GREEN BAY — The Knights of Columbus has had a presence in the Diocese of Green Bay since 1901, when Council 607 was formed in Appleton. On Sept. 29, another milestone was celebrated when the first Spanish-speaking council, known as the Caballeros de Colón, was installed at St. Philip Church.
Fr. Bill Hoffman, pastor of St. Philip Parish and new council chaplain, said he was approached last year by Jack Wrbanich, KC state secretary and member of Council 16333, about forming a Spanish-speaking council in Green Bay. “I spoke to this at one of our parish Hispanic leadership meetings and there was a favorable response,” he said.
Rufino Arce, who is KC state coordinator for Hispanic development, visited the parish last spring. “He spoke at our Spanish Mass and invited men to become a Caballero de Colón,” said Fr. Hoffman. “On Aug. 11, we passed the required number of 20 members to form a council.”
The council is made up of men from St. Philip and St. Willebrord parishes, with membership open to other Spanish-speaking men from other parishes. It is just the fourth Caballeros de Colón council in the state, according to Arce.
“The first was started 46 years ago in Milwaukee,” he said. “Last year, we established a second council in Sauk City, in the Diocese of Madison, then a third one was established in July 2018 in the City of Abbotsford in the Diocese of La Crosse. … I am currently working on two other projects in Milwaukee in the months of October and November.
The installation of officers took place following the Spanish Mass celebrated by Fr. Hoffman and attended by Arce, Wrbanich and several other state and district officers.
The new council’s officers include a father and son combination. Francisco Flores is the Gran Caballero (grand knight) and his son Francisco Jr. is the finance secretary.
“I decided to join this council because it was a great opportunity for me to be able to get more involved, not only in my church, but my community,” said Francisco Jr.
The installation included a blessing of medals, which were presented to the new officers. The council also selected as its name the patron saint of the Diocese of Green Bay, St. Francis Xavier.
During his address to the new Knights before their installation, Ravino explained that establishment of the Spanish speaking council was intended not to give extra work to the pastor, but to help him. “We always go to Fr. Bill to ask what the parish needs. Not to give him more work,” said Arce.
“Under the leadership of your grand knight, the council officers must function as a united team,” he said. “Your council will be judged on its actions.” He said that they should aim to strengthen parish and family life and grow their council membership.
In addition, the new council must focus on the four principles outlined by Knights of Columbus founder Fr. Michael McGivney: charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.
The council’s grand knight told The Compass that he sees the new council for Latino men as a fraternal group seeking to address the needs of the community. “It’s good to find God in every person in our community,” Flores said.
Each council is asked to make one of the four KC principles its area of service. Flores said he wants to focus on all four areas. “Faith and charity will be the first two,” he said.
“Our (Hispanic) community is huge. Maybe they need to know better what is the Knights of Columbus,” said Flores. “We have 22 council members and we hope to grow our community and our council.” In addition to parishes in Green Bay serving Spanish-speaking Catholics, Flores said Catholic men from St. Thomas the Apostle in Newton are also invited to join the new council.
Wrbanich said the Knights were fortunate to have Fr. Hoffman help spearhead the new council. “We are excited. We think it’s going to grow,” he said of additional Spanish-speaking councils in the diocese. “We know there are other Hispanic communities in the area, so we will be reaching out to them as well. We have good leadership here, so it’s exciting.”
Fr. Hoffman said he believes the council will have a strong impact on the parish.
“I think it’s a great thing for our Hispanic community,” he said. “I really think that this is going to attract more Catholic men, Hispanics, and I think it’s really going to strengthen our parishes and our families. I’ve got a good feeling.”