State Deputy’s Address to Sask. State convention April 26th–28th, 2019—Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Your Grace, Your Excellencies, Reverend Fathers, Worthy Supreme Program Director of Canadian Growth, Worthy State Officers, Worthy Past State Deputies, Former Vice Supreme Masters, Worthy District Deputies, Worthy Master and Former Masters, General Agent, Worthy Charitable Foundation President, State Executive Secretary, State Program Directors, Grand Knights, Council Officers, Agency Staff, Brother Knights and Ladies. It is my pleasure to present to you a report to the Saskatchewan State Council of the State of the Order in Sask.

   This year’s Convention theme “United in Faith and Action” reminds us of our connection to our Faith and to the Catholic Church in the call to be missionary disciples. As knights, we put our faith into action through our charitable works, through the principles of our Order and with the support of our bishops and priests.

    Bound by Unity, we stand firm in our faith, encouraged by mutual support. Bound by Unity, we conduct many Charitable works of Mercy throughout the parishes and communities in Saskatchewan. We keep the dream and vision of Father McGivney alive. And inspired by his courage and example, we share with others its promise for the future.

    More than ever before in our history, through examples of our lives and loyalty to her teachings, the church needs the Knights of Columbus to assist our bishops and priests to carry out her mission.

In June of last year, my wife Pat and I attended the State Deputies Meeting in New Haven Connecticut. It was a humbling experience to be installed by the Supreme Knight at St. Mary’s Church, the birthplace of Our Order, in the Church where Our Founder the Venerable Father Michael McGivney was the Parish Priest. As we stood behind the tomb of Father McGivney thinking about the great legacy given to us by our Founder, I was inspired and thought about how fortunate we are to be part of this organization of faithful, and committed men who are called to discipleship “United in Faith and Action”.

The year began with the Organizational meeting in the Battlefords which set the tone and objectives for the year ahead.

Thank you to the Hosting Committee in the Battlefords for your work to organize a memorable experience for all who attended.

In Mid July, the 9th Annual Priests Sports Days were held at Meunster with over 60 Priests and Knights from Across the Province attending.  This event is a great way to show our Support for our clergy, to exchange camaraderie among the knights and the clergy and to provide the clergy with 2 days of socializing, spiritual reflection at the Abbey, participation in a variety of sporting events and relaxation.

 I encourage all councils to support their council chaplains to attend the priest’s sports days and offer to cover the cost for them to attend and to accompany them to Meunster.

This year, the new Faith in Action program Model was launched in early July. The Faith in action Model is a realization of the changing needs of men and seeks to balance all of our key priorities with Faith, Family, Community and life, the four areas of our program. The new Faith in Action Program is a renewed personal invitation to live out the calling of our faith and the call to service of our neighbor by putting our Faith Into Action with our families- United in a common purpose in Faith and in Action.

This past year, we provided information on the new program model at the Organizational Meeting in the Battlefords and the Midterm Meeting in Kindersley as well as 15 training sessions in 15 districts in the province. Thank you to Supreme trainers Guy Precourt and Ryan DeHaan and to the District Deputies and Council Grand knights for being gracious hosts. Special Thanks to our Trainer PSD Bob Barkman, to State General Program Director Eugene Actemichuk, thanks to the four program directors, Paul Ponak– Faith Director, Dale Meier– Community Director, Ron Denis– Family Director, Gerald Wiegers– Life Director, and over 30 State Activity Chairmen who served in the various programs this past year.

However, we still have some work to do with our Faith in Action Programming to get parishes working together with their parish priest on some of the Faith In Action Initiatives.

The Inter-Council Charity Appeal set a new record this year with $133,854.00 dollars in ticket sales which provided over $10,000.00 each to Special Olympics and Teen-Aid and rebated close to $90,000.00 back to councils to donate to Charities at the local level.

 Thanks to Charity Appeal Chairman Richard Colbow, to Cudworth council for hosting the event and to all the councils for your support. You truly demonstrated the First Principle of our order, Charity.

In December, the State Officers, the DDs and State Program Directors gathered at Kindersley for the Midterm Meeting.

The Midterm Meeting was an opportunity for us to review our progress and to finalize plans for the remainder of the year. Special thanks to DD Randy Schwartz and to Kindersley Council for hosting.

This year marked the 54th Annual Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus Indoor Games held at the Saskatoon Field House in January. The Indoor Games attract 3000 elementary school students who compete in relays, as well as special Olympics athletes and 30-40 top international track and field athletes from Sask., Western Canada and the world.

Thank you to all councils for your donations to the games which help to continue the long tradition of the only international meet which allows athletes to compete in this caliber of a meet.

Special thanks also to Gil Wist and the Indoors Games Committee for your dedication and volunteer service.

In January, we also began our Marion Prayer Program, Our lady Help Persecuted Christians. We have 4 Icons travelling the Province to all councils as well as 1 in Northern Saskatchewan in the Kewatin Le Pas Diocese.

“The unprovoked and systematic persecution and violent elimination of Middle East Christians, as well as other minority groups, especially in Iraq, has created an enormous humanitarian crisis,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. 

“Pope Francis has asked the world for prayers and support for those affected by this terrible persecution, and we are asking our members, and all people of good will, to pray for those persecuted and support efforts to assist them by donating to a fund  established by Supreme Council.”

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson added: “It has shocked the conscience of the world that people are systematically being purged from the region where their families have lived for millennia – simply for their faith. It is imperative that we stand in solidarity with them in defense of the freedom of conscience, and provide them with whatever relief we can.

February was a busy month for councils.

February 2nd and 3rd was the Campaign for the Vocations Endowment Fund.

The aim of the campaign was to raise $250,000.00 in 3 years and to be matched by the Charitable Foundation Capital Fund up to $250,000.00 dollars to support the education of Seminarians for perpetuity.

I am pleased to report that the Vocations Endowment Campaign was a tremendous success. In one Year, the campaign raised a total of $300,325.27 and the Charitable Foundation matched the donations from the capital fund by $250,000.00 for a Grand Total of $550,325.27.

Special thanks to CEO Harvey Granatier for your leadership, to all the Charitable Foundation board members, to the Vocations Endowment Steering Committee, to all the councils and those who organized the campaign at the parish level. Special thanks especially to the Bishops of Saskatchewan for your support of the Endowment Campaign. It is your support that enabled the councils to conduct the campaign at the parish level that made it such a huge success.

On February 8-10, the Saskatchewan Special Olympics Winter Games were held in Regina. These games present a great opportunity to support the provincial athletes as they strive to fulfill their dream in sport, while also continuing to foster a community of friendship in their membership.

Thanks to State Special Olympics Chairman Terry Shalley for your work and support, thanks to Special Olympics Sask. CEO Faye Matt, and thanks to the Knights in Regina who volunteered at the games.

On February 8-10, Unity hosted the State Curling. The state curling helps to foster fraternity among members from different parts of the province as well as enables councils at the local level to work together to host an event.

I encourage councils to support our State events if they are to continue to be successful.

Special thanks to Unity council and their committee for organizing an excellent State Curling event.

The conscience protection campaign Sunday was held on the week-end of Feb. 23/24.

Participation from councils was very good with close to 15,000 signed letters.

This campaign is aimed to protect health care professionals from being forced to participate in procedures which are against their conscience and religious beliefs.

If we are to build a Culture of life in Saskatchewan, we need to walk our talk and put our words into actions. The Conscience protection Campaign was a great example of doing just that.

Special thanks to Gerald Wiegers and his committee, and especially to the Bishops of Saskatchewan for allowing us to conduct this campaign in the parishes throughout Sask.

One week ago, I received some good news:

Pro-life MP for Cypress Hills-Grasslands David Anderson has introduced Bill C-418, a private members bill to protect the freedom of conscience protection for doctors and other medical professionals. The Bill is expected to be debated on May 29th. We still have time to write to our MPs and urge them to vote in favor of this much-needed law.

On March 29th and 30th, the Spiritual Enrichment Conference was held in Saskatoon sponsored by Council 8215. The weekend was very well attended with a large percentage of younger knights.

The presenters presented information based on the book  Into the Breach: An Apostolic Exhortation to Catholic men by Bishop Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix. The presenters made us think of the need for more men to step into the breach and fill the void which is missing in so many areas of our society today.

In his homilies, Pope Francis has described the Church today as a field hospital after battle—a constant source of Mercy in order to endure and overcome the wounds which our society bears such as alcohol  and drug abuse, addictions to pornography, broken marriages, fatherlessness, troubled family life, homelessness, food, and physical and sexual abuse.

The church is also the powerful source of Truth to heal us and to prepare us to battle another day for Christ.

As knights, formed through the teachings of the church, we go out to the wounded through our Charitable programs such as Coats for Kids, Food for Families, Wheelchairs for Mobility, help for Christians in the Middle East,  and so on.

I encourage all of you to read the book Into the Breach and to make it available to your parishioners.

Special thanks to Spiritual Enrichment Chairman John Benesh, to Grand Knight Roland Lafleche, and to Don Pion for a very successful Spiritual Enrichment Conference. 

This year, we ordered 47 boxes of Coats for Kids in the Coats for Kids program. Special thanks to Coats for Kids coordinator Dave Spelay, to the Charitable Foundation, and to all councils for your contributions to assist our youth.

Saskatchewan’s wheelchair program, through the Charitable Foundation, and under the leadership of State Council Wheelchair Chairman Shawn Scheer, had a busy year.

For the first time, we have ordered 100 wheelchairs specifically for councils to purchase for use in Saskatchewan and I am pleased to report that we have sold nearly all of them. If you would like to purchase one this weekend, talk to Shawn.

This spring, we also have a container of 110 wheelchairs which will be going to Poland. Anyone who wishes to participate in the trip to Poland to assist with the distribution is asked to contact Shawn, Dale Meier or myself.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the long-time involvement and generosity of two people in our midst—with the generous contribution of these two people we will send another container of wheelchairs to Costa Rica.

Please join me for a round of applause to PSD Marvin and Pat DeSchryver.    

Programs are a vital part of the success of each council. A council needs a well- rounded program plan in place- one that includes something for all members.

In my travels across the province, I notice and hear about many of the great programs which take place in councils throughout Sask.

I thank all of you for all that you do to put your faith into action as you carry out your programs.

Membership in our order is also very important.

If we are to have great programs, we need members to assist with the programs.

And if we recruit more knights, we need something for them to do- something which motivates them and gives them the greatest experience of belonging after they join.

Many people have said to me that we are just about numbers. In the words from Our Supreme Knight, “ We are not about numbers, quotas, and incentives. We are about changing history—one act of Charity at a time.

Knights of Columbus are men on a mission and the more men among our ranks, the more we can do for our families, our communities, and our Church.

In Sask., we have some membership challenges that we need to work on and I raise 5 questions for us to think about.

  1. What will we do to involve more knights in our Faith in Action Programs?
  2. What are we going to do to retain our members so that they want to be part of our councils?
  3. What are we going to do so that more men step into the breach and get involved?
  4. What are we as knights going to do to assist our Bishops and priests to evangelize more of our knights and parishioners to greater involvement in our faith and attendance at church?
  5. What are we going to do to attract younger knights into our Order and into our churches?

This year,(as of April 15th) we had a very good year in membership recruitment and also membership retention.

Saskatchewan is presently in 5th spot Order wide- #1 in North America with 294 members—90.46 % of our intake of 325—-we need 31 more members to reach our goal.

Our Worthy State Secretary Joe Riffel and our membership team will give you more statistics tomorrow.

Our success this year in membership can be attributed to 6 main factors:

  1. We have an awesome team of dedicated and committed individuals who do a great job of recruiting.
    Part of this team is our Agency Department. I want to thank General Agent Mark Lewans and all the agents in Saskatchewan for the work that you do to promote programs at the council level, to service our members with their financial needs, and also your help to recruit new members into our Order. Please join me in thanking General Agent Mark and all the agents.
  2. We have conducted over 80 church drives to date and in most cases have conducted the proper follow up. I ask all those who helped in any way with church drives, degree work and with recruiting new members this year to please stand- Let’s give them a round of applause.
  3. Our Online membership has been accepted and promoted well throughout Sask. We are #`1 in the entire Order for the percentage of Online members- about 35% of our total intake. And the good news is the average age of online members in Sask. is 38.
  4. We have a cultural diversity plan in place led by 2 key people—Our State Warden Marte Nogot and Our New Council Development Chairmen Agnel George.
  5. We have visited 15 districts to date and have conducted training in the new Faith and Action Program Model,  Online membership and how to conduct Effective Church Drives.  
  6. We have an effective communications team who promote our membership initiatives through social media, our monthly Knightline, our State Website, and our weekly Grandknight/Financial Secretary Bulletin.

Special thanks to our social media chairman Kevin Kanawati, and to Peter Folk who now looks after the State Website, the Monthly Knightline, and the weekly GK/FS Bulletin. Please rise and join me for a moment of silence for our departed brother State Social Media Chairman Kevin Kanawati.

In closing, I owe my sincere gratitude to so many people too numerous to mention.

I thank Supreme Council and especially Bob Ennis, Supreme Director of Canadian Growth, who has been very helpful and Supportive.-Thank you Bob.

Thanks to Our Worthy State Chaplain Bishop Bryan Bayda and to Associate State Chaplain Father Ed Gibney for your spiritual guidance and reflections at our meetings and State events.

You remind us of why we are knights and that everything we do is for the greater glory of God.

Thank you to all the Bishops of Saskatchewan and to all the chaplains and priests for your support, We thank you for allowing us to conduct many of our programs in the churches throughout Sask. Without your support, we would not be able to do many of the things that we do.

The unwritten principle of our order is our unwavering support for our bishops and priests. You can count on the Knights of Columbus to continue to support you.

To my fellow State Officers, to all the Program Directors and Chairmen, to our Membership Team, to our DDs., to the Council Grand Knights and all council officers, and to all my brother knights across Sask., I thank you for your commitment to our Order. You are a great team who I feel is “United in Faith and Action”.

To CEO Harvey and all Foundation Board members, to General Agent Mark Lewans and all the Agents, to the PSDs, and to Pat Meuse and all the 4th Degree members who add color to our Order, we thank all of you.

One individual which I want to single out is Our Worthy Executive Secretary Gerry Gieni.

I could not ask for a better Executive Secretary who is efficient, knowledgeable and very easy to work with.

Thank you very much, Gerry.

Another group in particular that we owe a great deal of our gratitude to is our ladies, for your love, your support and for being there for us when we need a shoulder to lean on or for ears to listen, or for a second opinion.

I especially want to thank my wife Pat who has been all of the above and much more— I could not have been involved as a State Officer for the last 9 years without your understanding, your love and your support. Thank you, Pat.

My brother Knights and ladies,

You who are attending this convention this weekend are the most important leaders in the province that we count on and look towards to carry out our mission and that of the church.

I look forward to working with all of you to continue to accomplish our goals and our mission.

Let us all make an effort to finish the year strong in the two months left in this Columbian Year and let us have a great convention weekend.

Chris Bencharski

Vivat Jesus,
Chris Bencharski
State Deputy of Saskatchewan