First Spanish-speaking Knights council slated to install new officers

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

On July 17, new officers are being installed for the first Spanish-speaking Knights of Columbus council in the Diocese of St. Cloud. This ceremony will be celebrated with Bishop Donald Kettler at 6:30 p.m. at St. Mary of Mount Carmel Church in Long Prairie.

The council, named the Miguel Pro Consejo (Council) in honor of a Mexican priest and martyr, was the second in the state when it was formed last February.

360px-Knights_of_Columbus_color_enhanced_vector_kam.svgSt. Mary’s parishioner Joe Muenzhuber has been a member of Knights Council #1636 at St. Mary’s since 2008, and he currently serves as a field agent for the Knights. When he recognized a need for a Spanish-speaking council in his parish, he reached out to his pastor, Father Omar Guanchez, and to the state membership director, George Sonnen, to help get it off the ground.

“The community was gracious in welcoming a second council,” Sonnen said. “In cases like this, the existing council can provide leadership training for the new council. There will be cultural differences, and the new council will develop their own management techniques, but both councils will follow the same precepts of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism that the Knights of Columbus are known for.”

Sonnen said the state organization’s intent is to initiate 12 new Spanish-speaking councils in Minnesota this year. Currently, there are three in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, one in the Diocese of St. Cloud and a fifth one forming in the Diocese of Winona that should be up and running by the end of the month.

The Long Prairie councils have already begun working together at parish events like pancake breakfasts and community gatherings like Breakfast on the Farm. Father Guanchez became a Knight in January after learning more about the organization from Muenzhuber and seeing the fruit of their labor.

Men of faith, mission

“I am excited to see Hispanic men growing in their faith and getting more involved in Christian service,” Father Guanchez said. “The time has come to have the first Hispanic Knights of Columbus Council, and it is a privilege to be part of it.”

The Spanish-speaking council will bring to the parish the same gifts that the current Council #1636 provides — the “helping hands of good Catholic men,” Father Guanchez said.

“The apostle James tells us that ‘faith without works is dead.’ From this we know the Lord expects a lot from us, and so we have to get to work,” he said. “A man of faith is a man on a mission.”

Building the relationship between the two councils has taken a lot of work, Muenzhuber said. But with the help of fellow knights and the support of Bishop Kettler and Father Guanchez, they’ve been able to bridge some of the gaps.

“It’s really been important community-building,” Muenzhuber said. “Now when we see each other in town, in the grocery store or somewhere, we wave to each other or stop and visit. The relationships we’ve created don’t stop outside the parish walls. They extend out into the community. That is what our Catholic faith calls us to do.”

Identifying needs 

Fewer than 5 percent of parishes with Spanish-speaking councils have a second  council in the same parish. The first Spanish-speaking council was formed in the early 1960s and was comprised of Cuban exiles in Miami, Fla. Today, the Knights actively promote and support ethnic councils all over the world.

Al Cala, director of Hispanic growth for the Knights of Columbus, said it is a very exciting time to be working with Spanish-speaking councils.

“One need that springs forth is for faith formation and spiritual development in the Latino Catholic community,”  he said. “This is something the Knights have not historically been involved in. The goal for any council is to meet the needs of the people in their area and this is a need in many of our communities right now.”

With the increase in Hispanic population and the increase in fallen-away Catholics, the Knights want to help all people know what it means to be Catholic, Cala said.

“The benefit for members is really to keep them active in the Catholic faith,” he said, “to not only welcome them into the church but to invite them into a fraternity of brothers where we can truly support each other. This impacts not just the Knight himself, but also his family and, in turn, the impact affects whole communities.”