The Tennessee Knights of Columbus’ membership efforts are paying dividends.
In the first six months in the 2016-17 fraternal year, the Knights in Tennessee have recruited about 330 new members, which ranks the state 11th among the order’s 74 jurisdictions around the world, said State Deputy Steve Comm of Nashville.
Comm, the Knights top official in Tennessee, announced at the Knights’ Mid- Year Meeting held Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Nashville, that Tennessee is one of only three jurisdictions to have at least 75 percent of its councils recruit at least one new member so far this fraternal year. In Tennessee, there are 94 councils, most based at parishes across the state.
“Last year, I doubt we were much more than 50 percent of the councils,” compared to 78 percent that have added a new member this year, Comm said. Tennessee’s goal of the year is to recruit 640 new members. “Our plan is to far exceed that,” he said.
“The key to me has been Kevin Petitte, our membership director,” Comm said of the Past Grand Knight of Council 9317 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Cordova, a Memphis suburb. “Obviously, the councils have to do the work or nothing gets down. But Kevin has embraced the concept of communicating with the councils directly in a way that hasn’t been done in a very long time.”
The message has been to help prospective members become better men, better husbands, better fathers, better Catholics, Comm said. “It resonates with the local councils in a way just throwing out numbers never would,” he added.
The Knights of Columbus is a fraternal benefit organization of Catholic men, and with 1.9 million members in 17 countries, is one of the largest lay Catholic organizations in the world. The order was founded in 1882 to help take care of the widows and orphans of deceased members. From that mission has grown the Knights’ life insurance program, one of the most successful in the country.
But the Knights’ founder, Father Michael McGivney, also saw the order as a way to help Catholic men deepen their faith and become more involved in their parishes. That vision is helping to drive the order’s initiative, “Building the Domestic Church.”
The aim of the intitiative is to give Knights and their families more opportunities to participate in a variety of activities that promote the New Evangelization, strengthen their parishes and grow the order. Building the Domestic Church includes several programs, working with parishes, designed to strengthen families.
“The order is growing in Tennessee,” Comm said. “More to the point, we think it’s growing in the right way. It’s appealing to families, which leads to Building the Domestic Church, which is about bringing families to the Church.”
Much of the membership efforts in Tennessee are focused on moving Knights councils to the center of parish life, Comm said, noting that Supreme Knight Carl Anderson has talked about the Building the Domestic Church initiative as “making us more a part of the parish as opposed to apart from the parish.”
At the Mid-Year Meeting, Comm announced the formation of two new councils: Council 16523 at Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville and Council 16604 at the Church of the Nativity in Spring Hill.
Several councils and Fourth Degree Assemblies were recognized during the meeting for achieving Star Council and Star Assembly status in the 2015-16 fraternal year. The Star Council Award is the highest distinction available to a local council and reflects the council’s success in charitable and fraternal programs as well as achieving membership and insurance quotas.
Star Councils in the Diocese of Nashville include: 3431 at Church of the Good Shepherd, Winchester; 3537 Immaculate Conception Church, Clarksville; 7764 at St. Philip Church, Franklin; 8354 at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church, Antioch; 9168 at St Luke Church, Smyrna; 9282 at St. Stephen Church, Old Hickory; 9787 at St. Frances Cabrini Church, Lebanon; 11074 at St. John the Evangelist Church, Lewisburg; 12012 at St. Henry Church, Nashville; 14931 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Nashville; 15020 at Vanderbilt University, Nashville; 15234 at Holy Family Church, Brentwood; 15981 at St. Mark Church, Manchester.
Star Councils in the Diocese of Knoxville include: 5207 at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Knoxville; 8396 at St. Mary’s Church, Athens; 12633 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Lenoir City; 14079 at Holy Spirit Church in Soddy Daisy; 15706 at All Saints Church, Knoxville; 16088 at St. Francis of Assisi Church, Fairfield Glade.
Star Councils in the Diocese of Memphis include: 7449 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Germantown; 15393 at St. Brigid Church, Memphis; 15936 at Church of the Ascension, Memphis.
Two District Deputies, Alan Stanley of District 11, which includes the Rutherford County and southeastern Davidson County area, and Jake Woods of District 12, which includes councils in Williamson County and part of Davidson County, accepted Star District Awards.
The Divine Mercy Fourth Degree Assembly 2936 in Nashville received the Star Assembly Award.