After a recent windstorm struck Salt Lake City, George Jockisch, the grand knight of Bishop Hunt Council 5214, visited the local Carmel Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery to survey the damage. When he arrived, Jockisch saw some branches scattered across the entrance and front of the property, but nothing he couldn’t handle by himself.
Then he got a call from Mother Therese, the prioress of the monastery.
“She told me, ‘Don’t worry about the front, come to the back,’” he said.
The damage was overwhelming, with more than a dozen toppled trees across the grounds. It was a job Jockisch couldn’t do alone. And it was a task the Carmelite sisters couldn’t afford. Their annual fair, which raises more than $10,000 per year and is their primary source of funds, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To hire a tree removal service to complete the job would cost an estimated $16,000.
As the Carmelite chairman for the Knights in Utah, Jockisch is the liaison between the state council and the religious sisters. As he considered how the Knights could help the sisters, he prayerfully sought the guidance of the Blessed Mother. He then felt inspired to reach out to his brother Knights, so that instead of hiring a tree removal service, they themselves could complete the job together.
Forty-seven Knights from more than 20 different councils arrived at the monastery on Sept. 12 with woodchippers, chainsaws, and stump grinders. What could have been several weeks of work, the Knights completed in about one day. Leaving nothing to waste, they then donated the wood and branches to the Navajo Nation for firewood.
Andy Airriess, the Utah Knights’ public relations chairman, is one Knight who assisted in the cleanup at the monastery. He found the fraternal aspect of their clearing efforts to be a “relief” after months of separation due to the pandemic. He described the work as a “physical manifestation” of what Knights are called to do.
“One of the joys of the Knights is getting together as a group,” Airriess said. “Seeing each other again and working with each other again was wonderful. This allowed a lot of guys to get together, work on something productive for a group who prays for us all the time.”
The Utah Knights of Columbus councils have assisted the Carmelite sisters for years, working at the monastery’s fair and collecting donations for them on the state council website. But the Knights’ efforts removing debris that day deepened the Knights and Carmelite’s friendship.
“We were tremendously relieved and deeply touched to receive their generous assistance and wholehearted support,” Mother Therese wrote in a letter to the Knights. “Words cannot express the peace and joy you have given us as we see our home restored and can once again walk along the nature paths in quiet communion with God.”
Jockisch believes the Knights’ work at the monastery was emblematic of the Leave No Neighbor Behind initiative, which calls on Knights to continue their charitable and fraternal efforts during the pandemic in safe and socially distant ways. The Order’s principle of fraternity is what Supreme Knight Carl Anderson called the “spiritual genius” of Father Michael McGivney’s vision for the Knights of Columbus.
After 138 years after founding the K of C, Father McGivney’s vision lives on in the service that Knights like those in Utah do for their neighbors in need.
“Our neighbors are those who need us,” Jockisch said. “From this experience, we’re reminded of the importance of stepping up to help when someone is in need.”
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