Sioux City hosts state Knights convention
By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
According to organizers, the convention drew about 800 people – nearly 500 Knights and about 300 wives and children attended over the three days.
Mike Laake, state deputy for the Iowa Knights of Columbus and parishioner at St. Patrick’s in Estherville, said the state convention serves as the organization’s annual business meeting.
“We made some fundamental changes to our bylaws that will give us a more sound financial position,” he said. “We want to ensure that Iowa can focus on keeping the order growing.”
Antonio Banuelos, executive committee member from Des Moines, pointed out that they have 235 KC councils in the state and each council was allowed to have two delegates vote at the business meetings.
“The more councils we have present here, the more we can enrich our experiences here and the more we can learn from one another,” he said.
At the business meetings they voted on numerous resolutions. Banuelos said that one of the more important resolutions approved this year was to protect the faith, protect the freedom of religious liberty against the Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate.
Given there are 31,000 KCs in the state, he said the business aspect can encompass much of the convention but he stressed that they never want to lose sight that they are rooted in Christ. That is part of the reason why they wanted to offer the faith formation sessions on the final day.
Laake pointed out that offering faith formation activities is not new to the Knights, but it has not been as much of a focus in recent years.
“Here we join as a community to become one together in our faith,” he said.
The hope is that the information shared at the convention would be taken back and shared with the local councils.
The local co-chairs of this year’s event were Marv and Mary Japel and Pat and Marie McAleer of Sioux City.
Various Knights councils from Sioux City and the surrounding area assisted with organizing the convention. The host council helped to plan the liturgies, line up entertainment, planned women’s activities, produced the convention booklet and more.
“For the most part, everything ran very smooth and we had good men from the state help make sure we were doing everything properly,” said Japel , who added that the convention center provided a perfect venue and size for this event. “One of the things that we are proud of is that the profits of the convention will go to Mary’s Choice.”
A banquet was held Friday and Saturday night with awards given each evening.
Opportunities for spiritual nourishment were also part of the convention offerings. Along with daily Mass, an adoration chapel was available throughout the weekend and a Chaplet of Divine Mercy service was held on Sunday.
Bishop Walker Nickless presided at Masses held at the convention center Saturday and Sunday morning.
Father Brian Danner, state chaplain, was homilist for the first Mass. He centered his sermon on the importance of Catholic identity.
The bishop was homilist at the April 15 Mass that was concelebrated by Father Danner, Msgr. Gerald Stessman of Des Moines and Father Bill Reynolds of Newton.
Bishop Nickless, referring to the apostle from the Gospel of John, said that Thomas could “represent all of us certainly in our weak and doubting faith at times but also in the strength of our faith. St. Thomas made one of the greatest statements in faith in all of history. After the Lord’s invitation to come and touch his wounds, St. Thomas exclaimed, ‘My Lord and my God.’”
The bishop said it was okay to question and doubt, but eventually one must come to believe and once that happens “we are sent forth, just like the apostles to witness to the truth of Jesus Christ and his Gospel.”
“As members of the Knights of Columbus, you know only too well that the work of evangelization, the work of proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, does not belong only to bishops, priests and deacons,” he said. “We can only do so much from our pulpits and our churches, but you are active and living in the real world. You can do so much more.”
As laity, as Knights, the bishop told them that they were called to the special work of not only witnessing to the truth of Jesus Christ and his church but also to share that message with their family, coworkers and communities they are a part of.
The highlight of Friday was the 4th degree exemplification for 82 men from throughout the state, followed by the Knighting ceremony.
Dale Wille, a member of the degree staff from Waterloo in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, said the men participated in a closed-door exemplification that was built on the theme of patriotism to the United States.
The knighting ceremony is open to the wives and the public, noted Wille, who added, “because it is the females who support the males in the Knights of Columbus and we believe in family.”
Cory Puetz of Le Mars, a parishioner of St. Joseph Church, said, “I feel very good about becoming a 4th degree Knight. My father and grandfather were both in the 4th degree and my two brothers and I joined today.”
He pointed out that he has been a Knight for the last five years and wanted to further his involvement by taking the next step.
Will Fergen, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception in Sioux City, wanted to become a 4th degree Knight in order to become more fraternal – having the chance to get to know more of his brother Knights and be involved in service to his parish and community.
As he was knighted, his wife was able to stand behind him. Fergen said, “I felt honored and was happy to have my wife with me.”
Deacon Fred Karpuk of Sioux City, a member of 265 Garrigan Assembly at Blessed Sacrament Church, was also knighted as a 4th degree. The deacon, who has been a Knight for about 25 years, said it was nice to be part of the ceremony.
“The patriotism part of this was uplifting,” he said. “It was nice to tie patriotism and church together.”
Father Merle Schrad, who is pastor at Blessed Sacrament Church in Sioux City, was among the men knighted to the 4th degree and so was Deacon Dick Billings, who also serves at Blessed Sacrament.
Business meetings and the banquet filled the agenda on Saturday and the focus of Sunday activities centered on faith formation. Some of the speakers on Sunday included Kim Lehman with the Pope John Paul II Stem Cell Research Institute, Joe Worthing addressing Project Moses, Father Danner discussing faith formation within councils and Laake focusing on the mission of the Knights. These talks were open to the general public.
Throughout the weekend, numerous activities were planned for the women.
Anita Gaspers of Danbury, who is the liturgy director for state Knights, attended the convention with her husband Mike and participated in several of the women’s activities.
By attending the convention, she said it provides an opportunity for fellowship and faith formation.
“It’s a renewal of friendships and bringing together our families into the bigger Knights of Columbus family,” said Gaspers.
Mary Ann Schulte, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church in Sioux City and a member of the committee to help plan the women’s activities, said it is important for the women to attend the conference to support their husband Knights and so that they all can be encouraged in the faith.
Like Gaspers, she said it is a nice chance to meet women from across the state and renew friendships that have been made in the past.
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