By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Do you remember a teacher who inspired, encouraged or pushed you to meet a goal, whether academic, athletic or a life’s vocation? For those of us who attended Catholic schools, that teacher may have been a religious sister or a priest. Ever wanted to thank them?
About 40 years ago, the Knights of Columbus came up with an idea, a special way to say thanks to the religious sisters, priests and deacons who influenced the lives of those around them for the better. A sit-down, home-cooked meal with friends. It started small, in a few parishes scattered around the country. But it grew quickly.
For nearly 40 years, the Knights of Columbus Council #4962-Raytown, have hosted an appreciation dinner for the priests and religious of this diocese.
Sister of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist Connie Boulch, Diocesan Director of the Office of Consecrated Life, said she and members of her community have attended the dinners for many years. “We moved here (from Nevada, Mo.) 32 years ago, so I believe we’ve been going to the dinners about 30 years,” she said. “The Knights of Columbus have a really great commitment to religious and priestly vocations. They are glad that the religious have given their lives to the Church, and they support us with more than just money.”
Knight of Columbus Ed Columbus and his wife Juanita have served as the dinner’s chair couple for 10 years. He said that the invitation-only dinner is usually planned for mid to late October, taking several factors into consideration on setting the date. The Kansas City Chiefs’ home schedule, the Knights of Columbus state drive for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities, Council #4962’s annual golf tournament and the Knights of Columbus State Pilgrimage are all considered. By chance, this year the dinner was scheduled for Oct. 26, Priesthood Sunday.
The dinner was attended by 47 sisters from 10 different communities, three Deacons and eight active and retired diocesan priests, including Bishop Robert W. Finn. Sister Connie says the sisters represented the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kan., the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist, the Congregation of Mary Queen, the Sisters in Jesus the Lord, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the Mercedarian Missionaries of Berriz, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity and a Consecrated Virgin of the Diocese.
Many Knights of Columbus dignitaries, both past and current, and their wives joined the religious and priests at the dinner. Some of those in attendance included immediate Past State Deputy Brad Grill and his wife Clarissa; Past State Deputy Larry Pearce and his wife Dolores; current State Program Director Mike Grudzinski and his wife Michelle; Current State Church Director Mike Tesmer and his wife Kathy; Past Delegate-at-Large to Columbian Charities Dale Fick and his wife Darlene; Past State Warden Pete Lorenz and his wife Mary Jean; District Deputy #5 Chris Teel and his wife Linda; District Deputy #6 Clifford Miller and his wife Jalayne; State Chairman of Retention Bill Stump and his wife Margie; District Deputy #9 Pat Carr and his wife Pattie, and District Deputy # 8 Tom Day and his wife Mary.
Past State Deputy Larry Pearce served as Master of Ceremonies and Grand Knight of Council #4962 Greg Marquart and his wife Rachael welcomed the dinner guests. District Deputy #6 Clifford Miller led the Pledge of Allegiance. Father David Holloway, Pastor of St. Bernadette’s and Council #4962 Chaplain gave the invocation.
In his remarks, Bishop Finn praised the Knights of Columbus for their work for the Church and, especially, for their support of Vocations. He expressed appreciation to the religious sisters for their commitment to the Church and to the religious life. He told those gathered that the real life of the church happens in the parishes and in the families.
“All of us come from parishes and families,” Sister Connie said, “so that comment hit home. Our vocations came from our parishes and our families and the Knights and Ladies of Columbus have played a big part in that.”
She added that the bishop concluded his brief talk with, “There’s only one thing left to say. Go Royals!” She said his talk about families in the life of the church was timely, considering what is happening to families and the Church.
Sister Connie said the Knights of Columbus and their wives have built relationships with religious communities through their work in parishes and in vocations, and often those relationships are long-lived. “The Catholic faith has brought much into their lives and that of their families and they cherish that faith.”
The meal was cooked and served by Knights and Ladies from Councils #4962 and #6794. “The food is always wonderful,” Sister Connie said, “and it’s not the same menu every year. This year we had a roast pork loin and homemade pie, at least it tasted homemade!”
Magician Gene Turner, a.k.a. “America’s Friendliest Pickpocket” entertained the dinner guests with magic tricks, removing wallets, watches and ties from his various “victims” and surprising them when he returned them. They had been unaware they had been pickpocketed. Sister Connie said Turner uses his trick pickpocketing to also teach people how to protect themselves from pickpockets.
She said that the annual dinners give religious sisters from different communities a chance to sit and visit with one another. “We get to know sisters from other communities at work and in our parishes, but we don’t see them very often,” she said. “The Religious Appreciation dinner is an opportunity to get together with our friends in different communities.”