Bishop Spalding tells Men of the Cross retreat that love of Jesus can transform the world

The Tennessee Council of the Knights of Columbus sponsored the Men of the Cross online retreat on Saturday, Jan. 9. A video of the retreat will be posted online in the future. Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville was one of the speakers. Photo by Andy Telli

In his essence, God is love and relationship, Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville said during the Men of the Cross online retreat sponsored by the Tennessee Council of the Knights of Columbus on Saturday, Jan. 9.

“If you have the love of Jesus in your heart, you can’t stay by yourself. You immediately want to get out and make the world a better place,” said Bishop Spalding, who was one of the speakers for the retreat.

Love “must go out in the world and transform it,” Bishop Spalding said. “Not in some arrogant manner. But in recognition of the potential of the other.”

“The same kind of love Jesus held in his heart, I have to have in mine,” Bishop Spalding said. “One of the most powerful things the love of Jesus does is give you the sight to see people that others don’t see.”

The Men of the Cross retreat replaced the normal mid-year business meeting the Tennessee Knights hold each January.

The retreat was inspired by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson’s “call to all Knights of Columbus to make their councils and the membership in the Knights of Columbus Christo-centric,” said Jimmy Dee, state membership director and a member of Council 16523 at Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville.

Dee worked with State Deputy Michael McCusker, a member of Council 9317 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in the Memphis suburb of Cordova, and others to organize the retreat. 

“My predecessor challenged each and every one of us to ask Why? Why are we Knights of Columbus?” McCusker said in his opening remarks for the retreat, referencing Past State Deputy Tracy Staller of Council 12961 at Holy Family Church in Seymour. “The answer always should be to love and serve Jesus Christ. We’re going to address how to do that as Men of the Cross.”

Before the pandemic, it was already a struggle for men to deepen and live the faith, McCusker said. “Now with the pandemic it is even more challenging.”

The goal of the retreat, he said, was by re-engaging with the faith and re-energizing men’s faith “we can make a difference.”

Originally, the event was planned to be an in-person event, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to adopt a virtual format. 

The retreat featured speakers addressing different parts of the Second Letter of Peter, Chapter 1, verses 3-11, in which the evangelist lays out how Christians can become closer to Christ “through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power.”

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with mutual affection, mutual affection with love,” the letter states.

Besides Bishop Spalding, Dee, and McCusker, speakers included:

  • Jonathan Reyes, Ph.D., senior vice president of evangelization and faith formation for the Knights of Columbus, who spoke on virtue.
  • Tim Gray, Ph.D., president and founder of the Augustine Institute in Denver, who spoke on knowledge.
  • Father Sean Kilcawley, director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, who spoke on self-control.
  • Jared Zimmerer, director of the Word on Fire Institute, who spoke on endurance.
  • Damien O’Connor, senior director of evangelization and faith formation for the Knights of Columbus, who spoke on godliness.
  • Patrick Kelly, Deputy Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, who spoke on mutual affection.

Bishop Spalding was the final speaker; he spoke on mutual affection strengthened by love.

Several of the speakers made live presentations from the Catholic Pastoral Center in Nashville while others taped their presentations. The entire retreat was livestreamed online.

The retreat was open to members and non-members of the Knights of Columbus. More than a dozen councils across Tennessee and other states set up satellite locations to view the retreat online, and others watched the retreat at home, Dee said.

“We had a tremendous viewership,” Dee said. He noted there were more than 3,500 visits to the website inviting people to participate in the retreat and included attendees from 43 states and nine countries.

Spirit Juice Studios of Chicago videotaped the retreat and will produce a version that will posted online, Dee said. 

Dee expressed gratitude to the Diocese of Nashville and Bishop Spalding for making the event possible “so we can share the good news with all the world.”

“This is a template for what can be done when you bring incredible Catholic speakers together to show a common vision and a common mission,” Dee said.

The Knights’ Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation helped recruit speakers for the retreat.

“These guys are doing something extraordinary, taking the call from the Supreme Knight to evangelize and operationalize this in a middle of a pandemic, which is amazing,” Reyes said of McCusker, Dee and the other retreat organizers.

Reyes said he is hopeful that leaders in other jurisdictions of the Knights will be inspired to consider something similar.