During the 2019 State Convention, Antonio Banuelos delivered the annual Report of the State Deputy. Below are the prepared remarks-
Welcome to the 118th State Convention of the Iowa Knights of Columbus. We return to Des Moines, the state capital Davenport after only 3 years since our last convention in my home town. The oldest council in Des Moines is Council St. John Basilica 644, which was the council that welcomed me to the Order in 2005, which was established February 1902, making it the 6th oldest council in the jurisdiction. In a couple of weeks, we will also have the newest council in Iowa: St. Peter Vietnamese Community Council. Let us welcome our new brothers. We also have the largest Hispanic council in the Midwest, Council Fr. Tom Pfeffer 14267, my home council. The council was founded at Visitation Catholic Church in March 2007 with myself as Charter Grand Knight, with the bare minimum 30 members and it now counts with over 140.
In the past ten years we have been in the Diocese of Des Moines three times, all of them in Des Moines in 2010, 2014, and 2016. The Diocese of Des Moines was established on August 12, 1911 taking half of the territory of the Diocese of Davenport, serving the 23 counties in the southwest of Iowa. Our first Bishop Austin Dowling would become the Archbishop of St. Paul. Our current Bishop, Most Reverend Richard E. Pates was an auxiliary bishop of St. Paul Minnesota before becoming our 9th Bishop. The cathedra is at St. Ambrose, my parish, a couple of blocks northeast from us, where we celebrated our opening Mass.
The Convention Committee lead by District Deputy Ron Staab, with the assistance of the local District Deputy Mike Tigges, and several local Grand Knights and members of most of the Des Moines Metro Area councils working along with their wives have dedicated long hours and efforts under the direction of our Worthy State Warden Steve Vonnahme and his wife Rose to welcome all of you to the city of two rivers, the state capitol of the Hawkeye State. Let us thank them for their hard work and dedication to this effort.
WHAT IS NEW THIS FRATERNAL YEAR
The jurisdiction continues facing the challenges that we had at the beginning of my administration with the Pastoral Plan 2025 in the Diocese of Sioux City. In rural Iowa, which holds about 80% of our councils we see shrinking Mass attendance, increased average age of parishioners, and a higher proportion of priests entering their retirement versus those becoming ordained.
We also face a new challenge for our Church: the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and the revelations of Theodore McCarrick’s shameful behavior. These notes are all over the news and do have a direct impact on the faithful, on the image of our Church and on the growth of our Order and faith community.
As a Jurisdiction we take these challenges face on and will continue to firmly stand in solidarity with our priests and bishops. We will continue being the strong right arm of the Church and the first responders to our pastors and parishes in any need they may have. It has been in its most difficult times when the Catholic Church has come up stronger and even more convinced of its role as the Body of Christ on Earth: the Diocletian Persecution in the 3rd Century finished with Christianity becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire. The bigotry against Catholic immigrants in the United States in the late 19th Century resulted in the birth of our beloved Order. The persecution of the Mexican Government against the Catholic Church in the 1920s created a stronger conviction of a committed laity defending their faith and their institution. Yes, all these events left glorious martyrs on its path, some recognized, some that remain nameless. The Catholic Church with its Knights of Columbus will continue to become even stronger, even in these dark times because as Matthew 16:18 tells us, we are built on a rock and the powers of hell will not conquer it. We will be always ready for the battle against the real enemy.
With the Communications Director being part of the Executive Committee, we have been able to keep a more consistent communication and publicity plan. Under John McGee’s leadership, we have monthly 90-day planning conference calls focusing only in communication of upcoming and recent events Also, in collaboration with State Secretary Paul Lee, we have migrated to our new State Council website and better management of our mailing groups and distribution lists. I am grateful for all the work they have put on this. I know this is not an easy task, I know that this is an invisible task, so I recognize both of you today.
We have suffered the passing of several brother Knights this year. A very shocking one was the loss of Grand Knight Justin Kime and District Deputy Tristan Marlow, both from the University of Northern Iowa Council 14987. They were driving back home from the Iowa Rally of College Knights on February 17 when they suffered a terrible car accident. They were both 21 years old and they were already serving in high leadership roles in the Order. Tristan’s father, Troy Marlow is here today serving as a Delegate for his Council 10805 in Council Bluffs. He told me he wanted to be where Tristan would have been today. Let’s please recognize his presence.
Past State Deputy and Former Master Joseph A. Ramirez continues serving as our Regional Growth Director making sure that Iowa stays on track to achieve its goals. We are grateful to have Joe Ramirez as part of the Iowa team.
We are doing well so far this year in membership. We finished April as our best month this year with an intake of around 150 members. We have recruited over 825 new members which puts us over 75 % of our jurisdiction goal of 1,100 new Knights this year. Our Membership Director John Zweibahmer is working with all our twelve Regional Chairmen. Once again, this year we sat delegates based on the performance of their regions. This is a simple incentive for membership. We offered some incentives this year for new members to the Very Important Proposer (V.I.P. Program) giving them a Solidarity Cross which assists directly the Christian Refugees in the Middle East. The Knight Before Christmas and the Resurrect a Knight programs have helped in boosting our membership efforts and rewarding with coupons for Knight Gear. I am confident in our possibilities to reach Circle of Honor this Fraternal Year as we are ahead of last year’s end of April numbers. We have the momentum and desire to reach out and we will bring back Circle of Honor to Iowa after the almost five-year drought.
E-membership has helped us boost our membership numbers. As of today, we have 60 new e-members in Iowa which represents 7% of our growth. We are getting there slowly, and it is being more accepted by our councils. Our General Agents are on board with this program so let us embrace it positively. The membership team with Regional Chair Directors Mike Becker, Donnis Rodgers, Eugene Wassom, Larry Hauber, Ron Timm, State Secretary Paul Lee, Bernie NIe, Jerry Keane, State Warden Steve Vonnahme, David Ritchie, Vern Vondera, and Paul Falck keep the membership growing and the District Deputies accountable for their goals.
We continue “no suspensions” until July 1st. The response from councils has not been as well as we would like. As of today, we stand with over 100 names on the retention list. Unfortunately, I have seen some of these names and councils are not doing their due diligence in reaching out to members. We will say it once again: stop suspensions until next Fraternal Year. Use this time to reach out to those you are planning to suspend. As a response, we launched the Reactivation Incentive for those inactive members over the age of 80. I sent personal invitations to over 200 of these men, asking them to reconsider becoming an active member. We are giving an incentive of $15 per reactivation to the Councils that bring these members back to the Order. This will pay for their per-capita expenses next Fraternal Year. This is more than enough time to reach out to them, learn about their situation, and make them a part of their Council. Some councils have already taken advantage of this incentive, I encourage you to look at your rosters and look for those members with an “N” next to their name and ask them to give us another try. Marvin Menke continues working with our membership director, the Regional Directors and District Deputies rescuing Knights on the edge of suspension.
NEW COUNCIL DEVELOPMENT
We will have two new councils at the end of this Fraternal Year. In District 25, District Deputy Jeff Wellick and District Warden Phillip Berg have been working in the reorganization of Council 12496 State Center, Nevada, and Colo. The other Council has been a local effort in District 38 of the State Deputy, District Deputy Pedro Ceballos and Father Ly Chu from St. Peter Vietnamese Catholic Community, the only parish in the Des Moines Metro area with no Knights of Columbus Council. They have a “group of men that meets every month to talk about the needs and maintenance of the parish. They work on some fundraisers and festival events at the parish and pay dues of $10 dollars a month.” This sounds very close to a KC Council without our benefits. We will fill the paperwork within two weeks.
We have 14 councils inactive in the state and our goal is to reactivate at least three. One of them, the University of Iowa 5676 will be ready for the next Fall semester, thanks to the efforts of College Coordinator Johnathan Langenberg. Marshalltown 15950 is coming close to come back to active life and hope to have it concluded by June. We have a few more efforts going, with some sparkles of interest.
Our Administrative Assistant is working on Round Tables making sure we achieve our goal of 80 Round Tables. We need to have Knights presence on every parish so this may require larger councils to establish round tables in small parishes. We have hit our goal so we ask you for your continued support documenting and reporting round tables in your councils and districts.
Roy Tangeman moved to Minnesota but continues with the position of Ceremonials Director. Brother Roy, has developed a good and straightforward process for scheduling the major degrees. Our goal is to have more degree teams across the state. Higher degree members are much less likely to be suspended so we need to get our first-degree members to the major degrees right away.
The Catholic Church is growing more rapidly in our immigrant and refugee communities. The Supreme Office launched an incentive for Hispanic Councils to recruit at least five members by December 1st. Three out of our six Hispanic councils achieved the goal and they received an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe like the one here next to the dais. Hispanic Development Director Pablo Martinez is as of today the top recruiter of Iowa with 23 new members. Five out of our six Hispanic Councils: Muscatine 13960, Columbus Junction 14042, Davenport 14131, Des Moines 14267, and Ottumwa 16922 have already met their membership quota, with the latter at 475% of membership growth. This Fraternal Year I visited Council Bluffs 10805, LeMars 1466, Sioux City 743, leading Admissions Degrees in Spanish. We still have Cedar Rapids 14952, Eagle Grove 1579, and Denison 2074, to cover. As of today, we have over 60 new Hispanic members in the Order. Combined with outreach to other ethnic communities such as the Sudanese, the Eritrean communities, Vietnamese and the Burmese, we are over 110 new members from our ethnic groups. This will be over 10% of the recruiting this Fraternal Year. Two of the highlights of for me this year have been Admission Degrees in Divine Word College in Epworth with council 7823 where we welcomed 15 seminarians and priests from 9 different countries into the Order. 15 more joined via online membership. Field Agent Larry Blatz was instrumental in getting the door opened for us then and establishing the relationship with the college and Grand Knight Robert Kass. At St. Ambrose Cathedral council 15336, we held two admission degrees within one month to bring over 25 new members of the Sudanese, Burmese, and Eritrean communities. We will hold one more for more Eritrean brothers later in May. We still have much to do but these numbers are showing progress.
I visited our college Knights in their annual Iowa Rally of College Knights (iRock) in Des Moines and had the great privilege and joy to have them at my home for dinner. College coordinator Johnathan Langenberg is a great motivator for these councils. As of today our four active college councils Loras College 9224, Iowa State University 13160, Drake University 14977 and University of Northern Iowa 14987 are on the verge of being Star Councils. Ames 13160 is shooting for Triple Star, and Loras and UNI for Double Star. This will be the greatest achievement of our College Councils since 2014 when 3 of the active councils achieved Star Council. The Catholic Education Fund is generating around $9,000 per year to each Catholic Newman center in the state (ISU, UofI, UNI, and Drake/Grand View). The loss of brothers Justin Kime and Tristan Marlow leaves a great void in our young leadership. Invite those your adults and High School seniors to join the Order. We need them to secure our future.
HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATING SENIORS
We started an new incentive this year was the knights of Columbus High School Graduation cord for those High School Seniors that graduate being already members of the Knights of Columbus. We have seen a very good response from councils, specifically Mason City 1006 who held an Admission Degree for seniors at Newman Catholic High School. Other councils with active participation include Clinton 707 with 100% of the graduating seniors (4) of Prince of Peace Catholic School joining the Order. Adel 9574, Oskaloosa 4108 among others offered the cord to their graduating seniors in their public High Schools. So far, the program has been well taken by some, but we continue hoping for better success in our High Schools. We have given out over 50 graduation cords this Fraternal Year, which is a bit over 6% of our recruiting so far. We still have time as graduations start, to invite these young men to join our Order. District Deputies Bill Orozco, Dan McEleney, Paul Falck, David Waldschmidt for their efforts.
PROGRAMS AND CHARITABLE DONATIONS
Program Director Rick Jacoby Jr. has worked both in the implementation of the Faith in Action program in our state. Rick has worked with his team to ensure that the program chairmen are engaged and focused on making their specific programs successful and attractive to the membership. The Faith in Action program is simplifying the way we record and report our Fraternal and Charitable works. It also puts emphasis in making sure that our activities and programs bring our members and our families more in touch with their faith, in closer contact with their pastor and parish community in an effort to Build the Domestic Church and strengthen our parishes. As with everything, change is implemented slowly, but Rick and his team have been very proactive in bringing resources to the Councils as they prepare to fill their Columbian Award Application Form SP-7. Please visit with the Program Team this weekend for their breakouts on Faith in Action.
With the reporting coming from the Supreme Office not adjusted to the Faith in Action Structure, we still have some programs reporting in the old categories. For the calendar year 2017 our community activities in the state exceeded the $1 million dollars. Most of the funds are part of the $675,000 for the Campaign for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities. This adds up to $20 million dollars in the past 45 years of this program. LeMars 1466 contributed the most with over $41,000 this year and Pella 12334 contributed the most per member with an average of $161.94 per member. This was an increase of $13,000 compared to last year. Dennis Hagedorn has made a great job keeping track of the funds and donations. Food for Families reported an increase of $15,000 compared to last year exceeding the $100,000 mark. David La Mar continues promoting this program and making it grow. David has joined the latest deaconate cohort in the Diocese of Sioux City. Please offer your prayers and support for this dedicated brother in his discernment for his vocation.
Special emphasis this year in the Disaster Relief Efforts. We had a couple of quiet years in terms of natural disasters. This fraternal year we faced the devastating Tornado in Marshalltown, Bondurandt, and Pella. The greatest damage was in Marshalltown, including damage to the St. Mary parish. Te Supreme Office sent us assistance for $10,000 which combined with our own state funds we were able to provide gift cards for groceries, gas as well as additional financial assistance to the parish. District Deputy Eldon Schneider became the eyes, ears, and hands of the Order managing resources, access, delivery of the cards, and assessing other needs. He showed us what being a Knight of Columbus is about, be in the right place when the need is the greatest. At the same time, the floods in west Iowa along the Missouri river are still impacting the area and the need is building up. Our Disaster Relief Chairman Vice Supreme Master Pat O’Keefe is working with our Foundation President PSD Jim Murphy to cover as much of the need as we can. Please consider helping the Disaster Relief Fund.
Our support for the Church programs and activities is the second largest we have. Support to Church facilities and Catholic Schools exceeded $475,000, an increase of $150,000 compared to last year. RSVP increased by $10,000 exceeding $121,000 added to the Pennies for Heaven and other vocation efforts for $71,000. Our Perpetual Memorial Society generates $10,000 a year which we split equally to the four dioceses in Iowa for vocations. Over $200,000 are raised in the support of our seminarians. PSD Dan Werner continues being a great representative of the State Council on vocation efforts. In the current Church crisis, we need to support our seminarians more than ever. They are the future of our Church, and we will be there for them. Once again, we had presence at all Catholic Men’s Conferences in the state. This year I was invited to be a Keynote Speaker at the Sioux City Diocese Men’s Conference in LeMars before over 300 Catholic Men. The new Marian Icon, Our Lady Helper of Persecuted Christians, started its route across the state. We added a fourth icon to the usual three, so we can have one icon per diocese. Talk to Chris Riegel, chairman of the Marian icon for more information in this effort. The new Faith in Action programs Holy Hour and Rosary Program are led by Todd Roecker and Dwicght McGrath as part of the extended team of Dan McEleney, Chairman for Faith activities. Finally, we received notification Thursday night that the Relic Heart of St. John Vianney, Patron Saint of the Priest will be in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids June 1 and June 2. The relic returns to France on June 14 so we received a last minute date requested by Archbishop Jackels and Bishop Pates.
FAMILY & YOUTH
Our Youth programs continue to be the most visible activities outside the Church environment. Our Free Throw competition is the most popular event