With one-third of the Fraternal Year behind us, it is time to assess whether your Council is on track to meet its program, charity, and membership goals. From a bird’s-eye view, Councils in the Florida Jurisdiction appear to be, at best lukewarm. At this point, Councils should have reached about one-third of their recruitment goals; the statistics show that only about 60 Councils (out of 360+ active Councils) have done so.
It is understandable that the scandals that have unfolded over the past several months in the Church may have put a dent in our collective enthusiasm. But the Knights of old did not give up in the face of adversity, and neither should we. The Supreme Knight, in his letter to the Chaplains of the Order, not only called for repentance and reform from those within the hierarchy of the Church, but also for a renewal within the Church that the Knights of Columbus would support. To quote him,
“Now is the time for all brother Knights to stand steadfast in faith, as Catholics and as gentlemen. We will assist priests, bishops and our fellow Catholics in helping the Church chart a course for the future that puts Christ at the center, so that truly we may say, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’”
It is thus more imperative than ever to bring Knighthood to every Catholic man, and to keep him and his family within the Church.
To stimulate your recruitment efforts, let me offer the following suggestions.
First, you and your Council Brothers should be able to answer the question “Why are you a Knight?” It is an important question upon which to reflect, and extremely important to the good Catholic men we are trying to recruit. After all, if we cannot answer that question satisfactorily for ourselves, how can we possibly convince other Catholic men to join the Knights of Columbus?
I would hope that, for each of us, part of the answer to that question is that we believe in and embrace Father McGivney’s vision for the Order. That vision has two parts—the protection of Catholic families when the breadwinner has died, which is primarily fulfilled through the Order’s insurance program, and building fraternal bonds between Catholic men to keep them within the Church. In Father McGivney’s day, it was the proliferation of fraternal societies, some of them very anti-Catholic, that were drawing men away from the Church. Today, there are many other forces in the secular world that pull Catholic men and their families away from the Church, including the aforementioned scandals. The Knights of Columbus is a bulwark against those forces through our loyalty to the Catholic Church and our dedication to the Principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism.
So, when we are recruiting other Catholic men, we should seek to convince them of our founder’s vision and our principles and show them that this is an organization for all good Catholic men, regardless of their circumstances. In other words, we need to convince men to join us for who we are, not what we do. Now, when I say that, I do not mean to say that our service programs and charitable works are not important. To the contrary, as Knights, we are called to perform those good works, and there are so many Councils in Florida doing many wonderful things. But we must understand that our service programs do not define the Knights of Columbus; rather, these programs exemplify who we are. We are compelled to put our “Faith in Action” to serve our Church and our communities in very real ways because of our Catholic faith and our dedication to the Principles of the Order.
Too often, however, our recruiting efforts can be dominated by the detailed enumeration of our programs and good works. And that can deter some of our prospects if they do not find something of particular and immediate interest to them. For example, what do you say to the active Catholic who is involved in several ministries within a parish and professes to have no time to be involved with the Knights? If we are focused solely on our own service programs, it can be difficult to come up with a good answer. Or, what about the Catholic man with a young family who is working two jobs to help pay for his children’s Catholic schooling? I think that we would all agree that, in both cases, the lack of time for specific Knight’s projects should not stop these men from becoming Knights—in fact, each of these men are already engaged in Knight’s work!
Here is my “elevator speech” to define who we are:
“We are a Brotherhood of Catholic men, established by the Venerable Servant of God, Father Michael J. McGivney, dedicated to our families, and committed to living our lives according to the principles of Charity, Unity, and Fraternity, in solidarity with our priests and in service to our Church, for the greater Glory of God.”
If we are to build the Order, then, we must take these lessons to heart—we have to exemplify them in our everyday lives.
Second, after having said all the above, potential recruits often need to see the visible actions of our programs, as examples of how we exemplify our Principles and how we serve our Church and our communities. And the new “Faith in Action” service program model is the way to show that. If your Council still has not implemented this initiative, and is still conducting the same old programs, it is past time to embrace this change. While, as a Council, you may not be able to conduct every single Supreme program in the initiative, you must work closely with your pastor and your parish to embrace the idea of integrating your activities within your parishes, and complementing parish ministries rather than competing with them. The “Faith in Action” program model perfectly exemplifies who we are as Knights, and if we recruit men of all ages for who we are, everything else will fall into place.
Supreme has published a wealth of information on how to implement the many new programs within your parish, both in print and online. Make use of those resources!
Third, Councils often get dispirited on their numerical goals for Star Council qualification. For example, a Council with a net goal of 11 that loses 15 members through suspension or withdrawal must recruit 26 new members to meet that goal, and that can seem like an unscalable mountain to many. To succeed, you and your members must have a positive attitude. Remember why you are Knights and why you are recruiting—not for recognition or reward, but to bring Knighthood to every Catholic man, for his sake and that of his family.
At a minimum, set a goal to recruit to your net goal (in the example above, the Council should attempt to recruit at least 11 new members.) As well, actively seek out members in your Council who have the personality and skills to “sell” the Knights of Columbus. If only one or two of your members are actively recruiting, a goal of 26 can be very difficult to achieve. If 25 members are recruiting, it becomes much more likely the Council will achieve that goal. And if every one of your members is excited about the Knights—well, the possibilities are endless.
So, let us all remember why we are Knights of Columbus, and re-dedicate ourselves to building the Order here in Florida!
Have you asked a good Catholic man to join the Order today?