Knights launch initiative to bring men to heart of Christ [Photo Gallery]

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During the Tennessee Knights of Columbus Midyear Meeting, Jan. 7, at the Catholic Pastoral Center, council leaders were introduced to the new Cor: Catholic Men’s Fellowship initiative. Attendees participated in a small group discussions during the presentation on “Virtuous Leadership: Leading with the Mind of Christ.” Photos by Andy Telli

Knights of Columbus are Catholic men on a journey to get to heaven, State Deputy Fred Laufenberg of Fairfield Glade told council leaders during the recent Midyear Meeting held Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Nashville.

To help men on their journey, the Knights are launching a new initiative: Cor: Catholic Men’s Fellowship. As part of the initiative, Knights of Columbus councils are being asked, in consultation with their pastor, to organize monthly meetings where Catholic men can gather to deepen their faith. The details of the content and structure of the meetings are left to the individual councils to decide, but they should all have three elements: prayer, faith formation, and fraternity, explained Jimmy Dee of Knoxville, director of evangelization and faith formation for the Tennessee Knights of Columbus.

Cor meetings could take many forms, Dee said – including a bible study group, a prayer group, a group that gathers to discuss spiritual books – depending on the interests of the participants. Councils could sponsor several Cor meetings, each with different content and structure, he said.

The meetings will be open to all men of a parish, not just Knights, Dee said, and they shouldn’t be seen as in competition with faith formation programs that already exist in a parish.

Cor is not designed to replace the many activities the Knights sponsor, Dee said. “It is a new initiative to expand on the good things you’re already doing.”

The name of the initiative is drawn from the Latin word for heart, cor, and is inspired by the motto of St. John Henry Newman, “Cor ad Cor Loquitur,” which means “Heart Speaks to Heart.”

“When you think about the Cor initiative, I want you to think about heart,” Dee said. “I’m talking about an opportunity to get men together where they feel more comfortable to discuss difficult questions about their faith.”

The Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus, which is a fraternal organization for Catholic men with more than 2 million members worldwide, developed the new initiative. It aligns with the efforts of the Tennessee State Council over the last six years to put Christ and the Catholic faith at the forefront of all the Knights do. 

“They shared their admiration for the work we have been doing,” Laufenberg said of officials at the Supreme Council who developed the Cor initiative. “Many times, Tennessee has been called out as an example” for the rest of the order.

In outlining the initiative, Dee pointed to troubling trends in the Church, including surveys in recent years that found that 65 percent of Catholics didn’t believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. “That’s a sign we’ve got a problem,” Dee said. 

He noted that 70 to 85 percent of council members don’t engage in council activities. “We’ve got to do something to start looking at new ways to reach those men,” Dee said. 

‘Back to its roots’

Jimmy Dee, state evangelization and faith formation director, talks about leading with the heart of Christ.

“Our problems are not new,” said Dee. “These are the same problems Father (Michael) McGivney faced when he started the order.”

Blessed Michael McGivney established the Knights of Columbus after witnessing men in his parish drifting from the Church.

In addressing those attending the Midyear Meeting, Laufenberg quoted from the remarks of Father J.H. O’Donnell in 1900 at a memorial service for Blessed McGivney: 

“It was his aim to surround his proteges with an atmosphere of religion and to bring them into even closer relationship to Mother Church. …  Father McGivney was actuated primarily by religious motives. Zeal for souls is the cornerstone of the superb organization.”

The Cor initiative is part of the effort “to bring the order back to its roots,” Laufenberg said.

“The Tennessee Knights of Columbus are fully committed to seeing that Father McGivney’s vision is fulfilled and our mission is accomplished,” Laufenberg said. “But we have work to do to prepare for the future that continues to place our Christocentric heritage at the forefront of all our endeavors. It requires addressing the challenges and influences that living in a secular world places on our mission to serve Christ properly. We must be retrained in the ways of discipleship and how to lead others to Christ.”

In a talk earlier in the meeting, Dee showed Michelangelo’s painting of “The Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. While Adam looks bored, God is stretching as far as he can to reach Adam, Dee said. “To do what? To light a spark in your existence,” Dee said. “Why are we Knights? …  The original why is that God created you. … He created you in his own image. He created you with Him in your cor.”

“We’re on a mission to get back to the cor,” Dee said. “What Father McGivney intended for us is alive in Tennessee.”

The state council has appointed Diocese Cor Captains to help councils organize their Cor meetings. The captains include: Statewide Captain John Hitt of Knoxville; Diocese of Nashville Captain Greg Orr; Diocese of Memphis Captain Joe Pede; and Diocese of Knoxville Captain Tracy Staller.

‘Word of God ignites the heart’

The Midyear Meeting included a leadership retreat for council leaders focused on leading with the heart of Christ, the mind of Christ, the will of Christ, and the mission of Christ.

“Everything we do in the Knights of Columbus is built on God’s love for you, and for me, and for every man in our order, and how many men do we run across who don’t know this,” said Dee, who addressed leading with the heart of Christ. “What’s your job? Find that man to make sure he knows he is loved by God.”

Dee quoted St. Augustine, who said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

“The word of God ignites the heart,” Dee said. “How comfortable are you sharing the Gospel? … I want you to let your heart become vulnerable to share it with other men.”

Joe McInerney, director of leadership and ethics education for the Knights’ Supreme Council, talked about leading with the mind of Christ.

The goal of every Catholic is to be virtuous, said Joe McInerney, director of leadership and ethics education for the Knights’ Supreme Council, who addressed leading with the mind of Christ. “To be with God means we have to be better than we currently are,” he said.

“The reality is we are sinners. Sin is not something that can exist in the presence of God,” McInerney said. “But there is a way to fix that. … Through God’s grace, through prayer, through the sacraments, we can be transformed.”

In Christ, people have the perfect model of a virtuous man, said Robert Nayden, director of the Catholic Information Service of the Supreme Council, who addressed leading with the will of Christ.

“We need to go back to the Gospel over and over again to see what Jesus actually did,” Nayden said. “The only way we’re going to know the will of Christ is if we spend time with him.”

The first step is to remove the obstacles to virtue in your life, Nayden said, “and then we need to commit ourselves to a disciplined life of daily prayer.”

“The more we do this, the better we’re going to be at it,” Nayden said. “The more time in prayer, the more we come in line with Christ … the more we spend time with Christ, the more we’re going to match up with his vision for our life.”

To lead men on a mission for Christ, we must put God first in our lives, said Orr, who addressed leading men on a mission for Christ.

The mission is to put God first in our lives; get to know the Gospel; and help as many other men as possible to know it, Orr said. 

“Virtue is at the heart of everything we do as Knights of Columbus,” Orr said. “Virtue lives at the cor of our faith and our vocation.”

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