Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 15, 2000
Order drawing new members
More than 700 Alta. men will join Knights this year
By GLEN ARGAN
Wally Streit believes Catholic men should join the Knights of Columbus. He believes it so much that in the last few years, he has personally recruited 115 new members to the Knights in the Edmonton area.
It's no wonder that State Deputy Julito Reyes asked the Edmonton banker to be the membership director for the Knights in the Alberta-Northwest Territories jurisdiction.
Since he took on that task last summer, more than 500 new knights have been initiated across Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Streit estimates that number will grow to between 700 and 750 before the Columbian year ends on June 30.
In the last 15 months, Streit has led membership campaigns in 19 parishes in the Edmonton area. Each of those campaigns has brought in anywhere from six to 24 new members.
Growing membership is a sign of an organization on the move. It brings in new blood and ensures the order can run effective programs, he says.
He points to the Knights' program in Edmonton where every year more than 2,000 Christmas hampers are delivered to needy families. "To carry out that sort of undertaking takes a lot of men.
"If you share the workload and everybody does some small part, the workload for any one is not too great."
With his record, it might seem Streit is a skilled arm-twister, a persuasive salesman for the Knights of Columbus. But that's not how he sees himself.
"I don't bring members into the order unless they're really interested," he says. "We initiate that spark of interest and we welcome them as members if they are interested."
But neither is Streit shy about extolling the benefits of joining the Knights.
"I personally strongly believe in the value of the Knights of Columbus to the Church, the family and the individual Catholic gentleman.
"When a gentleman becomes a knight, he reinforces his faith and is better able to cope with the bumpy road of life."
The Knights do a lot to care for the marginalized and to help Church and society in other ways, he says.
Locally, knights help serve lunches to street people at the Marian Centre, run Christmas parties for seniors, provide scholarships for post-secondary education, help with minor hockey and soccer, run a basketball free throw competition, pray for religious vocations and fund vocations work, and provide money for the Columbian Choirs and youth ethnic dance groups.
That's only a partial list. Streit's own Father Bonner Council will hold a walk-run on June 25 that hopes to raise $100,000 for spinal cord research.
"A lot of things the Knights do, you never hear about," he says. He points to funding the Knights recently provided for a young woman and her children to escape an abusive situation as typical of efforts the order makes that are known to few people outside the council chambers.
Not only do the Knights help others, but they also help their own members and their families.
"When widows need assistance, the Knights stand ready to assist," he says.
They help and pray for knights and their families when they are ill. All deceased knights are prayed for at a Mass every day at St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Conn. And then there are the ordinary acts of personal charity that knights offer to other brother knights.
Across the order, the 1.6 million knights last year performed more than 55 million hours of volunteer service and contributed more than US$110 million to charitable causes.
Streit points to a brochure produced by the Knights' supreme office. It features a photograph of Pope John Paul and is entitled His Beliefs are Our Beliefs.
"If the pope's beliefs are your beliefs then membership in the Knights of Columbus should be very fitting," says Streit.
He points out that membership in the Knights of Columbus is growing while other service clubs face declining numbers. "The reason for that is that the Knights of Columbus is very closely aligned to our faith."
Members of the Knights range from heart surgeons to retirees to men who hold ordinary, unglamorous jobs. "They are all treated equally by the order."