Knights of St. Peter Claver see no boundaries

NORTH CHARLESTON—The Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary celebrated their annual Gulf Coast District Conference with a couple of momentous events.

On a personal level, the group welcomed recently elected Supreme Knight Fredron Blackmon, who, at 33, is the youngest ever Supreme Knight of the Knights of St. Peter Claver.

He said more young people are joining the organization and he believes that seeing another young adult in a top leadership role will be an even bigger draw.

Participants also reflected on the beatification of Blessed John Paul II on May 2 in Rome.

It was one of the largest Vatican Masses in history as some 1.5 million pilgrims flooded the city to watch as the pope moved a step closer to sainthood. Blessed John Paul needs another miracle attributed to his intercession before he can be canonized.

Joan Mack, a conference organizer, thought it was fitting that the two events occurred in the same weekend.

She said the pope spoke at a black leadership conference in 1987 and told attendees there is no black church, no white church, only a church of Jesus Christ, a home for all.

Mack said this is a timeless message she would like everyone to take back to their communities.

The pope’s words underscored the conference theme of “Building Claverism Across All Boundaries.”

About 450 people registered for the district event held April 29 through May 1 at Embassy Suites convention center in North Charleston.

Barbara Birds, a member of St. Patrick Church in Charleston and president of the SCCCW, said everyone enjoyed the conference and the perfect Lowcountry weather.

Knights and ladies participated in an opening session and social April 29, followed by workshops, Mass and an awards banquet April 30.

“The Mass is one of the highlights,” Mack said. “That’s when everyone comes out in their regalia.”

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone was the celebrant and Father Vernon F. Huguley, vicar for black Catholics in the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., gave the homily.

Making reference to a concert going on next door, Father Huguley said it is important for Catholics to drown out distracting noises and concentrate on the Lord.

“Many wonderful things can be done through us if we focus,” he said.

Charlene Flournoy, from Atlanta, said she always comes away from the conference with a sense of renewal.

“I’ll be praising God more because He is an amazing God,” she said.

Paul Latimore, Grand Knight of St. Anthony of Padua Council 316 in Greenville, said he enjoys socializing with the other Knights, learning from them and attending Mass.

One thing on the minds of all the Knights and ladies is the plight of their brothers and sisters, whether in Alabama, Japan or Haiti. Members said they discussed what different councils are doing to help, and Bishop Guglielmone offered his prayers during closing remarks after Mass.

The St. Peter Claver fraternal organization was founded a century ago and has about 700 chapters in North and South America. The organization is named for a 16th century Spanish priest who dedicated his life to working on behalf of African slaves on their passage through Cartegena, Colombia.

Gulf Coast District Annual Awards

Awards are presented each year at the St. Peter Claver conference banquet that includes South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama. This year, South Carolina received two of the honors: The 2011 Gulf Coast Court of the Year went to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Court 110 from Charleston, S.C., and the 2011 Gulf Coast Area Deputy of the Year co-winner was Vertelle A. Kenion, also of Court 110.

See related article: Supreme Knight shares his goals