Knights of Columbus put spotlight on faith, charity

Diocese of Knoxville well represented at annual state convention

By Andy Telli

The Knights of Columbus’ commitment to charity and helping Catholic men deepen their faith was on full display during the 121st State Convention of the Tennessee State Council, held April 26-27 at the Marriott Cool Springs Hotel in Franklin.

In Tennessee, the Knights’ leadership has been promoting Christo-centric leadership and the order’s COR initiative, a faith-formation program using small groups open to men who are members and non-members alike, explained State Deputy Bill Markiewicz of Cleveland, the highest-ranking officer in the state.

“With our COR initiative and Christo-centric leadership, we’re really trying to focus more around our faith and the sacraments and the Eucharist and not about having a clubhouse or just about recruiting new members,” Mr. Markiewicz said. “It’s really faith-focused … and we’ve made a lot of progress there this past year.”

The emphasis on providing faith-formation opportunities for Catholic men is part of the strategic plan of the Supreme Council of the order, headquartered in New Haven, Conn., said Anthony Minopoli, a member of the Supreme Council board of directors who represented the Supreme Council at the Tennessee convention.

The first principle of the Knights, with more than 2 million members around the world, is charity. In 2023, the Knights donated $185 million to charity and devoted 49 million hours to volunteer service.

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly set a goal for the Knights to do in the faith what it does in charity, Mr. Minopoli explained. “That’s one of the pillars of our strategic plan: being first in faith as in charity.”

Since the COR initiative was launched, more than 4,000 councils have adopted the program, Mr. Minopoli said. He also noted that several recent studies have found that many men don’t have friends of other men.

COR, which is Latin for heart, “is an affirmative step forward to say we are going to focus on developing men’s faith, developing their charity, and tightening the bonds of brotherhood. And who is more uniquely positioned than the Knights of Columbus?” Mr. Minopoli said.

That focus on the faith has helped the Knights to pass 13,000 members in Tennessee for the first time, Mr. Markiewicz noted.

The state council makes four promises to its members, he said. “That first promise is we will give all men an opportunity to grow closer in relationship to God. And that’s why we think more of it as evangelization and men working together to grow in their faith.”

The other promises of the State Council are:

  • Provide opportunities for all Catholic men and their families to serve Christ in His Church.
  • Provide opportunities for all Catholic men and their families to serve those most in need in their community in the name of Christ.
  • Ensure that no Catholic family experiences unnecessary financial hardship due to the loss of a breadwinner or an underfunded pension.

Investing with faith

Mr. Minopoli is the executive vice president and chief investment officer for the Knights of Columbus, responsible for overseeing the team that manages an approximately $30 billion general account that backs the life insurance, long-term care, disability, and annuity programs that are open to Knights and their families.

He also is president and chief investment officer of Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors, a wholly owned subsidiary, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, that manages the Knights’ family of Catholic-compliant mutual funds. Knights Asset Advisors have about $1.55 billion in mutual funds and another roughly $800 million in accounts it manages for larger investors, such as large dioceses, according to Mr. Minopoli.

Anyone can invest in the Asset Advisors’ mutual funds, and they can be assured their investment will be consistent with Church teaching, he said.

“We’ve been managing according to the teachings of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for many years,” Mr. Minopoli said. “We developed this family of mutual funds that adheres to those very same teachings. …

“We use a third-party firm to help us screen companies and then we also have a moral theologian on retainer” to help ensure the investments are following the teachings of the bishops, Mr. Minopoli said.

“Our goal is to not just have funds that are compliant with Catholic teachings. Our focus is to try to generate market-competitive, attractive returns in a very risk-adjusted way, with fees that are competitive in the marketplace, and an understanding for anyone who invests with the Knights, and I think this is even more important than knowing about the screening, is that the profitability from what we earn from running these funds support the very same ideals that people in the Catholic Church believe in,” he added.

Earnings from all the Knights investments help fund its charitable efforts, including the Coats for Kids program, a program to help pay for ultrasound machines for pregnancy resource centers, disaster relief, support for Ukraine, and others, Mr. Minopoli explained.

Find more information about Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors by visiting or contacting the Knights of Columbus Insurance Agency in Tennessee at 855-4TN-KofC.

Knights honored

Individual Knights, families, and councils were honored with a variety of awards presented at the convention’s annual banquet. Those honored included:

  • Community Program of the Year—Council 645 in Knoxville for its Bicycle Program that repairs bicycles for the homeless and those living in poverty, often providing the transportation they need to hold a job. In the past year, 155 bicycles were repaired or donated.

Also recognized for an Outstanding Community Program was Council 14521 at St. Augustine Church in Signal Mountain, which sponsored a yard sale that raised more than $101,000 to help the parish’s sister parish in Haiti to pay to help dig a well for fresh water, and for food and education supplies for the children.

  • Faith Program of the Year—Council 4572 at St. Therese of Lisieux Church in Cleveland for its Jacob’s Crossing program, which is an extension of the COR Program. This program is a once-a-month faith-formation program that includes liturgy, faith discussion, and a meal. This program is credited with helping the council achieve 200 percent of its recruitment target.
  • Family Program of the Year—Council 16088 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Fairfield Glade for its Food for Families program that served more than 400 Thanksgiving meals to families in need and raised $2,245 to supplement the parish’s food-pantry reserves.
  • Life Program of the Year—Council 17578 at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Memphis for its Souls for Service program that included monthly meeting space for families with special needs to gather for support and socialization. The council provided meals at each of the monthly meetings and included a Mass for People with Special Needs.

Also recognized for an Outstanding Life Program was Council 8241 at St. Christopher Church in Dickson for its Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Program. The council passed out candles and prayer cards to interested parishioners who were asked to light the candle and pray for those who have suffered the loss of an unborn baby or infant in their homes at the same time on the same day.

  • The Bishops’ Awards honor councils that sponsored a robust programming curriculum in Faith, Family, Life, and Community. The councils recognized included: 3537 at Immaculate Conception Church in Clarksville; 4563 at St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro; 8152 in serving St. Alphonsus Church in Crossville and St. Christopher Church in Jamestown; 8576 at St. Jude Church in Chattanooga; 9132 at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville; 9282 at St. Stephen Church in Old Hickory; 12633 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Lenoir City; 14079 at Holy Spirit Church in Soddy-Daisy; and 17578 at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Memphis.
  • Blessed Michael J. McGivney Award—Father Davis Chackaleckel, MSFS, pastor of St. Stephen Church in Old Hickory. The award honors a council chaplain for his work as a teacher of faith, an apostle of Christian family life, a devoted parish priest, an exemplar of charity, a builder of Catholic fraternity, and a role model to the parish.
  • Mary Bernadette Kimball Pro-Life Award—Sal Lombardi of Council 12012 at St. Henry Church in Nashville. The award honors a Knight for his exceptional commitment to the pro-life cause at the local, state, and national levels. Mr. Lombardi is a physician practicing high-risk obstetrics, the life director for his council, and an active supporter of Mulier Care Pregnancy Resource Center.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award—Pat Watson of Council 12256 at Christ the King Church in Nashville and Victor Williams of Holy Family Council 6099 in Chattanooga.
  • Knight of the Year—Jim Morey of Council 645 serving Immaculate Conception Church Knoxville. Mr. Morey, a parishioner at St. Albert the Great in Knoxville, was the driving factor in the council’s Bike Repair program, volunteers with the Ladies of Charity thrift shop, and accompanied a fellow Knight to his weekly cancer treatments while also battling his own case of cancer.
  • Family of the Year—the family of Jessica and Matt Nelson, a member of Council 17578 at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Memphis. As a family, the Nelsons, with their four children, have actively been involved with many programs from the council, including the soccer challenge.

As a family, they chaired and organized the Lenten fish fries. Both parents serve as ushers, lectors, and eucharistic ministers; two of the children are altar servers. The family helps decorate the sanctuary for holidays, Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter.

Officer elections

State officers were elected for a one-year term. Elected for their second terms were: State Deputy Bill Markiewicz of Cleveland; State Secretary Eric Pelton of Chattanooga; State Treasurer David Zwissler of Memphis; and State Advocate Alan Stanley of Smyrna.

Elected to his first term as State Warden was Stephen Watson, a former Grand Knight of Council 4972 in South Nashville, current faithful navigator of Fourth Degree Assembly 1627 in Nashville, and the communications director for the Tennessee State Council.

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