Supreme Convention draws priests, prelates, and brother Knights from around the world
By Andy Telli and Katie Peterson
Thousands of Knights of Columbus and their families converged on the Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville for the 140th Supreme Convention for the first in-person convention in three years.
They came from the Philippines and Mexico, France and Poland, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, California and New York, and everywhere in between.
“People overwhelmingly were happy to get back together,” said Michael McCusker, the convention manager for the host Tennessee State Council.
“It went really, really well,” Minnesota State Deputy Dan DeCrans of Nevis, Minn., said of this year’s convention. He said he liked “just about everything.”
Minnesota hosted the last in-person Supreme Convention held in 2019 just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s tremendous to have people come back together,” said Mr. DeCrans, who had 29 people come to the convention. “It’s great to see people and experience the fraternity of being together.”
The convention was held Aug. 2-4, but delegates and their families began arriving in Nashville the weekend before. There were several tours and activities for the visitors to enjoy before the business of the convention began.
One of the people with the Minnesota group was Gina Kosloski of Lake Shore, Minn. She arrived in Nashville on the Saturday before the start of the convention.
“We went down to Broadway and took in some of the sights,” she said of Nashville’s downtown entertainment district. “That was fun.”
“It’s amazing,” she said of this year’s convention. “It’s amazing to see friends we’ve made throughout the years.”
This year’s convention featured several changes, explained Mr. McCusker, a Past State Deputy for the Tennessee Council and a parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi Church in the Memphis suburb of Cordova.
Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, presiding at his first Supreme Convention, had some changes in mind that relieved some of the stress on Tennessee, which had a shorter than normal time to prepare, Mr. McCusker said.
Typically, the host state organizes a welcome party the night before the formal opening of the convention. But this year, the Supreme Council staff took advantage of the Music City location and replaced the party with a Welcome Concert at the Grand Ole Opry featuring country music star Craig Morgan, a parishioner of St. Christopher Church in Dickson, and the Hillbilly Thomists bluegrass band, made up of Dominican friars.
“The concert, people absolutely loved it,” said Tennessee State Deputy Fred Laufenberg of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Fairfield Glade in the Diocese of Knoxville. “They absolutely loved the show.”
The concert was followed the next morning by the opening Mass with Nashville Bishop J. Mark Spalding as the main celebrant and homilist.
“It was absolutely tremendous,” Mr. Laufenberg said. “People absolutely loved the homily and the energy he brought to the Mass.”
The procession at the start of the Mass included a long line of deacons, priests, bishops, and cardinals.
“It’s impressive to see that much of the hierarchy of our Church spending time with us,” Mr. Laufenberg said. “It’s moving to see that.”
The Tennessee Council added a new feature to the convention. Wednesday evening is traditionally a free night, and the various delegations try to go to a restaurant together, which can sometimes be difficult to arrange, Mr. McCusker said.
Instead, the Tennessee Knights sold tickets for a dinner at the Catholic Pastoral Center that featured a quick shuttle bus ride to and from the hotel, a barbecue dinner, line-dancing lessons, and a lot of fellowship.
More than 500 people from 26 delegations from around the world attended, Mr. McCusker said.
“This is a first-time thing,” Mr. McCusker said. “Supreme thinks this might be a new tradition.”
Another twist that might become a new tradition is the gift the host state traditionally gives to all the delegates. This year it was a Christmas ornament featuring Mikey Schachle, the Dickson boy whose cure from a deadly disease was proclaimed a miracle by the Vatican due to the intercession of Knights of Columbus founder Blessed Michael McGivney, which has led to his beatification.
The Supreme Council staff is considering presenting a new ornament every year that delegates can add to their Christmas tree, Mr. McCusker explained.
Hosting the Supreme Convention required the help of hundreds of Tennessee Knights who volunteered to help visitors navigate the Opryland hotel, register delegates, and transport members of the hierarchy between the hotel and the airport.
“We had volunteers from across all three dioceses” of Tennessee: Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville, Mr. Laufenberg said.
Knights in attendance received insight on how to be true pastors in the world.
That was the message Bishop Spalding shared with members of the Knights of Columbus from all over the world as they, along with their families, gathered for the opening Mass of the Supreme Convention on Aug. 2 in the Delta Ballroom of the Opryland.
Also in attendance at the Mass were dozens of bishops, priests, deacons, and religious from around the world.
Bishop Spalding noted the significance of the gathering at the beginning of his homily.
He remarked that it’s because of recent years, largely related to the COVID-19 pandemic, that it’s even more important to be a pastor in the world.
“We’re keeping in mind in a special way in this Mass, this priest, this pastor of people, Blessed Father Michael McGivney,” Bishop Spalding said. “We keep in mind his great example, and the readings and prayers today call us into what it means to be a pastor.”
“Being a pastor … is a great life. It’s not an easy life, but it is a great life. We hear in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (4:1-7, 11-13) what that life is about as pastor,” he continued. “We heard it being spoken to us as unity, oneness in Christ, the constant effort of a priest, of a pastor. The constant effort of Father Michael McGivney was to bring his flock together in Christ.”
As Knights, it is their responsibility to continue that, Bishop Spalding said.
“After the last couple of years, now we need to proclaim evermore that Christ is our light and our life. Go from this convention enthused, empowered to be evangelists in Jesus Christ. Our world is starving for the presence of Christ in their life, and you can be that and lead them even more profoundly as pastors to other souls through word and sacrament,” Bishop Spalding said, before posing a question to the congregation.
“What do we know as Roman Catholics?” he asked. “That Jesus Christ changes people’s lives for the better, that the more you come to know Jesus in word and sacrament, in His teachings, in His Church, the better off you are. You know how to live your life. You know how to be inspired in your life. You know what direction it is. This is the work of our pastors, our priests, but it is the work of all of us as disciples.”
It was the mission of Blessed Father McGivney, he said.
“Father McGivney, he wanted to bring men together in his time, and his spirit in Christ still brings men together,” Bishop Spalding said. “He made sure that these Knights would come together and do the good works in Jesus Christ, to learn how to be comfortable in the faith and learn how to share the faith with others and tell their sons and their grandsons. It is the good, it is the beautiful, it is the truth to follow Jesus.”
“We have so many things around us in which we have men who are lost and need to be found,” he said. “We the Knights, we can be part of that good father that runs to your sons, literally and figuratively, in their life and brings them into the banquet, the banquet of Jesus Christ, the banquet in which Father McGivney knew to bring people close to others and then go out into the world and change it for the better.”
With that, Bishop Spalding gave three pieces of instruction to the Knights. First, support and encourage their pastors.
“Thank them for their ‘yes’ to their vocation. I know you do it already. I’m just affirming it and confirming it,” Bishop Spalding said. “A corollary to that … call out to men to look at the vocation of service in the Church, especially as priests, and I thank you for all the support you have given, you are giving and will give to that great calling.”
Second, never forget to say, “I love you.”
“When you say ‘I love you’ to your wife, your children, your grandchildren, understand this, I want you to likewise say, ‘I love my faith. I love my Church. I love Jesus Christ,’” he said. “‘And as much as I love you dear son, dear daughter, I want the best for you, and if you can come into the faith and know Jesus even better, you’ll know my love and how deep it is for you.’”
Finally, continue to serve., Bishop Spalding encouraged the Knights.
“Continue to always go out to the margins, to those least among us, to those who need to be defended and protected from conception to natural death, from womb to tomb,” Bishop Spalding said. “That is a great and wonderful calling the Knights have had over the years, and even more so as the situation has changed. Let us make sure that change is for the better.
“All of us are preachers, proclaimers, defenders, protectors of life from conception to natural death and every step along the way,” he said. “We love our people, and we give dignity to every person no matter what color, no matter what culture, no matter what language. They’re ours in Christ Jesus. They’re sons and daughters of God. You’ve been there, done that. Keep doing it.
“If we make ourselves one in Christ, if we proclaim and preach those Beatitudes that we heard from Matthew’s Gospel, if we make ourselves disciples and proclaim how we love the faith to others and will live that faith accordingly in our lives, in our homes, in our workplaces, in our communities … we will be true pastors in our world.”
“Blessed Michael McGivney, pastor and priest, pray for us,” Bishop Spalding concluded.