Dear Brother Knights,
Over the years I have been very impressed by the general quality of the Catholic men in the Knights of Columbus. However, as our recruitment efforts have become increasingly difficult, I have noticed that we might either dismiss some candidates as hopeless or on the other extreme quickly accept men without adequately exploring their qualifications. While we have particular problems because of the changing dynamics of our local parishes and communities, all the councils with which I have been affiliated have faced similar trials and temptations in membership.
Just in the last couple of years, I know of an unbaptized man who inadvertantly took the first degree and another poor man who was dismissed from a degree when it was learned that he was divorced and married out of the church. The council that submitted their names and the persons who helped fill out the Form 100s must accept the bulk of the blame and embarassment that this entails. When I was introduced at a council meeting as a chaplain, one of the men casually asked me how many children I had? I thought he was joking, but as I heard him out it became evident that he did not know that Catholic priests were celibate. He presumed I was married and had a family because the other men called me “Father”. Was this bewildered man even a Catholic? Before and after we become knights, we must be “practical” Catholics. Do we have members right now in our fellowship who are not going to Church and/or are not married in the Church? Please remember, that while divorced men are eligible, men who are remarried out of the Church cannot lawfully be members without an annulment of previous marriages and the convalidation of the current bond. While they may otherwise be decent men, our Lord would judge these men as living in adulterous and sinful relationships. Given the times we live in, we must also be circumspect with younger men that they are not cohabitating with women or causing other scandals by their dating habits.
Our council is connected to a number of parishes. We really have to get the Round Table going so that we can fill our hall with area men and re-dedicate ourselves to the local community. If we have a good relationship with pastors, we can offer our Form 100′s to the respective parishes for review. Pastors often know their people and church records frequently spell out marriage situations that are pertinent. You can pass candidates on to me, but we are not respecting their legitimate pastors by cutting them out of the process.
I was told that one of the men sponsored recently for the fourth degree had license plates that advertised his membership in the Free Masons. This organization is still forbidden to Catholics as having elements of false religion and like all secret societies is condemned by the Church. The code of canon law forbids Catholics to be members. This binds us under pain of mortal sin. I have run into Masons among our numbers in several councils, and it is a disgrace. The Masons are known for their patriotism and charity– but they have historically oppressed the Church and still seek the destruction, at least in their European branches, of “every altar where Christ is adored”. When I was stationed in the city, a member of the council where I was affiliated wore the wrong jewels for a meeting– the ones from his Masonic lodge! Their rituals and prayers are pagan and incompatible with true Christian faith.
Do not be afraid to ask the hard hitting personal questions. Say something like this to a prospective member: “I do not want to intrude into your personal life, but as a practical Catholic, can I take it to mean that you participate each week at Sunday Mass, that you received Confirmation as a soldier for Christ, that you are a Christian gentleman respecting the teachings and values of our faith, and that if you are in a committed relationship– you are married in the Church by a priest or deacon?” If the answer is disappointing, do not give up on him. Always let men know that they can see a priest, confess their sins, receive religious instruction, and if need be get help with an annulment and a Church marriage. Stand by these men if they will let you– be their sponsors for baptism and confirmation– witness their marriages– do what has to be done, not simply for K of C membership, BUT to save souls! My offer is still good, I am willing to offer catechetical instructions– at Holy Spirit Church (on Tuesday nights, preferably)– even at the Sarto Hall and Bar on Wednesday nights, if such is required for a man to become first a member of the Church and then one of his knights.
Many of our brothers are not very active these days because of distance and advanced age with all its health concerns. How often have we heard guys say, if they were closer they would attend meetings and more events? Well, I think the world of our council, but Columbianism is not served when a majority of men become inactive for such a reason. God bless the men who still make the drive to the council home from remote locations; however, if this is impossible, it would be far better that they transfer and become active in the councils closer to their homes. The fact that so many members have left the area also hampers our membership efforts. Even if you remain affiliated with SPX, please know that it is okay to recruit men for other councils closer to your homes. This should also be the policy regarding your sons and grandsons who live out of the area. Many of you make the long drive for sentimental reasons and because of long and enduring friendships. Your children and their children should be following in your footsteps by taking an active part in their local councils and becoming officers and volunteers.
St. Bernardine in Suitland has a Spanish Mass with 200 plus people in attendance. These are young families with men who would make great Knights of Columbus. (Remember, even our patron Christopher Columbus was in the employ of Spain and spoke Spanish!) Have we even made an effort to recruit these men? Get out the Spanish Form 100′s, call Fr. DePorter and get to it– now! Our pastors can give us guidance about good candidates in their parishes and they can then become the nucleus of further outreach, particularly in the African-American community. Certainly these are difficult days for the Church and we have many men, even among baptised Catholics, who are poorly informed about their faith. If candidates need supplementary religious formation, if there are marriage and moral questions to resolve, I am here for you and we can work these things out. Never turn a man away without us exploring the options. The Knights of Columbus offer catechetical studies and informative booklets on the faith. We should have a rack here in the hall with some of these useful resources made available from Supreme.
Spell out the benefits to being a Knight of Columbus and let candidates know how it has impacted upon your life. Members get Columbia Magazine, that not only keeps us informed about the order elsewhere but seeks to reaffirm Catholic faith and to edify with inspiring stories about how the Knights of Columbus make a difference. We have a hard-working insurance agent, a man who is on everybody’s membership team. Tell the story about Father McGivney, and how the K of C was established, not only to give fellowship to Catholic men, but to protect their families, particularly their widows and children. The Insurance program is a wonderful expression of this effort and is one of the best in the nation. We do so much to take care of others, but we never neglect our own. Each council has particular benefits and volunteer activities. Fill the newsletter with news and publish calendars way ahead of events. We are privileged to have a wonderful hall. The benefits of membership here at St. Pius X are real and tangible– this is what we have to express to others and to remind current members.
The women in your lives, particularly wives and daughters, should also encourage membership, and tell others how happy it makes them that you are knights and true Christian gentleman. If we live up to all that we say we hold dear as knights, then our men should be the most courageous of patriots, the most devout of believers, the most faithful of husbands, the most responsible of parents, and the most charitable of friends.
If men from various races and cultures should flood our council, will this not change things? Sure it will, but we should not be afraid of change as long as the essentials remain the same. It is time to pass the torch. We do not want the fire to flicker and die out. We cannot pick up the council home and move it elsewhere, that would be disrespectful of the new generations of Catholics who live and worship here. It is a time of transition and we should not resist it, no matter how long we have had things our way and no matter how many memories we have about how things used to be. You know that I also grew up here in Forestville and attended Mount Calvary with my family each week. I remember Fr. Pete and his support for you. I remember the rows of knights at Mass with their swords raised. I remember my late Uncle Tom who considered his membership in the Knights as one of the most important and worthwhile achievements of his life. My brothers swam regularly at the old pool. My mother used to bag and recycle aluminum cans after your activities. We came to your fundraisers and always looked upon you as our friends. You are still my friends and I love you dearly.
Yes, changes are coming, and already many of our beloved members have embraced eternity. Where they have gone, we are all going. This should not cause us fear, but rather we should be filled with hopeful expectation. The Knights have been, and always will be, servants of Almighty God. People have come to know the love and mercy of Jesus Christ because of you. Faithful to God and Church, loyal to Country, and always a good neighbor– the Lord will certainly say to our men, “Come to me, O good and faithful servants.” You have done much good and have provided resources for the future, but our true treasure beyond measure is Jesus. May we eagerly invite new men into our council and into the Knights, while always insuring that we all practice what we preach.
God bless and keep you all,
Father Joseph Jenkins
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