Building unity by supporting the community
KELLER — Guillermo “Willie” Muñoz isn’t exaggerating when he says that the Knights of Columbus “totally changed my life.”
He first thought of joining about a decade ago when he attended St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grapevine and saw the Knights with their capes, chapeaus, and swords in a special Mass. Muñoz asked how to join and soon became a member.
At the time, he had a job that included working a lot of weekends, so he didn’t attend Mass each week. Because one of the requirements of being in the Knights is to be a faithful practicing Catholic, he started going every week.
Then his priorities began to change. Muñoz got a different job. The more involved he got in the Church and with the Knights, the more his faith grew.
He became a Eucharistic minister and a catechist. Now at St. Michael Parish in Bedford, he’s going through the lengthy confirmation process to become a deacon.
“I’ve got a year and a half to go, and it all started with the Knights,” Muñoz said.
Like Muñoz, Luis Hernandez had to change his priorities to be active in the Church when he joined the Knights of Columbus almost 20 years ago.
When he first was invited to join, he worked in retail and had a schedule that got in the way of attending Mass and council meetings.
Hernandez changed jobs to get weekends off and joined the Knights in 1999. Muñoz joined in 2009. Both men became Fourth Degree Knights – the highest level – and have served in a variety of leadership roles in their councils and districts. They exemplify the almost 16,000 Spanish-speaking men who are actively serving as Knights in the U.S.
In Texas, there are 25 Spanish-speaking councils comprising 1,700 members, according to Victoria Verderame, communications manager for the Knights of Columbus Supreme Office in Connecticut. “Order wide, we have been growing our Spanish councils by an average of 15 per year. And our Spanish membership is growing at an average of 1,000 new members per year.”
Each degree of the Knights exemplifies one of their principles. For the first degree, when a man joins the organization, he exhibits the virtue of charity. The second and third degrees demonstrate unity and fraternity. The fourth degree focuses on patriotism to encourage an outward focus on the Church and community.
Even though Hernandez grew up in the Church and had heard of the Knights of Columbus, he didn’t know about their mission.
“I just wanted to be part of something,” Hernandez said. “I didn’t know what they did.”
He soon learned that charity is the foundation of the Knights.
Whether fundraising for needs in area churches, collecting for those impacted by natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey, or working with Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity, Knights are called to invest their time and their resources to help others.
UNITY WITH DIVERSITY
The Knights of Columbus are living out their virtues of fraternity and unity by reaching out to the Hispanic community.
Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, the organization’s leader, spoke on a panel Sept. 21 at the V National Encuentro in Grapevine about unity.
“I think one of the missions of Encuentro is to tell the other Catholics in our country that Hispanic Catholics have many gifts to give you,” Anderson said. “And so the Knights of Columbus wants to be the leader to say: open the doors of our parishes, open the doors of our Catholic organizations and institutions, and allow Hispanic Catholics to make this great gift.”
Anderson said that the first Spanish-speaking council began in Los Angeles in 1927, and now the organization has hundreds of Spanish-speaking councils and thousands of Hispanic members.
When Anderson became Supreme Knight in 2000, he chose Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of the organization. Every Knight of Columbus rosary has the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it.
Hernandez said that Knights pray the Rosary before most meetings.
Muñoz said, “With Our Lady of Guadalupe, they show they support Hispanics and cultural diversity.”
Hernandez said that the Caballeros de Colon will have the diocese’s first Spanish-speaking degree team in January to admit new members.
BECOMING A BETTER MAN
While the organization continues to reach out in new ways, the group continues its focus on helping widows and orphans.
The Knights of Columbus was started in 1882 in New Haven, Conn., by Father Michael J. McGivney with a group of 20 men to provide for families of deceased members.
Hernandez said, “It was a time when there was so much anti-Catholic sentiment that it was hard to find work. The work they did get was often menial and dangerous, and they faced accidents and disease.”
With no national social programs at the time, large Catholic families often became destitute when the father died.
The Knights of Columbus still offers life insurance, retirement annuities, long-term care insurance, and disability insurance. Hernandez is now a field agent for the Knights of Columbus Fort Worth Agency.
While charity is the heart of the organization, fraternity is its soul.
Muñoz said, “All we do is charitable work to help worldwide. By doing that, we build fraternity.”
Hernandez appreciates the focus on families as he raises his three sons.
Both Muñoz and Hernandez have sons who as young adults have joined Knights of Columbus.
Hernandez added, “If you want to become a better husband, a better father, and a better Catholic, this is a great organization to join.”