A Perspective on Fraternity

 

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Image Credits: http://www.handlettering.co

By: Paul Luke Keh

I was drawn to write about this topic because of a comment a friend made during a discussion a group of us were having over dinner at the start of last semester. Asked about my extra-curricular activities in Georgetown, I came to talked about my involvement in the Knights of Columbus. Mentioning the Knights as a fraternity immediately drew laughter, and someone commented, “That’s not a fraternity.”

Perhaps it was my insecurity as an international student and freshman, but at that point I never got to defend the Knights as a fraternity, because I was afraid that I misunderstood what a fraternity was. Having never grown up in the US (I lived in Singapore all my life), my only understanding about fraternities before I came to the US was in stories about “frat parties” and that it was some sort of brotherhood.

But joining the Knights six months ago changed that perspective quite a bit: I saw true Christian brotherhood, opportunities to speak about my faith and hear the stories of my other brothers and sisters in Christ, and to be there for the poor in our society.

To me, fraternity is so much more than an “organised brotherhood”, especially in the case of Christian fraternity. Christ called his apostles from all walks of life, and together they journeyed with him, even after Jesus’s death and resurrection. As Christians, we are all called to be people of great character and to live our lives in communion with Christ.

But alone, we can only do so much: all of us have our personal troubles and failings, and without a community from which we can draw strength from through mutual support, sometimes we are consumed by these things that draw us away from God. This was something that I experienced sometimes before I joined the Knights here in Georgetown.

The privilege of being in a fraternity is that we can push each other, and ourselves, to abide more deeply in our faith, so that together we draw closer to God and be examples within our communities of what our faith stands for.

Pope Francis had this to say about the importance of community and fraternity in living out our Christian faith with mercy and understanding.

“In reality, before the Lord we are all sinners and all in need of forgiveness. All of us. Indeed, Jesus told us not to judge. Fraternal correction is an aspect of the love and the communion that should reign in the Christian community. It is a mutual service that we can and must render to each other … and it is possible and effective only if each person recognizes himself as a sinner and in need of the Lord’s forgiveness. The same awareness that enables me to recognize the errors of the other; first of all reminds me that I myself have made, and make mistakes, many times.”

— Angelus, Sept. 7, 2014

As I look back on my first semester with the Knights, I give thanks for all that this community has given me. It was not easy being an international student, alone in a new country, but I found a family here: one that looks out for one another, and one that looks to serve the vulnerable in our society.

Moving forward, we should continue to be open to expanding our fraternity so that others may come to experience the warmth of Christian fellowship and the joy that stems from a closer relationship with Christ.

God bless.

State of the Council 2017: Pro Deo et Patria

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Photo credits: Duncan McNeil, flickr.com

 

Noble Gentlemen and Friends of the Faith,

Welcome to a new year!

The title of this piece is a motto of our nation’s military, translating to “For God and Country”. It reminds us that all of our actions, at their core, ought to be motivated by a love of God and a love of country.

This motto can very tangibly be seen on the north end of campus, the words “For God and Country” painted in ash black upon a wall at precipice of the park that lies just beyond Georgetown. Given by the class of 1952 in honor of all who have served their country, it was rededicated in 2001 for all those who lost their life in September 11.

It was for this end that our university was founded, and so too was our fraternity, The Knights of Columbus.

The Knights have a proud mission based upon service for God and and this great nation. The name of Columbus was chosen all those years ago as a symbol. It was an age where the patriotism of Catholics was questioned, with accusations that they pledged allegiance to the Pope over the United States. In response, the new organization claimed as its victor Christopher Columbus, a Catholic man who was celebrated for his discovery of the new American land. The man was seen as a testament to the potential to be both Catholic and a patriot.

We move forward today with this rich legacy as we continue to serve both God and country: we seek to improve the community that surrounds us, both that of Georgetown, and the larger D.C. area, with the deeply rooted foundation that is our common faith.

As we enter a new year, so too, once again, do we enter the age of a new board and a new Grand Knight. I am proud to take over the leadership for the Georgetown council of the Knights of Columbus. This group is nothing if not filled with honorable gentlemen who represent the very best that Georgetown has to offer. I am so incredibly proud of this opportunity to work, pray, and spend time with these men, from whom I am constantly learning.

Over the past year and a half of my time with the Knights I have seen myself develop into a better man and a better version of the person I hope to become. This is what the Knights has to offer: a stable environment in which Catholic men can foster their faith and their character, all as a part of the larger pursuit of truth in their lives. It is this enduring spirit of community which I hope not only to continue, but to institutionalize into the core fabric of who we are as an organization on campus.

In this new semester, and new year, I look forward to partnering with new communities and organising new events. I hope to continue the constant expansion of the Knights, growing both in breadth and depth as we increase the size of our community and the strength of our faith.

Over this coming year I hope to see the Knights expand their reach on campus.

It is my wish that all upstanding gentlemen of the Catholic faith would have the opportunity to learn about our organization, and that we will be better recognised both on and off campus. I hope that by this time next year all of campus and the surrounding community will recognize the name “Georgetown Knights of Columbus” as a group of honorable men who represent well the faith that binds them.

Over this coming year we plan to continue in fostering the principles that define us.

Spiritually, we seek to deepen our faith by attending mass together, engaging in spiritual discussion, growing in prayerfulness and discerning our vocations.

In terms of service, we hope to increase our involvement in serving the Georgetown and larger D.C. community by partnering with other student groups. We will continue with our commitment to serve D.C.’s homeless population, and we seek to work with D.C.’s special needs community for events such as the Special Olympics.

Fraternally, we aim to strengthen the bonds of the council by taking part in the many events the District has to offer and in experiencing the nation’s capital to its fullest.

To sum it up, as an organization we look forward to continuing with events we have traditionally organised, but at the same time we will strive to find new and innovative ways to strengthen our faith, serve our community, and build the bonds of fraternity.

Just as the wall continues to stand as a stable reminder of our higher calling to serve God and our nation, so too will the Knights continue as a valued member of the Georgetown community, ready to answer that call.

 

Vivat Jesus,

Hunter Blaine Estes

Grand Knight, Council 6375

From the GK’s Desk: State of the Council 2016

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Image credit: curmudgucation.blogspot.com

Dear Brother Knights and Those of Good Will,

The Spring and Fall semesters of 2016 had the potential to be a really harmful period for our council. We lost the Knights’ House, the keystone of our council for over a decade. The beloved Class of 2016 graduated, leaving an indelible scar in our council’s culture. We had financial issues. Some of our most revered events had to be axed due to logistical hurdles. Innovative ideas proposed failed to materialize.

Yet, somehow, we prevailed. We thrived off of these challenges. Our council reached new heights. In this report, I will address some of our best moments under my term as Grand Knight.

First and foremost, our council reclaimed its national recognition by winning the Double Star Council Award, the most prestigious award that the Knights of Columbus offer. It embodies the success of our service, our recruitment, and our fraternity.

In the Fall of 2016, Council 6375 had its most successful recruiting drive in our 44 year history. We brought in 31 well-qualified men into our order. The previous record was 21. Some of our new Brother Knights became the backbone to new initiatives like the Billy Goat Trail hike and Card Making for Hospitalized Kids.

The Georgetown Knights introduced a number of new initiatives this year, including Interfaith Weeks. Interfaith Weeks was one of the few student-led event series that dove deeper into inter-religious understanding. We hosted a dinner which posed the question, “What does each of our faiths demand of us beyond simply being good people?” Members of the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Protestant, and Mormon communities were a part of the dinner and conversation. Interfaith Weeks was marked by interfaith service projects as well. Hopefully, this contributed to Georgetown University winning the White House’s Interfaith Community Service Award this fall.

As Grand Knight, I declared the fall semester’s motto as “A Council for Knights, a Council for Georgetown”. In light of this, our council took a more active role in the Georgetown community. In both respective semesters, we hosted BBQ fundraisers welcome to the whole community. These well-attended events not only fostered new and old friendships, but we raised several hundred dollars for a Jesuit high school in Soweto, South Africa. We plan to strengthen our ties with this high school even more. Our council even co-sponsored SigEp’s annual 5k Against Domestic Violence. Besides SigEp, our council had the largest turnout, and some of the best run times!

The blog used to be a running joke in our council. Every election, a sizable portion of the council would call for it to be in the ash heaps of the internet. Luckily, this request was denied. Over the past year, we have seen readership numbers explode. It has served as a unique forum for a number of faith-based topics, some of which include finding God in physics, the Catholic response to the Syrian Civil War, and a well-debated piece about the legacy of Christopher Columbus. The blog even featured its first original video, a news clip about our weekly Spiritual Discussions and Dinners.

Council 6375 also expanded its media presence through the Georgetown Voice. In the spring of 2016, our application for a bi-weekly column was accepted. Through this platform, we were able to give a voice to a number of different Catholic topics, including the Cecile Richards lecture, the importance of retreats, and the 2016 presidential election through the eyes of prudence.

As stated earlier, the Knights lost our historic home only two blocks from the front gates of Georgetown. Yet, the council realized that it was our responsibility to preserve the history of this landmark home. Therefore, we processed over 100 items within the home, like the original 1972 charter, original copies of famous Columbia magazines, and a framed photo of Father Fields eating a slice of cake. All items were given a detailed description, and each one has found a home until a new house is established.

On that note, the Knights will regain a house next year in Burleith. This house will be far more sustainable option for future senior knights, considering its size and price. In addition, the Knights will be “Adopting the (very) Block” in which the house will sit on through the DC city government, leaving us with a new service project and some free advertisement.

The Knights have also continued a number of our most important events: the McGivney Lecture, House Masses, 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration, pro-life events, Lenten Pasta Dinners and of course Grate Patrol. Each of these events had increased turnout than previous years.

As you may know, Campus Ministry is arguably the most important element of Georgetown’s culture. Therefore, the Knights sought a more active role on the administrative side of Campus Ministry. One of our former board members became the President of the Campus Ministry Forum, the advisory council and primary organizing body for Campus Ministry student organizations.

Finally, I would like to highlight a once under-looked and under-valued aspect of our council: athletic ability. When I was a freshman, the IM basketball team had won a single game. It was by default because the other team did not show up. Allegedly, that was our most-winning team in years. Luckily, times have changed. Last year, our team made it all of the way to the semi-finals, before losing to the team who the championship. This year, we hope to finally win it all.

All of these achievements could not have been accomplished without a committed board and brother knights who care about their faith at Georgetown. New events and cool trophies are exciting, even encouraging, but they do not represent my original goal for the council since becoming Grand Knight. As a freshman, I made by best friends and my best memories through the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus Council. If one new Knight could say the same thing, then this year was a success.

Vivat Jesus,

Max Wolfgang Rosner

Grand Knight

COL ‘18

Anticipating Perfect Friendship in God’s Kingdom

For me, the hardest part of each school year is these last few days prior to break.  The thrill of impending freedom hangs in the air as we anxiously await the end of classes, the end of finals, and the end of another year.

Yet this simple waiting game is not what I find difficult.  Instead, it is the frustrating realization that with the close of another semester, I will have finished another chapter of my life.

“Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?” -C.S. Lewis

As I sit alone in my Village C common room, my mind drifts back to the joyous hours spent in my beloved freshman floor common room with dear friends.  I think too of how that time has now gone forever, a fond memory that will never be replicated.

All that time spent creating a vibrant community, all those countless hours spent with friends who I can now see gradually fading out of my life before my very eyes.  This year has brought just as many changes as the last, new friendships and new roles in my life on the Hilltop.  As I reflect on how my life has changed since freshman year, I cannot help but feel that it will all shift again.  Next year will bring new people and new challenges while old friends move on their own paths, graduating or going abroad, joining new clubs, and leading their own lives.

It all seems so fleeting- the friendships, the communities, the organizations.  What, then, is the point of building up all of these relationships if they will almost inevitably drop out of my life?  Indeed, everything is visibly finite, passing away with the turning of the seasons, the unstoppable march of time.

The pessimist would say that we simply should not try, because no matter what we do, everything we build will come to an end.  According to this theory, we should disconnect ourselves from the world, because enjoying the world or the company of those around us simply creates bonds that must be painfully broken later on.

Another mindset, faintly compelling yet unnervingly utilitarian, states that we are improved through the people in our lives and that they will leave once they have no more to teach us.  Here our friendships are reduced to an educational commodity, a living, breathing self-improvement class in which two people agree to use each other for mutual benefit.

For me, neither of these is a satisfactory answer.  The first fails to recognize God in this world, while the second cheapens friendship and misses its essence in the process.  When I really pause to consider exactly what I miss, what I fear losing, it is the sight of God.  Even if I do not realize it at the time, I experience God whenever a friend tells a story, gets lost in conversation, or helps me work through a problem.  Every small act of kindness, every spontaneous outburst of laughter is God’s overflowing, life-giving love at work in my life.   In each and every one of these moments, I catch a glimpse of God.

What I fear losing is the little pieces of God that I see in all of my friends.  I also fear losing the sense of awe that I feel as I watch my friends making their way towards God, each on his or her own path, each facing unique challenges.  I see God’s infinite love drawing all of us in, picking us up when we fall, accepting us as we are, just as we accept one another.

The Final Friendship: Dante’s Paradiso

These relationships are the Kingdom of God.  When we treat one another with love and compassion, we live a piece of the reality for which we are all created.  There is not some ephemeral “other” existence to which we aspire, because God did not create two separate realities.  True, for the time being it is not quite as it should be.  Imperfection has entered the world through original sin and stops us from living in reality as God intended it.

This imperfection brought with it death and decay, which we must endure.  However, we live with hope in the promise of the Paschal Mystery that all of Creation will be redeemed and perfected through Christ.  In the Book of Revelation, Paradise is not a fictional city, but rather a glorified Jerusalem.  It is our reality as it was meant to be.  Every friendship cut short by the passage of time, every moment in which God was present, all of this will be restored and magnified beyond measure at the end of time when we experience the fullness of God’s Kingdom.

For the moment, I will spend all the time I can with my friends, savoring every minute as I see God in them.  When the paths of our lives part and we each go our separate ways, I know that I will find more friends, see God in new places, and further explore His Kingdom.  As I watch my friends move on to build new communities of their own, amidst the pain and sadness, there will be a twinge of excitement.  Though we may never meet again in this life, the best part of our friendship lies before us in the New Jerusalem where our lives will be renewed, where we will all be united with one another and with God forever.

Pat Brookhouser is the Lecturer for the GU Knights and is a sophomore in the SFS.