By SHEILA OJENDYK
NORTH CHARLESTON—”You are ambassadors of the Holy Spirit in our world, and your being ambassadors of the Holy Spirit brings joy, Christian joy into our world,” said Bishop Robert J. Baker. He addressed the Knights of Columbus at the order’s 81st Annual State Convention. More than 300 Knights convened at the Sheraton Hotel for the May 4-5 event.
Bishop Baker celebrated the convention Mass with concelebrants Msgr. Joseph R. Roth, Father James Parker, and Father Howard Coughlin. The gospel choir from St. James the Greater echoed the bishop’s words of joy.
The keynote speaker at the Saturday evening dinner meeting was Charles Foos, supreme secretary from the order’s headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut. Foos quoted the opening words of “Tale of Two Cities”; “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” The worst of times was, of course, Sept. 11, but the Knights took immediate action. On Sept. 12, the supreme council established the Heroes Fund for families of deceased police officers, firefighters, and other rescue personnel. Beginning Sept. 13, the Knights began delivering $3,000 checks to all widows and dependent families. In total, the order donated nearly $1.4 million, providing a financial lifeline to people at a time of acute and immediate need.
President Bush designated Sept. 14 as a national day of prayer, and a special Mass was said at St. Mary’s in New Haven, the home church of the Knights of Columbus. The supreme council hosted a special “Blue Mass” for uniformed personnel on Feb. 10. All councils in the United States are asked to host a Blue Mass next February.
Foos said the Knights must continue to defend the unborn and uphold the sanctity of human life. He said, “Cloning strikes at the very roots of life is and what it means to be a human being.”
Foos likened the strong membership and activities to the best of times.
The order is sponsoring a Eucharistic Congress on June 22 and 23 at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., “to render homage to our Lord in the blessed sacrament.”
World Youth Day is in Toronto July 18-28.The Knights of Columbus donated $1 million to cover the cost of 2,000 priests hearing confessions for the tens of thousands of young people who will attend the event.
Foos emphasized that the Knights of Columbus must stand in solidarity with the pope, bishops and the priests. Many bishops have announced a no-tolerance policy on sexual abuse of minors, and the “Knights of Columbus stand behind it strictly, swiftly and without exception. We also reach out to the families of abused children and hope that they find peace and solace.”
Michael Telesco, ceremonials chairman, announced the annual awards at the Sunday breakfast meeting. The state charity project, founded 36 years ago when Cardinal Joseph Bernadin was state chaplain, has raised $83,000 in the last two years. Council 10819 from Simpsonville won the charity award for selling the most ticket books.
Charles Richitelli, state deputy, gave a $10,000 check to Bishop Baker for the seminarian fund. Other donations, all financed by the state charity campaign, included $1,000 for the diocesan volunteer program, $3,000 for schools and churches, $5,000 for religious orders, and $1,000 to complete a $20,000 pledge to the Trappist monastery at Mepkin Abbey.
Ron Snyder, Operation Hope chairman, announced that Knights in South Carolina have raised $323,000 over the past year to support charities for special needs individuals. Eighty percent of funds raised for Operation Hope are returned to the councils for local distribution, and the remaining 20 percent is donated to registered charities throughout South Carolina.
Charlie White from Clemson University reported that this year’s $5,000 donation to Camp Hope financed 87 days of camping for special needs children whose families could not afford to pay. The state council is participating in a $100,000 endowment to Clemson University to sponsor Camp Hope.
Ann Poole, principal of Washington Center School in Greenville, proudly displayed a pacer, a special walker that costs $1,000. The pacer is used by a boy who had no physical mobility when he entered the school. Now he practically runs in the halls. The state council donated $5,000 to Washington Center School this year.
Other organizations receiving $5,000 checks included the Hilton Head Program for Exceptional People, the Pee Dee Center in Florence, and the South Carolina Special Olympics.
Foos joined State Deputy Charlie Richitelli and his wife, Betty, in handing out the service program awards. Pawleys Island Council 11028 won the Community Award for starting the Birthright Crisis Pregnancy Center on the coast. Summerville Council 11910 won the Church Award for the St. Teresa Octoberfest and the Community Award for a school fundraiser. Mauldin Council 8182 won the Family and Youth Awards for the district picnic and the teen activity group respectively.
The State Charity award was given to Anthony Baiocco of Summerville Council 6629. Hank Chardos, from Irmo Council 6892, won the Catholicity Award for his long-term work in Birthright and Home Works. Youth of the Year was Anthony Bufis from Mauldin Council 8182, and Family of the Year was Arthur and Joanne Ludwig from Goose Creek/Hanahan Council 6726. Golden Knight of the Year was Charles Litchenberger from Summerville Council 6629.
Richitelli honored retiring district deputies Tom Monahan, Gary Hart, Ron Rossi, and James Whitworth. He also honored Dr. Louis Pulicicchio, health director; Bill Keenan, membership director; Al Stiles, state charities and church director; and Ron Snyder, Operation Hope director.