ORLANDO | The Florida State Knights of Columbus Convention was held May 25-27 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando. In attendance were over 1,000 Knights and their families from across Florida and the Bahamas, along with six bishops and 12 priests.
The theme, “Let Your Light Shine,” comes from the Gospel passage Matthew 5:14 and has served as an inspirational guide for the Knights all year. The Florida Catholic spoke with Donald Kahrer, state deputy for the Knights of Columbus in Florida, on how the Knights shine a light in their local communities.
Q: What is your background with the Knights?
A: I was relocated by my company in 1997. My wife, Christine, and myself found a home parish in Holy Family, Orlando. I wanted to get involved in a ministry that would serve the needs of the parish and the community. The Knights had a membership drive at the church and I was impressed with the quality of men asking me to join. After getting involved in the Knights of Columbus, I was impressed by their service and spirituality.
Q: What makes you proud to be a part of the Knights of Columbus?
A: The Knights of Columbus have allowed me to share my faith with other Catholic men, to put my faith in action, and to support Special Olympics, vocations and pro-life causes. In the area of Special Olympics, I was honored to present a medal to an inspirational athlete. In the pro-life area we have provided over 90 ultrasound machines to pregnancy centers throughout Florida, which in turn have saved thousands of lives. These are just a couple of examples of why I am glad to be a Knight.
Q: What were the highlights of the recent state convention in Orlando?
A: Highlights included the presentation of $10,000 to each Florida bishop for their diocesan vocation program and the presentation of a $25,000 check to Special Olympics from the councils that participated in a variety of fundraising activities throughout the state. There were also two Masses celebrated by the bishops and a Byzantine rite Mass. We had an award program recognizing the works of councils in the areas of pro-life, vocations and numerous charity programs.
Q: There is an initiative within the Knights of Columbus to recruit younger members through social media. Can you offer any insight about that initiative?
A: Knights of Columbus Florida State Council has recently activated four social media channels: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. The use of these channels reaches out to the demographics using these mediums, hoping to inspire them to want to know more about us and what we do. The Knights of Columbus has also instituted a new e-membership model allowing Catholic gentlemen 18-plus to sign up for the Knights of Columbus online.
Q: How do you think the Knights best like to be perceived not just by the Church and its members, but by society at large?
A: We, the Knights of Columbus, want to be perceived in a biblical sense as servants to our family, Church and community. Our order’s four “Faith in Action” initiatives of faith, family, community and life embody the very essence of our existence. Our main theme, “Building the Domestic Church,” starts in our homes, then to our churches, then our communities. We are, as Jesus describes, servants to all.
Q: What are some issues or challenges the Knights of Columbus organization wishes to tackle in the near future?
A: The Knights of Columbus wholeheartedly takes on the pope’s instruction for the laity to take a more prominent role in building the Church around the world. Building the Church is not just reaching out beyond our borders, but actually spiritually nurturing our neighbors in our own communities. Pope Francis stated in one of his Angelus messages that it is through our behavior that we make a difference. We Knights, like all Catholic Christians, are challenged to spread the good news by the works we do. Our multifaceted global initiatives set the foundation for “Faith in Action” to occur. One of our challenges is to bring younger men into the order for sustainability and growth.
Q: What are the main priorities and programs for the Knights of Columbus in Florida?
A: We maintain support of our clergy and vocations as a priority. We continue to partner with other organizations like Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, Food for Families, Ultrasound Program for pregnancy center support, Coats for Kids and Global Wheelchair Mission. We also continue to concentrate on membership growth.
Our programs are extensive and focus on the areas of faith, family, community and life. Some of the programs include: Into the Breach study on masculine virtue; Marian icon prayer program; spiritual reflections; Family Week; Keep Christ in Christmas campaign; consecration to the Holy Family; family prayer night; assistance to the poor; Catholic Citizenship Essay Contest; disaster response; March for Life; pregnancy center support; Mass for people with special needs; and the Ultrasound Program.
Q: Where can people go to learn more?
A: The Knights of Columbus website where men can sign up to join us online can be found at kofc.org/joinus.