Thousands of Knights of Columbus and their families converged on the Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville for the 140th Supreme Convention for the first in-person convention in three years.
They came from the Philippines and Mexico, France and Poland, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, California and New York and everywhere in between.
“People overwhelmingly were happy to get back together,” said Michael McCusker, the convention manager for the host Tennessee State Council.
“It went really, really well,” Minnesota State Deputy Dan DeCrans of Nevis, Minnesota, said of this year’s convention. He said he liked “just about everything.”
Minnesota hosted the last in-person Supreme Convention held in 2019 just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s tremendous to have people come back together,” said DeCrans, who had 29 people come to the convention. “It’s great to see people and experience the fraternity of being together.”
The convention was held Tuesday through Thursday, Aug. 2-4, but delegates and their families began arriving in Nashville the weekend before. There were several tours and activities for the visitors to enjoy before the business of the convention began.
One of the people with the Minnesota group was Gina Kosloski of Lake Shore, Minnesota. She arrived in Nashville on the Saturday before the start of the convention.
“We went down to Broadway and took in some of the sights,” she said of Nashville’s downtown entertainment district. “That was fun.”
“It’s amazing,” she said of this year’s convention. “It’s amazing to see friends we’ve made throughout the years.”
This year’s convention featured several changes, explained McCusker, a Past State Deputy for the Tennessee Council and a parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi Church in the Memphis suburb of Cordova.
Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, presiding at his first Supreme Convention, had some changes in mind that relieved some of the stress on Tennessee, which had a shorter than normal time to prepare, McCusker said.
Typically, the host state organizes a welcome party the night before the formal opening of the convention. But this year, the Supreme Council staff took advantage of the Music City location and replaced the party with a Welcome Concert at the Grand Ole Opry featuring Country Music star Craig Morgan, a parishioner of St. Christopher Church in Dickson, and the Hillbilly Thomists bluegrass band, made up of Dominican Friars.
“The concert, people absolutely loved it,” said Tennessee State Deputy Fred Laufenberg of Fairfield Glade. “They absolutely loved the show.”
The concert was followed the next morning by the opening Mass with Nashville Bishop J. Mark Spalding as the main celebrant and homilist. “It was absolutely tremendous,” Laufenberg said. “People absolutely loved the homily and the energy he brought to the Mass.”
The procession at the start of the Mass, included a long line of deacons, priests, bishops and cardinals.
“It’s impressive to see that much of the hierarchy of our Church spending time with us,” Laufenberg said. “It’s moving to see that.”
The Tennessee Council added a new feature to the convention. Wednesday evening is traditionally a free night and the various delegations try to go to a restaurant together, which can sometimes be difficult to arrange, McCusker said.
Instead, the Tennessee Knights sold tickets for a dinner at the Catholic Pastoral Center that featured a quick shuttle bus ride to and from the hotel, a barbecue dinner, line dancing lessons, and a lot of fellowship.
More than 500 people from 26 delegations from around the world attended, McCusker said.
“This is a first time thing,” McCusker said. “Supreme thinks this might be a new tradition.”
Another wrinkle that might become a new tradition is the gift the host state traditionally gives to all the delegates. This year it was a Christmas ornament featuring Mikey Schachle, the Dickson boy whose cure from a deadly disease was proclaimed a miracle due to the intercession of the Knights’ founder Blessed Michael McGivney, which led to his beatification.
The Supreme Council staff is considering presenting a new ornament every year that delegates can add to their Christmas tree, McCusker explained.
Hosting the Supreme Convention required the help of hundreds of Tennessee Knights who volunteered to help visitors navigate the Opryland hotel, register delegates, and transport members of the hierarchy between the hotel and the airport.
“We had volunteers from across all three dioceses” of Tennessee: Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville, Laufenberg said.