The Knights of Columbus Immaculate Heart of Mary Council No. 472 held its 113th anniversary dinner on April 14 at the Knights of Columbus hall in Wintersville, an occasion for commentary, special awards and remarks by guest speaker the Rev. Jeffrey M. Monforton, bishop of the Diocese of Steubenville.
Monforton, who has been on the job seven months now, said he had a number of priorities upon arriving here: unity in the diocese; finances, Catholic education and vocations; and the cathedral.
Monforton said he is more than halfway done with visiting parishes in the diocese - it's a five-hour drive from Toronto to Ironton to put traveling considerations into perspective - and he has had a chance to go to all the schools. In both cases, he said he is "very pleased" with what he sees.
From left, Robert Byers, state warden; Bishop
Jeffrey M. Monforton, guest speaker; and Donald Hall, grand knight and awards presenter.
His visits to the schools in the Diocese sparked questions from students about his attire, he said. "I would call this a walking show and tell for the church, and I did this on purpose because you know kids. They like to ask what's this, what's that and why. I love it. If they're going to ask questions about faith, to me it means it matters to them," he said, noting he has implemented "Ask the Bishop," which allows students to ask him faith questions with responses printed in the Catholic Register.
Visits to Franciscan University of Steubenville and Ohio University are on his schedule as a way to foster vocations.
"We are blessed with six seminarians right now," Monforton said of a number that will continue to grow as individuals have encouragement and affirmation that the priesthood or religious life are viable options despite a culture that might suggest otherwise.
When he first arrived in the area in July, Monforton said he was asked about stalled plans for the new cathedral. What are you going to do, he said he was asked.
"I said I will assess the situation and determine where do we go," Monforton said was his response.
"What you need to know - and I mentioned this in my article in the (Catholic) Register - doing nothing is not an option," Monforton told the attentive Knights of Columbus audience.
"We do have money in the bank already, but to do a whole brand new full-blown campaign, no; however, I fully believe that we will be able to endeavor and to be able to work on what we need to do for the mother church of this diocese," he said. "Will we be able to use the location intended over by the high school and grade school - I probably doubt it. However, at the same time what we do is look at other options. Think of our faith. God writes straight with crooked lines," he said, mentioning how expectant parents have intentions of a certain number of children with certain types of personalities.
"Didn't happen - that's fine," he said. "But that's good. It's a reminder that God's in charge."
For the past few months, Monforton said, "I have been paying attention and consulting with the various ties we have in this beloved diocese of ours as well as with a couple members of the administration of the city of Steubenville. We will not leave the city. That's a certainty. And whatever we'll do will also be coupled with helping the poor. That definitely is a hallmark of this diocese and certainly with the name of the blessed pope we have in Pope Frances focusing on the poor is a reminder of who we are as Catholics," he said.
Being 49 and new to the bishop's role, Monforton said he is a "baby bishop" destined to make mistakes. "I don't intend to, but they will happen, but we grow from experiences, but my focus here is meant to remind everybody here there is always hope, and that's important," he said.
D.L. Romel served as toastmaster at the dinner, acknowledging guests at the head table who included Baci Carpico, past state deputy and former master of 4th degree; Robert Byers, warden, Ohio state Council Knights of Columbus, who commended the council for leading the state in membership two years running; Joseph Solomon, diocesan membership retention director, Monsignor Kurt Kemo; the Rev. Jack McCoy, chaplain; the Rev. Gilbert I. Sheldon, retired bishop, Diocese of Steubenville, who gave the benediction; and Donald Hall, grand knight and awards presenter.
Joe Lancia, banquet chairman, presented the first award of the evening, to Trinity Health System for its dedicated and devoted care to the community. The award was accepted by Fred Brower, its chief executive officer and president.
Hall presented the other awards, ones the council presents to members of the council and the community who have exemplified the virtues and principles of the order - charity, unity and fraternity.
Honored were: Wintersville Police Chief Ed Laman, Bluecoat of the Year; Sydney Parks, Youth of the Year; the Rev. Jack McCoy, Chaplain of the Year; the Rev. William D. Cross, Religious of the Year; Jack Ernest, Volunteer of the Year; Lou and Carol Lamonte, Family of the Year; and the late Al Furka, Knight of the Year, posthumous award accepted by his children, Bob Furka, Mary Recinella and Veronica Pollus.
The evening also included the presentation of contributions to the Bishop John King Mussio Elementary School Scholarship Fund, the Bishop John King Mussio Junior High School Scholarship Fund and the Catholic Central High School Scholarship Fund.