Not a uniform decision: Knights pan regalia update

CHAMPION — The Knights of Columbus fourth degree honor guard is a familiar sight at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. For decades, the men wearing tuxedos with black capes and feathery chapeaus and carrying ceremonial swords have led the clergy procession into Mass every Aug. 15 for the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

While their presence at future diocesan celebrations will live on, the traditional uniforms they wear will not. During an interview before Mass Aug. 15, several KC honor guard members said they were not happy with the changes.

Knights of Columbus fourth degree honor guard members Al Bertler, Bill Bishop, Bill Vandenlangenberg and Robert Rohr stand outside the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help chapel before Mass on Aug. 15. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“I think it’s a big mistake. It’s too military,” said Robert Rohr, a member of Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Ashwaubenon and member of the Knights’ St. Jude Assembly.

The uniform change was announced Aug. 1 at the 135th annual Supreme Convention in St. Louis. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson stated that the traditional regalia would be replaced by blue blazers, ties and berets.

“On a limited basis, assemblies may choose to continue using the traditional cape and chapeau for color corps at public events and honor guards in liturgical processions,” said Anderson. “However, the preferred dress for the fourth degree, including color corps and honor guards, is the new uniform of jacket and beret.”

“I don’t like them,” said William Vandenlangenberg, a KC St. Jude Assembly member and parishioner at St. Joseph in Oneida. “Now we are noticed. In a blazer we’re going to be just another guy. I won’t wear a beret.”

“When I grew up, I went to Catholic grade school and used to see the honor guard come into our church,” said Al Bertler, another St. Jude Assembly member who attends St. Benedict Church in Suamico. “I always said, and this was in grade school, ‘I want to be one of those guys some day.’ I don’t want to see a change in the uniform. Period.”

Bill Bishop, who attends St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and is a member of the Marquette Assembly, has been a Knight for six decades. “We changed (uniforms) once earlier. We had long tails at one time. I prefer this (uniform) any day compared to the new uniforms.”

Vandenlangenberg believes half, if not more, of fourth degree members in the Diocese of Green Bay will oppose the uniform change. “They say they are looking for younger people, but you can’t get young kids to go to church, let alone pay $510 for a uniform to go to a fourth degree function,” he said. “I don’t see it happening.”

  • Yankeegator

    Instead of an increase in the 4th Degree, there is going to be a big drop off. Poor leadership.

  • JTLiuzza

    The change was idiotic. The reason stated even more so. Not unlike the vatican II “aggiornamento,” the end result won’t be an influx of new members but an exodus of the old ones.

    Young guys are not avoiding the kofc because of the fourth degree uniforms. The kofc have become an insipid men’s social club/insurance company masquerading as Catholic Knights. They’re the Royal Order of Raccoons. In general the most weighty and meaningful thing on the average coucil’s agenda is, “when’s the next clam bake.”

    Reinvigorate the order. It should be counter cultural. Make it a meaningful brotherhood rooted in tradition, and one that demands sacrifice and effort. You’ll attract the interest of young men just fine.

    Let’s just change the Swiss Guard uniforms too while we’re at it. What business do they have parading around in uniforms that have been around since the Renaissance?

  • Krieger

    I wasn’t sure what I disliked so much about the new uniform (once I got past the lack of communication from Supreme, the de-formailization of the dress, the prep school look and the reduction of distinctiveness between the Order and general society). It’s the color palate. Black beret, navy blazer, navy tie, charcoal pants and black shoes. Black/charcoal and navy should not be worn together. This isn’t a silly fashion rule – it’s because the colors are so similar that the brain equates them when looking for shortcuts, but then is so different that the brain wants to separate them when considering it. The effect is the creation of a sense of unease in a person’s mind. It makes people dislike what they see at a visceral level. The worst part is that this could have been easily avoided – medium gray pants instead of charcoal, a navy beret instead of black, and at that point the black shoes wouldn’t have mattered (no black shoes with a navy blazer is a silly fashion rule). I will not be purchasing one.