My apologies for the length of this, but as both Grand Knight (GK) and Membership Director and in the fog of confusion over loosing our beloved Benedictines, there is quite a bit to cover. As I accept the responsibilities of the 4th ever GK at HNOJ, I want to thank a number of others who paved the way for all of us. Mike McDole and Dave Mazurek, our first 2 GK’s, had to swim against a lot of current for this brand new council to get off the ground from that very first informational meeting we had in the lunch room. They and several others broke us away from an old established council of 7 different parishes at the Fr. George – Wayzata Council to start our own “in house” council at HNOJ. Many predicted we would fail. There were 10 of us to fill 16 positions and we often stepped on one another’s toes, but remained friends and committed to the council’s success. Thanks Mike and Dave. Also a special note of thanks to Don Carsten for showing us what true value a strong spirituality can bring to an organization. Don is totally submersed in Christ’s Love and Spirit and it’s been a privilege to work with Don as his Deputy GK this last year.
On our 1st anniversary of that very 1st Major Degree that the Charter members earned their 3 Degree’s, a new batch of men joined our council. Two key people were Jerry Sisk and Jim Grube. To this day, many other councils still talk about what a moving Degree that was, thanks to Jim Grube. Jerry and Jim jumped in right from the start and kept us organized and to task. With their help, I was able to sign up many HNOJ ushers and meet all of our recruiting goals of the 2nd and 3rd year. Jim is the first to show up and one of the last to leave and tirelessly called our entire roster over and over again for volunteers in our various KC events. As Financial Secretary, Jerry has a job that nobody wants that involves a great deal of paperwork and correspondence with the State and Supreme Councils. We are all grateful for Jerry’s efforts.
During the last 2 years, the KC’s have become somewhat of a fixture in the HNOJ kitchen on Wednesday nights and Sunday breakfasts, thanks mostly to Steve Zylla, Greg Hegi, Dave Stumpf and Jim Siefert. Ultimately, the real thanks should go to Diane Pasquerella for asking us to help her. Truly, we have been the real benefactors, as is often the case in service projects. There are so many others that show up to work and to eat that all contribute to successful events and I thank you all as a group with no intention of neglecting names. So, thank you all as well. I’d be remising if I didn’t thank Tom Silver, both for past efforts, as he volunteers tirelessly for everything we do, and in advance, as he agreed to be my Deputy Grand Knight. The Silvers have moved to Delano, yet find time to be involved in so many HNOJ Ministries. I challenge anyone to find two people more involved in our HNOJ Community than them. God Bless you both.
I need to thank our priests, Fr. Jonathan and Fr. Joseph, for believing in us and for letting us do so many things within the parish. Fr. Joe gave us one of our highest and lowest feelings within a year’s time when he first joined us and again when we found out we were loosing him 3 weeks ago. We are excited for him getting his pastoral duties at a name-sake parish in a name-sake town. I’m thinking of setting up an award in his honor, where the winner will get a cup of “joe” with Fr. Joe at St. Joe’s in St. Joe, MN., but it might be a little over-kill on the whole “joe” thing. I’m looking forward to a memorable last year with Benedictine influence and a great “Iron Range” sense of humor that Fr. Jonathan brings to the western suburbs. Hopefully the two of us can bring the right influence to his replacement, next year, to be as involved with the KC’s as our two wonderful Benedictine priests were. God Bless both of you and good luck in your future endeavors.
Fr. Jonathan couldn’t have found a more difficult pair of shoes to fill, when he first arrived. Many parishioners made the transition even more difficult with seemingly harmless criticism that constantly nibbled away at his effort to make badly needed changes. We, as KC’s will have an opportunity, next year, to make sure that doesn’t happen again in this next transition. Many of us are already being asked on what we think is going on and the answer is, “life” is going on. Stuff happens! Fr. McGivney got transferred out of St. Mary’s 2 years after he started the KC’s. It was the neighboring parish’s KC council that hit the ground running that made the KC’s as successful as they are. If you want some really great insights to what’s going on in our parish, read the book “The Parish Priest”. There is as great a shortage of priests today as there were in 1882. The emigrants entering this country, today, are predominantly Catholics that nobody wants to let in from Mexico, there weren’t enough priests to go around then or now and many other parallels are evident in the book. It’s a good read that we will loan out to all who ask. I think we have 3 copies floating among us and 2 in the HNOJ library.
As KC’s we must never loose sight of the need for us to be what our priest needs us to be. It isn’t about us, it’s about them. That’s what Fr. McGivney so badly wanted. We need to finish out Fr. Jonathan’s term as he needs us to be and we need to be what ever the next priest wants us to be and we need to be prepared for subtle differences, but hope for a strong relationship. For those that remember the importance the DP played in the Degree Ceremony; all this was designed into the KC’s formation 120 some years ago. Now it’s our turn to shine. There is a Fr. Arnold “ism” that just can’t be ignored in this scenario. “We can be bitter or better”. I’d like everyone to try to imagine the many different phone calls a priest gets on any given day. Death, birth, wedding, hospital calls, marital problems, job losses, disease diagnoses, school issues, financial issues, diocese issues, just to name a few topics. These guys give their entire heart, soul and very being to God, who throws them into the middle of us. They are expected to have all the answers and are often subjected to ridicule by us, the press, and anyone who feels like taking a shot and work 100% of their waking hours. We are blessed to have them.
While we empathize with our priests, it’s also important to accept each other as we are (another Fr. Arnold favorite). Though we are not yet very diverse in ethnicity, we are a strange mix of people and backgrounds. Some of our members have down right fascinating stories to tell of the journey’s that brought them to us. I would like to urge each of you to find one another and occasionally socialize with your families. Yes, it’s easier said than done, splitting duties with your wife running to soccer, softball little league, dance, piano, etc., but we need to try. I’ll even go as far to say it’s more important than attending our meetings. Stay united in Christ, united in Catholicism, united in family, community and in each other.
When we first formed our charter, we had aspirations of forming card clubs, golf leagues, annual hunting and fishing trips, dinner dances and BBQ’s. Many of us had childhood memories of very involved KC councils with numerous activities. It was a form of excitement for us to be enthusiastic about our new council, but I don’t think it’s realistic in these times. If we had 500 members, I’d be singing a different tune. Those of you, who know me, might be afraid of me starting a bunch of new events that require many volunteers and I’m here to tell you I won’t, so you can all relax. I will make a number of appointments to outside areas of interest in hopes of seeding future activities that may take years to spawn. I’ll call them teams of people with similar interests who may or may not meet and discuss ideas or brain storm. It would be a nice luxury to create annual social traditions for us to enjoy one another’s company and would constantly feed the need for membership recruitment. A social function doesn’t have to mean scheduling a whole new event on an already crowded calendar. There are possible social opportunities such as an event within an event. Examples: sitting together at the Cana Dinner or St. Pat’s party, crashing a wedding at the Medina Ballroom (it’s always open to the public and often 3 weddings share the band and dance floor), caravanning several families to Mile Lacs Lake to spend the afternoon on a fishing launch, BBQing at a public pavilion with other families while the kids participate in rec-league sports, or how about spending a day at the dome on Nuns Day with the MN. Twins in August.
Each new GK should have the opportunity to “flavor” the office with a bit of their own personality. My goal is to keep 2 themes in the forefront; the wilderness and the Rosary. With me they’re connected. Many of the holiest biblical figures and prophets gravitated to the wilderness in times of trouble or stress. In Exodus the Israelites ask Moses why God sent them into the wilderness for 40 years. His reply was that they find what is in their hearts. The Book of Kings tells of the thundering noise from wind, quake and fire are paled to the whisper of God. Hosea has one of my favorites, “…the wilderness will lead you back to Me where I will speak to you…” Gethsemane, Mt. of Olives, the desert, were all favorite places for Christ to meditate and pray. Many of history’s greatest writers, world leaders-including Pope John Paul II, politicians, etc. found solace in the great outdoors. Fr. Arnold found it on his lawn mower and Fr. Jonathan can often be seen walking the HNOJ grounds practicing his homily before early Mass. Neither saw or heard the cars on Co. Rd. 9 whizzing by. They were somewhere in a memory of Collegeville in the peak of fall colors or the pristine beauty of northern Minnesota, finding their “zone”. Many of us work 48 weeks a year and use 80% of our 4 week vacation time on wilderness retreats not completely aware of its importance to God. Knowing it’s not possible to head for the woods every time we pray, I’m willing to bet that many transcend there in their imagination while they pray in the Adoration Chapel or in their “quiet place” or in the car or airplane. Though the large Rosary processions are moving, I prefer the solitude of a deer stand or fishing boat, which I’m told is a family tradition. I’m the 4th generation to be a GK in my family tree and it feels pretty special.
In 2008, the Vatican will most likely celebrate the 800th anniversary of St. Dominick receiving the Holy Rosary from the Blessed Virgin in the Chapel of Notre Dame. All next year, I urge all KC’s to help themselves to our storage cabinet and find the two bags of colorful plastic Rosaries and hand them out to as many parishioners and ministries and youth groups as possible. If we run out, I will order more from Jim Herzog. When we know the date that the Vatican sets aside (probably the first Sunday in May) we’ll ask all those who have ever received a Rosary from the KC’s to show up and be part of something special. It will be difficult to say no to us.
When the world spins too fast for me to keep all the projects and activities and worries from blending together, the Rosary is usually the best way to slow things down enough to get a handle on things. I’m aware of several of our own Knights going through some heavy issues, more than there’s room to write about. There are a variety of medical issues, diseases, devastating losses, marriage problems, job problems, law suits, just to name a few. If nothing else is working, try supplementing professional help with the Rosary. The rest of us who pray the Rosary on a regular basis, need to add the needs of our members to the list of intercessions and petitions we pray for. The Rosary is directly associated with more miracles than any other prayer devotion in the history of its origin. Something that simple might be all that our brothers need right now.
One other thing I’d like us all to pray for is the Women’s Auxiliary. I understand they voted to disband or go dormant at their last meeting. Getting back to the importance of us socializing more, that might be all it takes for them to discover one another and re-organize. Should that happen, we must do a better job to support whatever they do in the future. One of the big fears wives have of me recruiting their husbands to join the KC’s is taking them away from their family. Having an active Women’s KC Auxiliary, somewhat, takes the edge off that argument. If anyone has any ideas as to how to help them revive themselves this coming September, I’m all ears.
In closing, I’d like to ask each member to continue to support all our regular functions and breakfasts. Continue to pay your annual $30 dues. Even if you can’t volunteer that often, make sure you bring your friends and family to what we are sponsoring. Our own member attendance is what breaks us even on the cost. I’m proud to say we run a guilt free council. We’ve been asked again to assist in the parish fall festival that Brother Knight, Mike Wagener and his wife Mary are chairing. It’s great visibility for us to have a strong showing for Fr. Jonathan’s last hurrah and can’t hurt recruiting new members either. If anyone feels they could assist me in membership director while I serve as GK, it would be greatly appreciated. These next 2 “transition” years are crucial we stay united and not allow ourselves to be distracted by changes or differences of opinion on various issues and even more important we continue to grow in number. I likened us to being new enough to still have that new car smell a year ago and I’d like to suggest we are still new enough to be under manufacturer’s warranty. Let’s help Fr. Jonathan go out on a high note and bring the new priest in to a fine tuned machine that he’ll want to be part of. Let’s lead by example when it comes to dousing criticism and speculation.
God Bless and good luck,
Marty Dehen-Grand Knight