Tennessee Knights urged to be ‘anchored in Christ’

State convention held in person for the first time in three years                

By Andy Telli/Tennessee Register

Meeting in person for the first time in three years, the Tennessee Knights of Columbus were lauded for their efforts to continue serving the Church and their neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we look back on this historic time in the years to come, I hope you will remember that we, the Knights of Columbus, did not hide from the challenges of this pandemic,” State Deputy Fred Laufenberg said in his State of the State address at the Knights’ 119th state convention, held April 29-30 at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs in Franklin.

Bill Wicke, left, who also received a Knights Lifetime Achievement Award, delivers a shipment of wheelchairs as part of a mission to make wheelchairs available for free to those in need.

“You kept the light of Christ alive. You helped ensure no neighbor was left behind. You took food and other necessities to those who had no way to take care of themselves. You took our fraternal charge to heart, as you picked up the phone, wrote e-mails, and held Zoom meetings to make sure your brothers never felt alone or left behind,” said Mr. Laufenberg, a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Fairfield Glade and a member of Monsignor Philip Thoni Council 16088.

Mr. Laufenberg also highlighted the Knights’ response to the flooding that devastated Waverly, Tenn., in the last year.

“When the call went out, you instantly responded with love, compassion, and support for those affected by flooding in Middle Tennessee,” the State Deputy said. “Over $126,000 and hundreds of hours were donated. … Brothers, you are each shining examples of the great 140-year tradition of the many corporal works of mercy done by the Knights of Columbus worldwide.”

Mr. Laufenberg thanked the Knights who attended the previous two state conventions that were held virtually. At this year’s convention, some were able to attend in person and others participated virtually.

“We hope this new vehicle of communication and virtual participation will help us continue to grow and strengthen our Church, our state council, and our order,” Mr. Laufenberg said.

Former state representative Bill Dunn was recognized by the Knights of Columbus for his pro-life work in the General Assembly.

In the next year, the state council will continue its efforts to return the Knights of Columbus “to our original Christocentric mission that was instituted by a simple parish priest we now call Blessed Father Michael J. McGivney,” Mr. Laufenberg said, referring to the Knights founder who was beatified in 2020 after Pope Francis proclaimed the cure of young Michael Schachle of Dickson, Tenn., was a miracle through the intercession of Father McGivney.

“We are embracing a new age of evangelization, with Tennessee leading the way into a bright future for Catholic men everywhere,” he continued.

The state council will focus on discipleship and evangelization in the coming year, following up on a four-day retreat held in Nashville in March that was attended by 40 Tennessee Knights and staff members from the Knights’ Supreme Council offices in New Haven, Conn. The retreat was part of a new initiative by the order to train Knights how to be missionary disciples.

“We will be sharing that knowledge with every council so that we can take our commitment of helping men grow closer to Christ to the next level,” Mr. Laufenberg said. “To succeed in our ongoing mission, we must help all Catholics to become men of the cross. We must be anchored in Christ.”

The Tennessee State Council motto for the 2022-23 fraternal year, which begins in July, will be “Anchored in Christ.”

During the state convention, Mr. Laufenberg and the other state officers were re-elected to a second one-year term. The other state officers are:

  • State Secretary Bill Markiewicz of Council 4572 at St. Thérèse of Lisieux Church in Cleveland;
  • State Treasurer Eric Pelton of Council 8576 at St. Jude Church in Chattanooga;
  • State Advocate David Zwissler of Council 9317 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Cordova;
  • State Warden Alan Stanley of Council 9168 at St. Luke Church in Smyrna.

At the state convention, several Diocese of Knoxville Knights were recognized with special awards during the state dinner.

Former state representative Bill Dunn, a member of Council 15623 at Holy Ghost Parish in Knoxville, was awarded the Mary Kimball Award for his dedication to protecting the sanctity of life.

Mike Wills of Council 15706 at All Saints Parish in Knoxville and Bill Wicke of Council 8781 at St. John Neumann Parish in Farragut were awarded the state Knights of Columbus Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mr. Wills is retiring from the Knights of Columbus supreme board of directors this month. He was first elected to the supreme board of directors on Aug. 7, 2013, at the Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

He is only the second Knight in recent memory from Tennessee to serve on the board.

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