By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Just a year and a half ago, six Hispanic men were initiated into the Knights of Columbus during a ceremony at St. Sabina Parish Hall. The new First Degree Knights worked to recruit more Hispanic men into the international fraternal order, and hoped to eventually establish a new Hispanic Council under the patronage of St. Joseph the Worker.
Beginning this month, the 45 members of the Knights of Columbus San Jose Trabajador Council 15287 will meet at Holy Cross Parish. This is the first Spanish speaking Knights of Columbus council in Missouri, comprised of both First and Third Degree Knights. Third Degree Knight and San Jose Trabajador Council member Darvin Salazar, a seminarian at Conception Seminary College, is their adopted seminarian.
A special Mass in Spanish requesting the “Lord’s blessing to initiate formal activities,” was celebrated June 18 at St. Anthony Church in Old Northeast.
Council members and their families gathered in front of the 90-year-old church before Mass, chatting and enjoying the sunshine. Several nationalities were represented: Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Colombia.
A Knights of Columbus Color Guard, led by Kevin Palmer, saluted the Knights and their families as they entered their pews.
Several Knights from other councils were honored guests, including Daniel Ramirez, Hispanic Council Development Coordinator, Supreme Office, New Haven, Conn.; Tom Caffrey, District Deputy; Ed Columbus and Leo Hirner, Recruiting and New Council Development, and Gary Struemph, General Agent, Knights of Columbus Agency Dept.
The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 by Farther Michael J. McGivney, as a way of aiding and supporting immigrant families, mostly Irish at the time, in the event of sickness and death; ensuring that families would not face poverty if their husband and father died. Today, the Knights of Columbus serve their church and the community through fund raising, supporting vocations, and strengthening family life through various activities in accordance with Catholic social teaching. In the 129 years since its founding, the Order has grown into an international organization of more than 1.6 million members in almost 12,000 local councils spanning 13 countries. The Knights of Columbus is one of the largest life insurance companies in North America, with more than $53 billion of insurance in force.
The Mass for the new San Jose Trabajador Council was celebrated by Father Jorge Ramirez, the new Council’s chaplain. Father Ramirez, a missionary priest from Colombia, is on loan to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph from the Diocese of Boise, Idaho. He was assisted by recently ordained Deacon Daniel Esteban.
As immigrants, Hispanic men can relate to both St. Joseph and to the Knights of Columbus, which owes its founding to the plight of immigrants in the 19th century. In a Catholic Key story about the birth and recruitment of the Hispanic Council (The Key, Feb. 5, 2010), San Jose Trabajador Council Chancellor Jorge Orozco said it made sense to choose St. Joseph the Worker to be the patron of the Hispanic council. St. Joseph “was an immigrant in Egypt, fleeing from persecution and trying to care for his family.” Gustavo Valdez, who was one of the six men initiated as a First Degree Knight last January, said at the time that Central American and Mexican immigrants are “fleeing the persecution of poverty and want to support and better the lives of their wives and children.”
In his homily, Father Ramirez addressed the new Council:
“Today we officially start our first Hispanic Knights of Columbus Council in the Diocese of Kansas City- St. Joseph. I would like to congratulate those who have accepted the challenge to be members of this council because you are an example of being good Christians to others. As we know, by the virtue of our baptism, Christians are called to be holy and with this comes the responsibility to serve God and His Church.
“There are four main principles of the Knights of Columbus: Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. These principles speak to people of all nationalities.”
Father Ramirez continued, “This service (to God and his Church) can be done by knowing and defending our faith and by supporting your pastors in any parish activity. Therefore, in our particular Church, being a Knight of Columbus is a great opportunity to fulfill our call to holiness by knowing our faith through the Bishop Helmsing Institute program.” Valdez, the Associate Director of Hispanic Catechesis for the Bishop Helmsing Institute, works with Father Ramirez on the faith formation of the San Jose Trabajador Council’s members.
“Along with this, a good knight is also loyal to the teaching of the church and her authorities. He works hard, side by side with the bishop and with the pastor. He is always obedient to them and supporting them.”
In conclusion, Father Ramirez said, “I ask St. Joseph the Worker, the patron of our Hispanic council, his intercession so we can learn from him how to work and serve God and our neighbors.”
Following the Mass, family members of the Knights hosted lunch in the parish hall.
For more information on the Knights of Columbus or Los Caballeros de Columbus, de St. Joseph el Concilio de Trabajador, contact Gustavo Valdez at the Catholic Center (816) 756-1850, ext 209 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also email Jorge Orozco at Jorge.Orozco@KOFC.org.