“Building the Domestic Church While Strengthening our Parish,”

Tony Slagle, Texas State Council Historian

With a full understanding of the role the Knights of Columbus serve at the local level, this initiative tasks Councils to become even more active in our parish communities because they are uniquely situated to strengthen parish life. As Supreme Knight Anderson explained, “We are truly positioned today to move to a new level of service as the strong right arm of our parish.”

While this is a new initiative, it’s really not a new concept for the Order.  From our beginnings in 1882, a fundamental tenant of the Knights of Columbus has been to be an active participant in parish life. The earliest testament to this is a letter written by Fr. McGivney to every pastor in the Diocese of Hartford. After the incorporation of the Order in 1882, Fr. McGivney received permission from Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon, bishop of Hartford, to write a letter to explain the rationale and need for this new order. Fr. McGivney’s letter concluded with the hope that the Knights of Columbus would be represented in every parish throughout Connecticut, and urged each pastor to “exert [his] influence in the formation of a council in [his] parish.”

Catholics faced many serious issues in the second half of the 19th century and Fr. McGivney believed that the only real way to address those issues was through a partnership between priests and laity. It was this belief that encompassed all aspects of forming this new, fraternal order. Throughout the processes Fr. McGivney deferred to the lay leadership. Fr. McGivney’s belief in an empowered laity was rather unique at the time, but over the next 125 years, that conviction has moved from the exception to the norm, embraced by the Church in Vatican II and beyond.

And while “Building the Domestic Church” initiative focuses on the role of the Council at the local level, the importance of the individual council members in aiding this noble cause cannot be understated. I serve on the First Degree team for my Council. Every month, we bring new members into our Order, from all over the Diocese. At the end of the Degree, we ask the new members to tell us a little about themselves. Almost to a man, they will inevitably state that they joined the Knights to give back.  Joining the Knights is a way for them to put that desire into concrete action. While the council provides an outlet for that desire on the group level, if we are to be true to legacy of Fr. McGivney, we must fully embrace his faith in us as lay men and leaders. That means we must take an active role in our parish lives.

We must live by example and we must lead by example.  We must be willing to go beyond the bounds of our Council. One very simple, but important way to do this is to join a parish ministry. Find one that meets your interests and talents.  Volunteer to be on your parish or finance council. Become a Eucharistic minister, usher, or lector.  Join the choir. Teach religious education to the young parishioners or those adults wishing to join the faith. These are ways to be visible leaders to other parishioners who may not be fully aware of what the Knights are all about.  These are ways to put Fr. McGivney’s trust in the laity into concrete action and embrace the call from our Supreme Knight to become more fully engaged in parish life. 

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