2010-06-12 / Top News

Knights of Columbus Convention Brings Thousands to Mackinac

By Rebecca Jaskot

More than 50 men from the Knights of Columbus line up a half hour before the living rosary ceremony in Grand Hotel's Tea Garden. The men are each assigned to represent a bead on the rosary. More than 50 men from the Knights of Columbus line up a half hour before the living rosary ceremony in Grand Hotel's Tea Garden. The men are each assigned to represent a bead on the rosary. As the sun rose to its high point in the sky and thermometers crept to 80 degrees Friday, May 28, more than 50 men walked outside Grand Hotel wearing long black capes, big feathered hats, and white gloves. A crowd of more than 100 people watched.

The Knights of Columbus were about to perform their annual living rosary ceremony in Grand Hotel's Tea Garden, one of the final events of the Michigan Knights of Columbus annual convention taking place on Mackinac Island Thursday, May 27, through Saturday, May 29.

The Knights represented the beads of the rosary with their bodies and the crowd joined them in performing the traditional Catholic prayer. The ceremony was held in memory of men who died last year. At the end of the ceremony, balloons were released into the air, representing prayers.

The Knights of Columbus stand in formation of the beads of the rosary in Grand Hotel's tea garden. Balloons help the crowd follow along in the Catholic prayer. The Knights of Columbus stand in formation of the beads of the rosary in Grand Hotel's tea garden. Balloons help the crowd follow along in the Catholic prayer. Knights attending the convention numbered 1,700.

“If you add in our wives and children, we're a small country,” quipped John Moody, state council deputy.

The Knights filled the rooms at Grand Hotel and many other hotels on the Island. They comprise the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world with more than 1.7 million members, and Michigan has almost 71,000 Knights from more than 400 councils, dedicated to serving their communities and parishes.

Dave Gibson, master of District Four, has attended the convention 11 years in a row, and he likes how the living rosary offers an opportunity to include everyone, especially those who are not members of the organization. As each Hail Mary is said, the Knight in the circle raises a balloon so that the crowd watching from the hotel can follow along.

At right: People watch from Grand Hotel as the Knights of Columbus perform the living rosary ceremony. The crowd watches from the sidewalk, porch, and balconies. Many brought their own rosaries and joined the Knights in prayer. At right: People watch from Grand Hotel as the Knights of Columbus perform the living rosary ceremony. The crowd watches from the sidewalk, porch, and balconies. Many brought their own rosaries and joined the Knights in prayer. “Not only is it a religious ceremony for us, but people up there watching can enjoy it and be involved,” Mr. Gibson said of the spectators standing above the Tea Garden on the street and porch of the hotel.

The Knights' bylaws require them to meet annually to vote on issues and select delegates. This weekend, the Knights attended business meetings to decide on laws and attended religious masses.

This year was an election year and 540 delegates representing state regions voted Saturday to elect a new warden to state council. When elections occur every two years, each member of council moves up one position. The offices are warden, advocate, treasurer, secretary, and state deputy.

Knights Dr. Gene Dominick (from left), Tim Polk, and Robert Greening pose for a photograph before participating in the living rosary ceremony. The Knights wear full regalia, including swords, hats, and capes for the ceremony. Knights Dr. Gene Dominick (from left), Tim Polk, and Robert Greening pose for a photograph before participating in the living rosary ceremony. The Knights wear full regalia, including swords, hats, and capes for the ceremony. Mr. Moody is serving his last term as state deputy, and secretary Tom Marcetti will move up to take the position in the fall.

The convention is also a chance for the Knights to showcase their achievements and hand out awards.

“It's like a Hollywood production,” said Mr. Moody. “We have very talented people making and running the award show.”

The Knights raise money throughout the year for food drives and charities such as Habitat for Humanity. One of the major projects the Knights have been working on over the last year is raising money to provide ultrasound machines to pregnancy centers. The Knights have purchased and installed six machines so far. One of their most notable fundraisers, the Tootsie Roll drive, raised more than $1.1 million to benefit people with mental disabilities.

Knights George Dann (from left), Walt Winkle, Vern Myron, Dennis Henderson, Dave Gibson, and George Mallison pose for a photograph minutes before beginning the living rosary ceremony in Grand Hotel's Tea Garden. Knights George Dann (from left), Walt Winkle, Vern Myron, Dennis Henderson, Dave Gibson, and George Mallison pose for a photograph minutes before beginning the living rosary ceremony in Grand Hotel's Tea Garden. “Not many people know the scope of what we do because we don't really pat ourselves on the back,” Mr. Moody said. “We should tell our story more because then we would get more men to come out and join us. And we've been trying to do a little more of that this year.”

Mr. Moody said the Knights do fun things, too, like the formal banquet that was held Friday night at which members dress in full regalia.

“We really enjoy Mackinac. It's a beautiful place, but we are primarily here to conduct business,” he said. “Everything else is a side perk.”

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