By Andy Telli
The Tennessee State Council of the Knights of Columbus earlier this year elected new state officers and honored councils across the state for outstanding activities serving their church, parish and community.
Steve Comm, who started with the Knights as a member of Council 8354 at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church in Antioch, was elected state deputy at the annual state convention, held May 1-3 in Franklin. He succeeds John Park of Council 9586 at St. Edward Church in Nashville.
His election left him with “a sense of humility, a sense of awe,” Mr. Comm said. “I have my work cut out for me. The previous state deputies have positioned the state where it’s going to be easier for me than it could have been because of their hard work and dedication.”
Other state officers elected at the state convention were: Tracy Staller, state secretary, Council 12961, Holy
Family Church, Seymour; Mike McCusker, state treasurer, Council 9317, St. Francis of Assisi Church, Cordova; Fred Laufenberg, state advocate, Council 8152, St. Francis of Assisi Church, Fairfield Glade; and Bill Markiewicz, state warden, Queen of Heaven Council 4572, St. Thérése of Lisieux Church, Cleveland.
Father John Orr, associate pastor at Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville, was named state chaplain for the Knights and will serve until June 2017.
Activity award winners include:
■ Council Activity of the Year:
Council 15196 at Holy Spirit Church in Memphis.
This council sponsored the Holy Cow Steak Cookoff, which is its largest fundraiser of the year and brings the church and local community together. Teams compete in a steak cooking contest, judged by local celebrities. The community can buy tickets for a steak dinner cooked by the teams. The event also includes live music, kids games, family fun and a silent auction.
■ Community Activity of the Year: Queen of Heaven Council 4572 at St. Thérése of Lisieux Church in Cleveland.
Since 1990, the Three Kings Feast, sponsored by the council, has been an annual December event of St. Thérése of Lisieux Church to share the joy of the Christmas season with the needy of the community.
The Feast includes a holiday meal prepared by council members. The event included a visit by St. Nicholas; all children were given an age-appropriate gift, and each family received a blanket, all donated by parishioners.
■ Culture of Life Activity of the Year: Philip Paul Breen Council 8576 at St. Jude Church in Chattanooga.
This award recognized the council’s work providing leadership and support for the campaign to pass Amendment 1 to the Tennessee State Constitution, which restored the state Legislature’s authority to regulate the abortion industry. The council distributed 750 “Vote Yes on 1” yard signs throughout the community. Council members volunteered outside polling places, provided rides to the polls for parishioners during the early-voting period, and distributed information about the campaign to parishioners.
■ Church Activity of the year: Marian Council 4563 at St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro.
Council members and their families spent a day cleaning up, repairing and refreshing the Murfreesboro convent for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation who teach at the parish school. Among the work completed during the one-day event were cleaning gutters, washing walls, pressure washing outdoor furniture, pulling weeds from flower beds, mulching and planting new trees and flowers, repainting tables and chairs, repairing a few household needs, removing dead tree limbs and clearing a riverbank area in the back yard.
■ Family Activity of the Year: Father Hugh A. Swift Council 3431 in Winchester.
Project Helping Hand was started by the council, which includes parishioners at Good Shepherd Church in Decherd, to support widows and clergy in the parish, including performing minor maintenance activities as needed for nine widows and one retired priest.
Council members also cut up a 150-year-old oak tree that was felled by lightning and delivered the wood to the retired priest who uses firewood as his only source of heat during the winter; helped a widow living on a 120-acre farm clean up four brush piles and removing several large trees after a severe wind storm; and delivered the wood from the widow’s farm to the retired priest who now has enough wood to heat his home for several years.
■ Vocations Activity of the Year:
Council 8241 at St. Christopher Church in Dickson.
After Father Michael Fye, a third-degree member of Council 8241, was ordained in July 2014, the council organized a large Agape Celebration Dinner, held after he celebrated his first Mass at his home parish.
A Fourth Degree founding charter member of the council requested that his ciborium be held in trust and be presented to the first priest ordained from the parish.
The request was fulfilled and the ciborium was presented to Father Fye during the dinner. The dinner also celebrated the lives and sacrifices of members of religious orders.
The council invited priests and religious sisters from the local area and youth were encouraged to discuss a life of vocation with those attending.
■ Youth Activity of the Year: Council 7447 at St. Catherine Church in Columbia.
Council members were involved in numerous activities through the year to support Special Olympics.
The Council donated more than 500 man-hours and more than $3,000 to King’s Daughters School and the Impact Center in Columbia. The council spent several more thousands of dollars providing meals for Special Olympics Area 6 Spring Games, monthly pizza parties, Special Olympics district and state soccer and bowling tournaments, a cookout and a Christmas party.
The highlight of the year came when the council arranged for a free day at the Maury County Fair for children with special needs.
Council members worked with the Maury County Fair Board, fair vendors, Maury County School System and King’s Daughters School to organize the event, which was attended by more than 250 children.
■ Knight of the Year: Mike Wiedemer of Council 3431 in Winchester.
Mr. Wiedemer is an active member of the council and parishioner at Good Shepherd Church in Decherd. He helped lead efforts to support passage of Amendment 1 in November.
■ Family of the Year: Walter and Tracy Szyperski and three adult children, Kayla, 25, Kelsey, 21 and Kyle, 21, of Council 7447 at St. Catherine Church in Columbia.
The family helps with a variety of Council activities throughout the year, and all are active parishioners at St. Catherine. They are involved as Eucharistic ministers, ushers, and readers, and in the parish’s prison ministry. Tracy is a member of the parish council, coordinating the parish picnic serving nearly 500 members of the community each year and is an RCIA sponsor.
■ Lifetime Achievement Award: John King, Council 9317 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Cordova.
Mr. King has been a Knight for more than 30 years, and has been involved in the council as an officer and also with the Deacon Lee R. Hurst Fourth Degree Assembly 2183. He currently is president of the MR Foundation, which supports the efforts of agencies that serve people with intellectual disabilities across Tennessee.