Nearly 100 cardinals, bishops and archbishops and thousands of Knights of Columbus and their families from around the world have arrived in Nashville for the Catholic fraternal men’s organization’s 140th annual Supreme Convention.
“It’s a huge honor for a state to host a Supreme Convention,” said Tennessee State Deputy Fred Laufenberg, the highest ranking Knight in the state. “The biggest reason is you get the opportunity to show all of the Knights of Columbus, all of the jurisdictions, what Tennessee is about.”
This year’s convention, Aug. 2-4 at the Opryland Resort and Convention Center, will be the first one held in-person since 2019. And it will be the first in-person convention where Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, who took office in March 2021, will preside.
Kelly will deliver the Supreme Knight’s report, outlining his initiatives and the state of the order, on Tuesday afternoon, the first day of the convention. “It will be his first opportunity to address the entire membership in this setting,” said Peter Sonski, the education manager at the Knights’ Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center in New Haven, Connecticut, and one of the members of the Knights’ Supreme Office staff helping to organize the convention.
The annual States Dinner gala, one of the highlights of the convention each year, will be held Tuesday evening, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York will be the keynote speaker.
Other members of the Church hierarchy who are expected to attend the convention include: Cardinal James Harvey, Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome; Cardinal Orland Quevedo of the Philippines; Ukrainian rite Bishops Bryan Bayda of Saskatoon, Canada, and David Motiuk of Edmonton, Canada; and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus.
Attending from Tennessee will be Bishop J. Mark Spalding of Nashville, Bishop Richard Sticka of Knoxville, Cardinal Justin Rigali, who lives in East Tennessee, and Bishop-emeritus Terry Steib of Memphis. They will be joined by Archbishop Shelton Fabre of Louisville, the metropolitan of the province that includes the dioceses of Tennessee and Kentucky,
“Tennessee, for a little state, will be pretty well represented by bishops and a cardinal,” said Laufenberg, a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Fairfield Glade.
The state’s bishops will be part of the long line of hierarchy and clergy who will process into the Masses celebrated on each day of the convention. “It’s really impressive in number and also impressive in diversity,” said Sonski. Clergy “from all around the four corners of the globe” will concelebrate the liturgies, he added. “It’s really a beautiful celebration that you seldom see outside of the Vatican.”
As is the custom, Bishop Spalding, as the host bishop, will be the main celebrant and homilist for the opening Mass on Tuesday morning.
The Knights of Columbus has 2 million members across the United States, Canada, Mexico and other countries around the world. Among those attending the convention will be delegates from Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Korea, the Philippines and France, Sonski said.
About 2,500 people or more are expected to be in Nashville for the convention. Because it’s the first in-person convention in three years, Sonski said, “there’s a lot of anticipation for this gathering.”
Travel to Nashville is relatively easy from anywhere in the eastern half of the country, Sonski noted. “We expect to draw a lot of interest.”
EWTN Television and radio, Salt and Light Television based in Toronto, Canada, and Catholic TV of Boston also will be broadcasting onsite from the convention as will SiriusXM’s the Catholic Channel and Nashville Catholic Radio, Sonski said.
Although the actual convention won’t begin until Tuesday, Aug. 2, attendees are expected to begin arriving in Nashville as early as the Friday before, Laufenberg said. The Tennessee Knights will host a vigil Mass Saturday, July 30, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, that will be con-celebrated by Archbishop Lori and Bishop Spalding, Laufenberg said.
The Tennessee Knights, led by Immediate Past State Deputy Michael McCusker of the Memphis area as the State Council’s convention manager, have been working for the last 13 months to prepare to welcome everyone to Nashville, including providing transportation for the hierarchy between the airport and the hotel, organizing several excursions to sites in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and overseeing the registration of delegates.
“Knowing the size of the hotel, we needed a large number of volunteers just to help people get around the hotel,” Laufenberg said.
The Tennessee Knights have recruited about 300 volunteers to help make sure the convention goes smoothly, Laufenberg added.
The last time Nashville hosted the Supreme Convention was 2007.
This year’s convention is also significant because it is happening in the home diocese of the miracle that led to the beatification of the Knights’ founder, Blessed Father Michael McGivney.
In 2020, Pope Francis approved the promulgation of a decree recognizing Michael McGivney Schachle’s cure from a deadly case of fetal hydrops while still in his mother’s womb as a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed McGivney.
Michael is the son of Michelle and Dan Schachle, who is the general agent for the Knights of Columbus insurance agency in Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas. They are parishioners at St. Christopher Church in Dickson, about 50 miles from Nashville.
“Mikey is going to be at the convention,” Laufenberg said. “People will actually be able to see and touch a miracle.”
“We’re thrilled we’re meeting in Nashville, the home diocese of the miracle that led to the beatification for Father McGivney,” Sonski added. “In God’s providence, Nashville had been identified as the site for this 140th convention, and how fitting that we’re meeting in the very diocese where this miracle took place.”