Members of the Alabama Knights of Columbus from across the state gathered on April 26th, 27th, and 28th in Birmingham to share fellowship, elect officers, and celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday at the Hilton Birmingham at UAB hotel and conference center at their 116th annual state convention.
With nearly 2 million members, the Knights of Columbus are the world’s largest lay-Catholic family fraternal benefits society. Founded in 1882 by Fr. Michael J. McGivney, the men of the Knights of Columbus are dedicated to their principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism. In 2017 alone, the Knights of Columbus worldwide provided charitable work with an unprecedented $185.6 million in donations and 75.6 million hours of service provided worldwide.
The group gathered Friday for an opening Mass celebrated by State Chaplain Fr. Dan Good and concelebrated by Associate State Chaplain Fr. Vernon Huguley and Fr. Tom Weiss. More than 80 knights and their families were in attendance.
At dinner later that night, Bishop Robert Baker received a donation of a ceremonial Indian headdress from Jo-Ellen Karazim, president of the Alabama State Ladies Auxiliary, ASK AL KC. The headdress will be displayed at Camp Tekakwitha, a retreat and resource of the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama. After dinner concluded, families played board games and took part in the annual Cornhole tournament.
Saturday began with the Annual “Breakfast with the Bishops,” with both Archbishop Thomas Rodi and Bishop Baker in attendance. The opening session followed with addresses by Bishop Baker, Archbisop Rodi, Jo-Ellen Karazim and State Deputy Jason Esteve.
During the Business session officers for the coming Fraternal year were elected. Jason Esteve was elected State Deputy, Joe Flaherty III was elected State Secretary, Danny Garcia was elected State Treasurer, Jack Hahn was elected State Advocate and Bill Mores was elected State Warden.
During the Awards Luncheon councils statewide were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the Church and their local parishes, their communities, and their families. The Supreme Council Awards recognizes outstanding single activities by councils in the areas of Faith, Family, Community, and the Culture of Life. Winners of this award submit their activities to the Supreme Council for competition internationally where winners at that level are recognized at the Supreme Convention in August.
The Supreme Faith award went to Council 5597 in Leeds, Alabama for their organization of a Spiritual Retreat to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The Supreme award for outstanding Community activity was presented to Church of the Holy Spirit Council 12150 in Montgomery, Alabama for their work to serve meals to 90 Fire, Police and First Aid responders after the tornado disaster devastated the Wetumpka area.
The Supreme award for Family went to Our Lady of the Valley Council 9676 for their work collecting and donating food to feed over 100 homeless and needy in downtown Birmingham as well as providing volunteers to serve the food. The Supreme Award for Life was also presented to Holy Spirit Council 12150 in Montgomery for their “Crosses for the Unborn” project.
Awards were also given to councils that participated in the annual Drive for Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities Campaign. Every year local councils raise money for local organizations that support citizens with Intellectual disabilities with 100% of the money staying in the state of Alabama. This year, the state collected and distributed $109,000.
Saturday ended with the formal State Banquet. Bishop Baker and Archbishop Rodi delivered stirring addresses, thanking the knights and their families as well as challenging them to continue their good works. The State Deputy, Jason Esteve, reflected on the state of Alabama’s Legacy of Charity and how the knights and their families contribute to the glorious tapestry of God’s plan. Damien O’Connor, representative of the Supreme Knight and Senior Director of Membership Experience and Formation delivered the keynote address. His reflection on growing up as the son of a knight and how that formed his faith and charity was extremely well received.
At the banquet, the State Ladies Auxiliary presented both the Archbishop and the Bishop with checks for $1500 for their personal charitable projects. The State Deputy presented the Archbishop and the Bishop with checks for more than $5000 to offset the cost of priesthood formation.
The State Ladies Auxiliary also presented checks of $750 each to scholarship winners Kennedy Carlisle and Hannah Gagnon.
The State Council recognized the State Family of the Year runner-up, Jerome and Brenda Villarreal, and the State Family of the Year, Rodolfo and Bonnie Chavez.
The Youth of the Year award runner-up went to Anthonia Anwah, and the Youth of the Year award was presented to Madeline Harwell.
The Knight of the year runner-up chosen for the year was Stephen Laws, and the Knight of the Year Award was presented to Danny Garcia.
The convention closed by members attending Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul. An Honor Guard of the 4th Degree of the Knights of Columbus welcomed Bishop Baker and the officiants to Mass. Fr. Bryan Jerabek delivered a thought-provoking homily for Divine Mercy Sunday. Bishop Baker was very complimentary of the Knights and encouraged catholic men to join the organization if they were not already members.
Catholic men who are 18 years of age or older are invited to join the Knights of Columbus and help in their mission to serve the Church, their communities and their families through good works inspired by their Catholic faith. To learn more about the Knights of Columbus visit kofc.org/joinus.