By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Faith and fellowship were on the menu April 11 in Doolan’s Shore Club, Spring Lake Heights, as two groups of men integral to the life of the Church gathered for the annual Knights of Columbus “Pride in our Priests” banquet. Sponsored by the Knights’ Trenton Federation, about 350 clergy, including Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., Knights and their guests filled the banquet hall to express their mutual admiration and pledge their support for one another as they work to strengthen the Diocese of Trenton.
Photo Gallery: To view more photos from the Pride In Our Priests Dinner, click here.
During the cocktail hour and dinner, priests and Knights from throughout the Diocese renewed old friendships, forged new ones and explained the importance of both groups in the life of their parishes, cohorts and community at large.
Quoting the description of the Knights of Columbus uttered by St. John Paul II, Father Daniel E. Kirk, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson, said, “They are instrumental, the ‘strong right arm’ of the Church. Not just the arm, but the hands of the parish, too,” he continued, noting the members often help him set up tables and chairs at parish events. “When it comes to respect for life, the Knights are always there,” Father Kirk concluded.
“They create community in the parish and are mindful of the poor,” declared Father Carlos Florez, parochial vicar in Bayville’s St. Barnabas Parish.
One of that council’s Knights, Robert Livingston, agreed, adding, “This is what we Knights believe about our faith. I have strong faith,” he continued. “My nephew is a priest in Jersey City.”
Father Christopher Picollo, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Burlington, expressed his gratitude for the Knights’ help, especially with new, multiple-parish programs. “The Knights support anything we ask them to do,” Father Picollo said, “like our recent ‘Soup and Scriptures’ cohort event during Lent.”
Father Daniel Swift, pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, shared a laundry list of activities in which the Knights showed their value to the Medford parish.
“They give us their blood, sweat and tears; their volunteerism with our carnival made it successful,” he said. “A number of them are Extraordinary Ministers, readers and ushers at Mass, and they are strong in pro-life ministry, paying for the bus that takes us to Washington for the March for Life.”
Father Swift, who also serves as an assistant director of vocations for the Diocese, continued, “The Knights are also very good to our seminarians. We had a generous donation from them during a dinner in Maple Shade. They are a well-oiled machine,” Father Swift summarized. “They do it all from A to Z.”
Pete Donchak, a Knight member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, said of the attending clergymen, “We don’t often show how much we appreciate them. They are great guys and spiritual leaders.”
John Howey of Resurrection Parish, Delran, agreed with his fellow Knight. “It’s important to show our support, love and respect for the priests,” Howey said, “especially during this rough time in the Church.”
Msgr. John Dermond, a retired priest of the Diocese who serves as chaplain of the Trenton Council, shared other reasons the Knights were invaluable to the Diocese and the Catholic Church as a whole.
“The Knights bring to the parish an organization that can truly increase charitable outreach,” he said. “Recently, they are providing additional spiritual and family programs which seem to be working. Also, since the Knights councils are separate from a parish, they can help the parish accomplish their mission in a community.”
James E. Stoever, who serves as state treasurer for the Knights, presented Bishop O’Connell with a $5,000 donation intended for the diocesan Holy Innocents Society which provides religious education for children with disabilities. Stoever also noted that the Knights had made a donation to the ARC of each of the four counties of the Diocese in the name of its shepherd; the monies would be used to assist in obtaining services for individuals with special needs and developmental disabilities in Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties.
“I am very glad to see everyone here,” the Bishop responded. “I am very grateful for what you do in support of this Diocese.”