Annual K of C dinner shows 'Pride in Priests'
By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Two groups of men instrumental to the life of the Church of the Diocese of Trenton – its priests and members of the Knights of Columbus – expressed their mutual admiration and respect April 20 during the annual Pride in our Priests dinner held in Doolan’s Shore Club, Spring Lake Heights. Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. and about 120 active and retired priests were honored by more than 320 Knights and their guests at the annual event sponsored by the Trenton Federation of the N.J. Knights of Columbus.
Bishop O’Connell greeted his fellow priests and Knights saying, “It is very important for the Knights to feel such closeness to the priests, and that the priests feel the same way to the Knights for all they do for us.”
That closeness and feeling of camaraderie was echoed by all in attendance, including Knights of Columbus member, Pete Donchak, and his wife Mary, parishioners in St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown.
“This is a great way to show our appreciation for the priests,” Mary observed, while her husband continued, “Things are so hectic at the parish that it’s nice to have the opportunity here to kick back and show that appreciation.”
Two of the many priests feted that evening, Father Michael Wallack and Father Daniel E. Kirk, shared a laugh during the cocktail hour. Father Wallack, episcopal secretary to Bishop O’Connell, noted, “It’s great to have this opportunity to be with other priests,” while Father Kirk, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson, continued, “We are more relaxed here and among men who are very supportive of what we do.”
Knights greeted the priests warmly, renewing bonds with former pastors and chatting easily with their parish shepherd. Priests, in turn, mingled freely with the men whose sole purpose is to protect and defend the brotherhood of priests.
Robert Batz, a Knights and parishioner in St. Mary, Middletown, declared, “Our entire purpose as the Knights of Columbus is to support our priests and other Catholics in any way that is needed. Our priests are the reason for these other Catholics!”
Father Tom Petrillo, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Newark who serves as a weekend assistant in St. Joseph Parish, Trenton, smiled as he spoke with his brethren. He noted, “I’ve been to this event four or five times. It’s a great opportunity to meet people and get to know each other better, for we don’t see each other often.”
Speaking with him was Jack Guarnieri, a Knight from St. Monica Parish, Jackson. Pointing to his lapel, which sported a button saying, “In Solidarity with our Bishops and Priests,” Guarnieri said, “We Knights are here to show our support to the priests in all that they do.”
Franciscan Father Robert Benko, pastor of St. Peter Parish, Point Pleasant Beach, is a strong proponent of the Knights of Columbus. Men from his parish are becoming members of a Knights council in nearby St. Martha Parish, Point Pleasant, intent upon aiding him and fellow parishioners. “We appreciate what the Knights do for us and they appreciate what we do for them. This is a great night,” Father Benko said.
James E. Stoever, K of C State Advocate, presented Bishop O’Connell with a $10,000 check raised by the Knights for the diocesan Holy Innocents Society which provides religious education for children with disabilities. The Knights bade him a happy birthday a day early, and all sang to him as dessert was wheeled out.
Turning the attention away from himself, the Bishop asked three newly ordained priests to stand, and recognized Father Joseph M. Quinlan, a weekend assistant in St. Leo the Great Parish, Lincroft, who was marking 65 years as a priest.
The Bishop concluded with an expression of his gratitude for the Knights of Columbus for all they did for the Diocese and the people of the Church of Trenton, saying, “Their care, their compassion, their concern, their support of seminarians and your parish priests… I am glad they took the time to honor our priests… This gratitude: we don’t deserve it, but we are grateful for it.”[[In-content Ad]]