On Monday, Aug. 1, thousands of Knights of Columbus and their families from around the world were welcomed to Nashville for the 140th annual Supreme Convention of the Catholic fraternal men’s organization with a private concert at the legendary Grand Ole Opry House.
Between the featured performances of the Hillbilly Thomists, a band of friars of the Dominican Order of Preachers, and that of country music star Craig Morgan, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, along with his wife Vanessa, on behalf of the Supreme Council Board of Directors, presented several awards to individual Knights, councils, assemblies, and jurisdictions for their outstanding achievements over the last year.
Among the most prestigious awards were the International Family of the Year and the inaugural Blessed Michael McGivney Medal.
The International Family of the Year Award was presented to the Sewell family – Robert and Tracey Sewell, and their eight children – of Douglasville, Georgia.
Robert Sewell, who is a member of the Saint John Paul II Council 10821, has been a Knight for 15 years, and “has served in many of the officer and director positions of his council including deputy grand knight, district warden, membership director, fundraising committee and youth group coordinator,” according to the official program of award winners.
Additionally, as a family, the Sewells are regular volunteers in their parish and their community, particularly with the local Pregnancy Resource Center’s Walk for Life and the annual Martin Luther King Eucharistic Celebration Mass in Atlanta, Georgia.
“The Sewell Family’s active involvement within the community throughout 2021 truly demonstrates Faith in Action,” according to the program.
“To say that we were pleasantly surprised (by the award) would be a gross understatement,” Robert Sewell told the crowd after accepting the award with his family.
“Being raised as a Christian in the Catholic faith, we were always taught that a family that prays together, stays together and that always resonated with us,” Sewell said. “My wife and I have known each other for 25 years, and we’ve been married 23 years and are still going. Bonded in our faith in Jesus, Tracey has been the glue that has kept our family together.
“Our beautiful children truly embody faith in action with their charitable works in the community and in the Church, and we don’t have to twist their arms to do it,” he said. “Through prayers, forgiveness, and the grace of God, we’ve been abundantly blessed with our family.
“I just want to say it’s been a privilege serving in a Catholic fraternity of gentlemen,” Sewell continued. “Finally, special thanks to all of you. Without you all, all the work we do as a Knight in the organization and as a Church, we wouldn’t reach nearly all the people in the world that we have. The Knights truly embody charity, diversity, unity and patriotism.”
The 2022 convention also marked the inaugural year for the Blessed Michael McGivney Medal, which will be given annually to a Knights of Columbus chaplain “whose priestly zeal and exemplary service are in the finest traditions of our founder,” according to the awards program.
The inaugural award was presented to Father Matthew Keller, former state chaplain of New Mexico, by Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore.
Father Keller “is always ready to serve his people and knowing that in serving his people, he’s serving Christ,” said Bishop James Wall of Gallup, New Mexico, in a video announcing Father Keller as the inaugural recipient. “He really embodies that spirit of Blessed Michael J. McGivney.”
The video noted Father Keller’s efforts to serve the people of the Diocese of Gallup, especially the poor. One such way he has done that is by partnering with the New Mexico and Arizona Knights to implement the V8 Vocations project. Through that project, Knights and seminarians work together to fix and restore V8 muscle cars that are then raffled off across the nation. The proceeds from the program, which raises more than $300,000 annually, benefits the education of seminarians in the diocese.
Additionally, Father Keller has helped to spread his own devotion to the Eucharist across the diocese, Bishop Wall said.
“He’s really helped to foster a great love for the Eucharistic with Eucharistic Adoration, Eucharistic processions,” Bishop Wall said. “During his time as chaplain, we saw not only an increase in membership, we saw an increase in attendance at meetings, in activity of the Knights. He really wants to encourage the good work of the Knights of Columbus so they can be the men who they are called to be: Catholic gentlemen who are true sons of the Church.”
Father Keller continued to serve during the pandemic, delivering last rites to those in the hospital, which is how he was exposed to COVID-19, the video explained. He ended up developing pneumonia in both lungs and was in the hospital for five weeks, even receiving last rites, but his health started to improve after a relic of Blessed McGivney was brought to his hospital room, Bishop Wall said.
And Father Keller said he believes Blessed McGivney’s intercession contributed to his recovery.
“I feel as though I had already been honored to be visited by the intercession of Blessed Father McGivney during my illness and recovery,” Father Keller said following the acceptance of the medal. “It is my hope that this medal will be an outward and visible show of that invisible favor and a signal to all of us of his continued work through the good of the order and spreading the Kingdom of God and helping to sanctify and inspire all the members of the order.”
Father Keller currently serves as the chaplain of Fray Marcos Council 1783 and Fray Marcos de Niza Assembly 686, both in Gallup.
Several other Knights and councils were recognized during the award ceremony including the top insurance agents, the newest members of the Circle Honor and the recipients of the faith, family, community, and life Faith in Action programs of the year. For the full list of awardees, visit www.kofc.org.