GREENVILLE — Bishop Robert J. Baker and hundreds of Catholic men and women descended on the Embassy Suites hotel April 29 for the 84th annual Knights of Columbus convention for South Carolina.
Serving the church is something of a specialty of the Knights of Columbus. Fourth degree Knights, who always serve as an honor guard wherever the bishop appears, were in full regalia for the mammoth convention. Knights also were altar servers for the Mass.
Raising money for charity is another special function of Knights councils.
In 2004, the 58 councils in South Carolina raised $296,000 through their tax-exempt, volunteer-run institute, the Columbus HOPE (Helping Our special People Everyday) Foundation, to give to retarded citizens in the state. One of the purposes of the convention was to disburse some of those funds. The Knights gave money to Catholic radio, the Poor Clare Monastery, Catholic Charities, the Vocations Office, and others. State deputy Raymond W. Hock gave a special donation of $8,000 to Bishop Baker, to be used at his discretion. The bishop said the funds would go as one of the initial contributions to the diocesan Capital Campaign.
Another purpose of the gathering was to recognize citizens who recorded accomplishments during the year, including Stephanie Skitt, a Special Olympics gold medal figure skater. Five service awards were given to local councils, representing the five areas that engage the Knights’ efforts: church, community, council, family and youth. The winners were, respectively: 8182 (Mauldin), 8980 (Garden City Beach), 9575 (Spartanburg), 10819 (Simpsonville) and 8182.
Individual awards were won by Alison Efimetz of Jesus Our Risen Savior Parish in Spartanburg, (Charity Award), Joseph Hughes of St. Paul in Seneca (Catholicity), Nathan Schwecke of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Mauldin (Youth of the Year), William V. Keenan Jr. of St. Anne in Sumter (Knight of the Year), Steve and Christi Morrison of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (Family of the Year) and Edwin A. Manno of St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken (Golden Knight of the Year). The Golden Knight of the Year must have at least 10 years of consecutive service with the same council to be eligible.
Professor Charlie White of Clemson University was presented with the Hope Award for “a lifestyle of love for people with special needs,” according to Michael Telesco, chairman of the board of the Columbus HOPE Foundation.
Five Knights received Brown Pelican medals from the Boy Scouts of America.
Carl A. Anderson, supreme knight, address the crowd by videotape. He told participants that they should be prepared to fight the United States Senate as part of their work to support what he called the culture of life.
“I will call upon the Knights to mount a historic effort to oppose the filibustering of pro-life judges,” the international Knights leader said.
Bishop Baker augmented Anderson’s call to action by stating: “I’m so proud of the Knights of Columbus for being at the vanguard of the great effort of Supreme Court justices, for rallying behind the cause of life and for making the sacrifice that entails.”
The bishop gave the homily during Mass, the keynote address at the banquet, and spoke at other times during the convention, threading the theme of truth through his talks. He said that true Catholics seek the truth, the truth that will set them free.
Bishop Baker also spoke of the truth Catholics can expect from the newly installed Pope Benedict XVI, calling the articulation of truth a key and necessary demand of the papal office in relativistic times: “A boldness for truth is missing in our society,” he said.
The theme of the 84th convention was “Now is the Hour of the Knights.” The convention was dedicated to John and Dorothea Connerty, veteran volunteers at Knights events.