Every year since 1966, the Knights of Columbus has put on an annual conference in New Haven, CT for its college councils. This year, as Grand Knight, I thought it would be a good idea to go. Supreme, the higher-ups within the Knights, reimburses individual councils for up to two delegates, but time commitments and the last minute notice meant I had to go by myself.
I arrived in Hartford a few hours after leaving Rockford and waited for my shuttle. This is where I met fellow knights from Minnesota and North Dakota. We checked in, and I was inundated by new faces and names.
I went on a brief tour of New Haven, or at least part if it. Our guide was a Yalie and quite the local history nerd. New Haven was founded as a strictly Puritan town. Never would its founders have thought it would become the largest Catholic men’s organization in the country.
Before dinner, I socialized with my new brothers, trying not to fall into my bad habit of forgetting people’s names the second they give them to me. For dinner I had one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten while I listened to the Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, give a speech. I also saw other councils awarded for all kinds of incredible projects and growth-that put our humble council 9224 to shame, but it give us a lot to strive for.After dinner, like any good Catholic gathering, there was beer, more food, and more interesting people.
The next day came the business meetings, breakout sessions, and all the boring minutiae that go with any conference. But the sea of faces and the conversations I had told me that the Knights are not what people think they are. It’s not just an organization for old white men to dow the same pancake breakfast or fish fry year after year. There were brother knights from all different backgrounds and all different races. I met a seminarian from Uganda, a PhD candidate from Madagascar, and a financial secretary from Ghana. These men came from every part of the country because they love God, love our Church, and love their brothers. We went to mass at St. Mary’s Church. There were at least 20 concelebrating priests, all chaplains in attendance. I can safely say it was one of the most beautiful Masses I have attended. We ate dinner in the parish hall where the order began.
That evening, Supreme had decked out the ballroom in Oktoberfest décor, complete with more beer, pretzels, and bratwurst. Intrigued by the priests and seminarians dressed in cassocks (the traditional priestly garb) many people came to talk to our group. Conversation continued well into the night.
Meeting my brother knights, as young, ambitious and faithful as they are, I’m not worried. The Church and the Knights of Columbus aren’t going anywhere.