Knights council reaches out to Spanish-speaking community

| Susan Klemond for The Catholic Spirit | August 28, 2013 | 0 Comments
Members of the newly-formed Knights of Columbus Council of Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Paul gathered to volunteer at the Latino Family Day event at Como Park in St. Paul Aug. 25. Pictured are top row, from left, Lou Alvarado, Father Kevin Kenney, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, George Sonnen and Grand Knight Emeterio Orozco. Bottom row, from left, are Hipolito Barboza, Jose Rodriquez and Pablo Lopez. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Members of the newly-formed Knights of Columbus Council of Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Paul gathered to volunteer at the Latino Family Day event at Como Park in St. Paul Aug. 25. Pictured are top row, from left, Lou Alvarado, Father Kevin Kenney, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, George Sonnen and Grand Knight Emeterio Orozco. Bottom row, from left, are Hipolito Barboza, Jose Rodriquez and Pablo Lopez. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

How do you say “Knights of Columbus” in Spanish?

“Caballeros de Colon” is how an increasing number of Catholics refer to the gentlemen in black capes and plumed hats (chapeau) who serve their own parishes and the greater Church in a variety of ways.

With the establishment in January of Minnesota’s first Spanish-speaking Knights of Columbus council at Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Paul and as they seek to add more Spanish-speaking councils around the state, the Knights are drawing new Latino members who are enriching the fraternal benefits society culturally and who are becoming more involved in the local Church.

As part of the Knights of Columbus, which was founded more than 130 years ago on the East Coast to help Catholic families, the Caballeros de Colon at Our Lady of Guadalupe have taken on a number of projects and may in the future help with a program for those with immigration problems.

“We want this to be for our Spanish community,” said Emeterio Orozco, the council’s current grand knight. “We can get our people involved with church, with their faith [and] to grow families in our church.”

Dedicated members

The Our Lady of Guadalupe Council has 40 members — male parishioners mostly in their 40s and 50s — with more continuing to show interest. With the goal of assisting their pastor, Father Kevin Kenney, the council has helped with parking during Holy Week and Easter, food for the parish festival and for the parish’s summer camp for kids, altar renovation and other needs.

“Pretty much anything Father needs help with,” said Lou Alvarado, a council trustee and founding grand knight. “We bring lots of manpower and a lot of dedication.”

He added, “Through the brotherhood and fellowship we strengthen our faith which really has a direct correlation to strong families and strong neighborhoods, strong communities, and, of course, a strong parish. It offers a lot of communication and also resources.”

The council conducts some of its training in Spanish. The organization has four degrees of knighthood; fourth-degree Knights receive a cape and chapeau. So far eight Caballeros in the council have completed fourth (patriotic) degree training, said George Sonnen, chairman of new council development, who approached the parish about forming a council. He predicts membership will rise to 100 in the next three years.

While previous efforts over the past 50 years to start a council at the parish were unsuccessful, the fact that the new council’s meetings and training are expected to be conducted in Spanish has enabled it to attract more first-generation immigrants, Sonnen said. In the parish of 1,200 families, two-thirds of parishioners speak primarily Spanish.

If the council attracts more parishioners with Spanish meetings, it will be good for the parish and the community, said Father Kenney, who also serves as archdiocesan vicar for Latino ministry.

“It offers for the men an opportunity in the church to continue growing in their faith and to offer something back to the parish that they could do by way of service and helping,” he said.

Growing interest

Spanish-speaking parishes around the state are showing interest in the Knights, Sonnen said. Councils are planned for St. Stephen in Minneapolis and St. Mary in Worthington. Locally, the Knights are considering a pro bono assistance program for those with immigration problems which would rotate between parishes, he said.

Latinos have a lot to offer the Knights and the Church, Alvarado said. “On a broader sense, the Knights of Columbus of Minnesota see us and realize that we’re much broader and have a lot to offer — different aspects of our culture. . . . We bring different perspectives and different ways to celebrate.”

The Caballeros have benefited the parish, Father Kenney said.

“When they’re needed, they’re always available and willing to help,” he said. “As projects come up, the invitation goes out and they’ve been very responsive.”

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