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 and this year created four International Champions: from Leon, Sac City, Humboldt, and Long Grove. The twelve-year old category was all Iowa. Also, on the Catholic Citizenship, Iowa had an International Runner Up from Algona. Nine years ago I remember we presenting an international soccer challenge champion at the State Convention. Make it a great opportunity for our kids to get these achievements by organizing these events. Our State Spelling Bee continues to be a very popular event. Mike Becker has been doing an excellent job as Free Throw chair along with Tim Symodines for Spelling Bee, and Tom Novotney for the Catholic Citizenship.
On youth charitable dollars, our councils donate close to $150,000 a year on scholarships for children and our Coats for Kids surpassed the $41,000 in Coats for Kids which is a 17% increase compared to last year.
CULTURE OF LIFE
Last year we talked about the efforts for two additional Ultrasound Machines, #18 in Red Oak Iowa and #19 in Council Bluffs. Carroll Council 780 provided the support for Assure Women’s Center in Council Bluffs and Red Oak 9726 led Atlantic 1164, Harlan 3900, Corning 1765, Shenandoah 1479 to buy the one for Southwest Iowa Pregnancy Center. Bishop Pates visited both pregnancy centers to bless this machines last October, And this weekend, we are announcing that we have raised enough funds to finance ultrasound machine #20 for Innervisions Heath Center for their new office in South Des Moines, just a few blocks west of Planned Parenthood. By the end of this fraternal year we hope to complete #21 in Iowa City as efforts for a couple portable machines is in full throttle.
VOLUNTEER HOURS AND TOTAL CHARITABLE DOLLARS
In general, we have reported, by the end of the calendar year 2016 a total of $2, 430,357 which is $170,000 more than last year. This is an average of $76.43 per member. We have also accumulated 1,199,639 hours of volunteer hours, which translates into over $29 million (based on $24.40 per volunteer hour which is a standard used by independent agencies to value service hours.) This is an average of 37.7 hours per member. This is what a new member means: 76.43 more in charitable donations and 37.7 more hours of volunteer service per year.
Completion of the Youth Program is mandatory for all Grand Knights, Program Directors, Community Directors, and Family Directors. Councils needs all these completed plus a background check for the last two. If a council has not completed these requirements it will not be eligible for the Columbian Award, and therefore ineligible for Star Council. The course takes about an hour to complete. This is very important especially as we are working against the abuse scandals and the cover up problems in our Church. More information with our State Advocate Bob Douglas and our Program Director Rick Jacoby.
We need the forms because that is how we know contacts in your councils and we can also report the amounts of charitable hours and dollars donated. Please follow the deadline in the web page and the resource books. Part of forms is EIN tax numbers and reports. Follow these procedures to stay current with the IRS. Check with our Comptroller Michael Evink and our Administrative Assistant Ed Pancrazio.
Our District Master Michael Gaspers and Vice Supreme Master Pat O’Keefe continue leading the Patriotic Degree with continues efforts and presence at parades, wakes, funerals, Masses, Special Olympics events, welcoming our veterans from their Honor Flights, and any event that invites the Honor Guard. The use of the traditional regalia will cease to be used after June 30, 2019.
PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Our Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson visited Iraq in the past month and will be doubling efforts to help rebuild the towns destroyed as ISIS retreated. The Supreme Office is reaching out to councils that have provided assistance to these efforts asking them to become sister parishes with communities in Iraq. Council St. Augustine 10558 in Des Moines has been invited to participate in this effort with an acceptance by GK Rob Den Hartog. With Mary Helper of Persecuted Christians, Council 10558 will be a worthy representative of the State Council in the rebuilding efforts in the Middle East.
Bob Ukena continues as Military Outreach as a bridge with the Assemblies. The Therapy Outdoor Plaza at the Veterans Hospital in Des Moines continues collecting funds as a 501(c)(3). The State Council donated $2,000 to this effort and encourages all members to participate and take on this effort.
Our Executive Committee continues being vigilant of our budget and finances. We will be presenting a new budget for the next Fraternal Year with the new administration. ST Schlueter, SC Evink and AA Pancrazio keep a good eye on the books and Directors Jacoby, Zweibahmer, and McGee track their expenses very closely. We have a healthy financial situation and will continue to have balanced and transparent finances. We expect once again to close strongly in the black.
We continue growing our relationship with the Insurance Force of the Order. Three agencies have been reorganized into two under the leadership of General Agent Tim Dagel on the western side of the state, and General Agent Michael Bormann and Assistant General Agent Walker Bormann on the east. We continue with the Diocesan Paper ads. The reorganization has come with some growing pains and we have lost several Field Agents since December when the reorganization was announced. Our insurance products are solid, ethical, and trustworthy. They are the foundation and the pillar of everything we do and we need to continue promoting the protection of our Catholic families. I have personally promoted the Knights of Columbus Insurance putting my name in front of them on any Fraternal activity we have.
The Jurisdiction is strong, growing, and in solid financial situation. We have lots to do, but we trust in the good providence and on the dedication of our 247 Councils and 31,639 Knights in the State of Iowa we will prevail. We grow by 50 net new members last Fraternal Year. Our goal is to exceed 100. Last year we reached 91% of our membership goal. This year we will exceed it. We have a duty with our Church and our communities. This about everything in this report today. What would have happened if we were not here? What would have happened in Marshalltown if Eldon had not been a Knights. How many children without a coat? How many seminarians with much less support? Our Church without its right hand? How much better are we with the Knights? We Are Called and we will continue answering this call because the Order is you. The power of the local Council is what makes our union strong. The Church needs us today, we are there. Christ calls us today, we answer now. There is so much more to do, there so many more families to protect, so many more Catholic men to recruit. Let’s do it my brothers, only we can do it because WE ARE CALLED. Our Lady of Guadalupe, mother of the true and living God is with us. With Mary on our side, our hopes are elevated because Mary is the quickest and easiest path to Jesus’. Christ is alive! Christ is with us! Christ has won us the victory! Christ has saved us! Vivat Jesus my brothers! Que Viva Cristo Rey!