College Knights Urged to Be Soldiers of Christ
Knights from more than 50 schools share faith and fraternity at annual College Councils Conference
More than 150 college Knights, chaplains and state coordinators gathered for leadership training, prayer and fraternity at the 57th annual College Councils Conference in New Haven, Conn., Sept. 30-Oct. 2. The theme of this year’s conference, which brought together leaders from 52 college councils across the United States, was Milites Christi — a Latin phrase meaning “Soldiers of Christ” or “Christian Knights.”
Highlights of the conference — the first to be held in person since 2019 — included Mass at St. Mary’s Church, the birthplace of the Order; the annual awards banquet, featuring a keynote address from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York; training sessions, panels and presentations on the Order’s mission and council best practices; and a visit to the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center.
Introducing Cardinal Dolan on Friday evening, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly told the assembled students, “Part of our mission in the Knights is to make the case for our Catholic faith and to communicate our Catholic faith. And nobody knows how hard that is better than you, because you’re doing that on college campuses. I know that’s not easy. We’re very grateful that Cardinal Dolan is in our corner with regard to communicating our faith, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have His Eminence with us tonight.”
In his keynote address, the cardinal focused on the conference theme of Milites Christi and highlighted what he called “five lessons we can learn from this military analogy.” Five common ideals for both soldiers and Knights, he said, are solidarity, shared convictions, rituals, allegiance to a higher cause, and readiness to fight the enemy.
The solidarity that is so essential to soldiers for survival is equally essential to soldiers for Christ, Cardinal Dolan observed. “The Church is, by its nature, a community,” he said. “And what do we hear today all over the place? I’m a believer, I’m not a belonger. I’m into spirituality, I’m not into religion. … God has told us differently. God has always preferred to work with the people. … We’re in it together. And my brothers, the Knights of Columbus embodies that.”
Bonds of solidarity are created by shared convictions and cemented by ritual, the cardinal continued, from the rituals of the sacraments to the traditions of the Order. Allegiance to a higher cause is what gives soldiers — and Knights — strength to fight for the good.
Cardinal Dolan concluded with a final point about the need for every Knight, like every soldier, to be ready to fight the enemy. “Satan is real,” he said. “Remember that Pope St. Paul VI said that Satan’s greatest weapon is to make us think he doesn’t exist. The realm of the invisible — Satan, sin, evil and the realms of darkness. It’s out there, brothers. It’s out there.”
The keynote address was followed by the annual awards ceremony, in which councils were recognized for achievements in faith, family, community and life programs, as well as membership growth. The highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of the Outstanding College Council Award to University of Wisconsin Council 6568 in Madison for its exemplary growth, engagement and support to local charities and ministries dedicated to families. Providence College Council 5787 in Rhode Island received second place, and Illini Council 2782 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign received third.
Conference events on Saturday, Oct. 1, included presentations by Supreme Secretary Patrick Mason and other Knights of Columbus leaders, as well as morning and afternoon breakout sessions.
Julian Jimenez, the 2022 College Councils Advisory Board chairman and deputy grand knight of Georgetown University Council 6375 in Washington, D.C., served as emcee for the weekend and also led one of the breakout sessions, “Recruitment as Evangelization.”
“Our role as Knights of Columbus is to support and amplify the mission of the Church,” Jimenez said. “Salvation is the most important goal … and the best people to evangelize young men are other young men.”
Later in the day, Knights gathered for a Holy Hour and rosary at St. Mary’s Church, followed by a vigil Mass and eucharistic procession. Then, after a social and tours at the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center, the day culminated in a special screening of Mother Teresa: No Greater Love, the new documentary produced by the Knights of Columbus.
The conference concluded Sunday, Oct. 2, with a closing session featuring remarks from Father Timothy Mergen, chaplain of University of Wisconsin Council 6568 and a former Air Force pilot.
“As I look at my own life and my journey to where I am right now, the greatest gift I have received in my entire life is the gift of the priesthood,” Father Mergen affirmed. “I ran away from this for as long as you can imagine, but the Lord ultimately wins. … I just want to also encourage you men that if the priesthood is on your mind and heart, be not afraid, be not afraid.”