.
8. Help the grand knight and the council to be accepted by the parish by inviting him to sit in on key parish committees or councils.
9. Establish a monthly breakfast at a local restaurant for the Knights with you as the moderator.
10. Promote and encourage the family unit and our faith as a key to the Knights’ ability to grow and flourish. The family unit that prays together and works together stays together. The wife is crucial to the success of this; she is the glue that binds.
George Hanna, senior vice president for Fraternal Services opened his talk with these words: “Charity is the foundation of the Order. All we accomplish is for the love of our fellow man and our Church.”
Relating the Order’s first principle – charity – to the programs conducted by councils, he pointed out how successful councils are involved in a variety of charitable programs in the parish and the community.
“You as state chaplains and council chaplains play a vital role in each of our local councils,” Hanna said. “Your guidance will help grow and guide your parish council and your success will help demonstrate to other pastors what a parish council can achieve. The council, when motivated especially by the pastor, can provide great support for a parish, provide outstanding community service and provide the spiritual fulfillment for individual members and their families.”
Mike Durbin, senior vice president for Membership Growth, said that the Order is looking to the guidance and pastoral care of its chaplains to “change the culture” from an organization that is primarily known for its social activities to one that is committed to evangelical charity. There are many beneficial spiritual enrichment and prayer programs that the Order conducts, Durbin pointed out. But the chaplains must ensure that these programs are built upon and increased, so that every Catholic man will see in the Knights of Columbus a place to deepen their faith and draw closer to God, he said.