‘I Am Surrounded by Strong Catholics’
“I am a strong Catholic and I am surrounded by strong Catholics!” That’s what retired Maj. Gen. Michael Regner of the United States Marine Corps told more than 200 men gathered for the 2016 College Conference Awards Banquet. He was the keynote speaker for the event.
Maj. Gen. Regner retired Feb. 1, 2016 from the Marine Corps, where he most recently served as the Staff Director at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. He was commissioned through The Citadel Naval ROTC program in 1976. In his almost 40 years of service to our nation, Gen. Regner held diverse command, leadership and strategic planning positions for U.S. and Multinational Forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, NATO European Command and special operations units. His experience includes service as the Marine Liaison to Congress and Director of Marine Legislative Affairs. While serving on active duty, Gen. Regner balanced his work, family life and community service admirably. As a father of three active children, he held football, soccer and wrestling coaching positions, and serves as extraordinary eucharistic minister. His involvement with the Knights of Columbus began in 1986, and he received his Fourth Degree from Supreme Knight Carl Anderson while stationed in Korea in 2012. Gen. Regner currently serves as the Senior Military Advisor for the Marine Corps League, a national service organization providing oversight and community support to meet the emerging and long-term needs of Marines, Marine Veterans and their families.
In his address, Gen. Regner asked the college Knights to remember three things: Faith, Friends and Family.
“You’ve got to ask yourself when you are done with college, where will you give back. For some of you it may be the military, for others the community. Some may teach, some work for Catholic charities, wherever,” he said. “Own your faith. When you leave college, you will have to learn to balance your faith, your employment and the other aspects of your life.”
He urged the Knights to show their faith through their example they set, through faith, honesty, loyalty and integrity. “Keep your faith. Keep your friends. And remember when you leave home keep your family close because they are your strength,” Gen. Regner said. He added, “Have fun in your lives. Love your faith, love your fellow man, and always know that Christ will make you smile.”
In his remarks, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson thanked Gen. Regner for joining the conference this year for his commitment to the Knights of Columbus and for his service to his country. He spoke of the meeting he had with the general in South Korea when they had the opportunity to see the demilitarized zone and saw the North Korean guards on the other side of the zone. This, he said, drove home the meaning of John 3:19 “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” He thanked Gen. Regner and the men and women who serve in the military who protect us from such people.
“We need to have men and women, who stand watch to stop the evil that these men chose to do,” he said. He added that the Knights of Columbus today stands in defense of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and will continue to do what we can to help these people live in this part of the world.
“How do we, as Knights of Columbus, stand watch? Are we going to be a country of the light or will we go to the darkness? Christianity grows by attraction. We choose to be Catholics because we see authentic disciples in the Church, a people who live a life of the Gospel, a life that people want to follow. We are in a challenge over the soul of our country.”
That is where the Knights of Columbus’ principles of charity, unity and fraternity come in, he said. People in society understand charitable works, and when they see the Knights of Columbus’ good works, they see that the Knights are adding value to the community.
“That is the charity that evangelizes, that we, as Knights of Columbus, are called to do,” the supreme knight said. “Charity, unity, fraternity, that is what Knights of Columbus are called to. And I am thankful to each of you that at your time in life, you are making these decisions to take that commitment.”
In his remarks to the award banquet attendees, Christiaan van Nispen, chairman of the College Conference Advisory Committee said that councils provide unique opportunities for young men that would not otherwise exist on college campuses. While other student groups offer casual friendship, the Knights of Columbus links men together in fraternal communion, he added. This brotherhood inspires Knights to invest in each other and to help each other conform to God’s will. Fraternity brings Knights together as Knights in a formidable, life-long way, bound by our faith, he added, and this unity bears witness to the Gospel in Knights daily lives and actions.
“Our work on our campuses is not easy, especially in our campus communities that have become increasingly hostile to our faith, lifestyles and moral beliefs” van Nispen said. “As university students we constantly face stressors, temptations, social pressures and even, as Pope Francis calls it, the ‘polite persecution’ of the secular world against our faith. In his World Youth Day homily, Pope Francis warned us that we will lose our religious freedoms if young people, such as ourselves, remain silent, on the sidelines, withdrawing from the public practice of our faith. Therefore, we must ensure that our Knights councils continue to be an active presence on our campuses and in society at large.”
Following the evening’s speakers, awards were presented to councils in the areas of membership and insurance growth, as well as service programming.