The opening Mass for the 107th Annual State Convention for the Florida State Council of the Knights of Columbus was filled with faith, patriotism, and even a few surprises, as the Knights announced they had recently surpassed their council-wide goal of 50,000 members. That honor went to Father Chau Nguyen, pastor of St. Philip Phan Van Minh Catholic Church in Orlando.
The identity of the 50,000th member was kept secret until after the opening Mass, held on May 27 at the Renaissance Orlando Resort. Bishop John Noonan was asked to read the announcement. Afterwards, Bishop Noonan said he felt it was fitting that the honor went to a Vietnamese priest. “The Knights of Columbus was founded on the need to look after immigrants and to look after the needs of the Church,” he said.
Father Nguyen officially joined Council 5150 Our Lady of the Lakes, Deltona, last month. “Twenty-two years ago when I was ordained I was invited to be a member of the Knights of Columbus and they kept asking and asking,” said Father Nguyen. “It was eye-opening to be in the council and to see what they do for the Church.”
Father Nguyen and Bishop Noonan were among the nearly two dozen seminarians, priests and bishops who joined Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, former Bishop of Orlando, who was the principal celebrant and homilist for the opening Mass.
The Knights of Columbus presented both Archbishop Wenski and Bishop Noonan with charitable donations to be used for vocations. The Archdiocese of Miami and the Diocese of Orlando each received a $10,000 donation for vocations, and Archbishop Wenski also accepted an additional $10,000 for St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach and $5,000 for St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami.
According to Knights of Columbus Supreme Master Dennis Stoddard, vocations are one of four main charitable causes covered by the Florida Council, which also includes the Bahamas and St. Lucia. The other charities include funds for handicapped citizens; the American Wheelchair Mission, which purchases and distributes wheelchairs; and offering assistance to abused and unwed women in crisis pregnancy centers.
“This year our theme is, ‘I am my brother’s keeper,’” said Stoddard. “Financially it’s been a drain on a lot of jurisdictions…but they’ve been working even harder to raise funds to get out those donations.”
As the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus has 1.8 million members worldwide, and this year the Florida Council ranked #2 in membership development, new council development and retention efforts.
“If the Knights of Columbus was an army, they would be the third largest army in the world,” said Douglas Murray, State Deputy of the Florida State Council. “We are an army of Christ to bring people back into the Church through service, action, and charitable work.”