TUCSON, Arizona — When the COVID-19 pandemic forced social distancing restrictions across the country, the Redemptorist Retreat/Renewal Center (RRC) had to cancel all scheduled events for April, May, June and much of July. In an incredible effort, the local Knights from Our Lady of the Desert Council 15704 quickly raised over $46,000 to keep the center from closing its doors.
“Boy, did that keep us alive. It got us through some really hard times,” said Father Ed Vella, a Knight and rector of Our Lady of the Desert Conventual Church, which is part of the renewal center.
The center had already applied for a Paycheck Protection Program grant, but even so, it had to lay off employees. According to Father Vella, some of the employees who were kept on payroll “donated their salaries and worked here for free.”
Around that time the Knights heard the Redemptorists were facing a major budget shortfall, and unanimously decided to raise the desperately needed funds.
“The first thing we did was more or less deplete our bank account, but we knew it had to be done,” said Ray Obral, the council’s treasurer. The Knights presented this money in the form of a check for $3,200 to Father Anthony Nguyen, the superior for the Redemptorist priests at the RRC.
Then began phase two — asking for donations from brother Knights. Within seven days, the council collected an additional $14,700. At the same time, an anonymous benefactor matched the council’s original $3,200 donation, doubling the initial amount to $6,400. The same donor generously added a personal donation of another $25,000.
“This is an outstanding story of a small council stepping up and performing extraordinary things,” said Arizona State Deputy Mario Vassallo.
“They really have the spirit of Father McGivney,” said Father Vella, speaking about the founder of the Knights of Columbus, who is soon to be beatified. “It’s true, they saw a need and they jumped. Without them, I really don’t know what would have happened here. But they took ownership of this renewal center and they are part of the Redemptorist family. I’m very proud to be acting as the council chaplain.”
Bishop Wiesenberger of the Diocese of Tucson wrote to express his thanks, as did Bishop Olmstead of the Diocese of Phoenix, whose apostolic exhortation “Into the Breach” inspired an entire series of Knights-produced faith formation videos.
[Watch Into the Breach video series here]
“What a great demonstration of faith and generosity by the Knights for a badly needed apostolate,” Bishop Olmstead wrote.
Share your story of how your council is helping strengthen people’s faith and offering support during this time. Email email@example.com.
Originally published in a weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. Access Knightline’s monthly archives.
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