NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSV News) — The Knights of Columbus fraternal organization is launching a new initiative: Cor: Catholic Men’s Fellowship.
As part of the initiative, Knights of Columbus councils are being asked, in consultation with their pastor, to organize monthly meetings where Catholic men can gather to deepen their faith.
The details of the content and structure of the meetings are left to the individual councils to decide, but they should all have three elements: prayer, faith formation and fraternity, explained Jimmy Dee of Knoxville, director of evangelization and faith formation for the Tennessee Knights of Columbus.
Cor meetings could take many forms, Dee said – including a Bible study group, a prayer group, a group that gathers to discuss spiritual books – depending on the interests of the participants. Councils could sponsor several Cor meetings, each with different content and structure, he said.
The meetings will be open to all men of a parish, not just Knights, Dee said, and they shouldn’t be seen as in competition with faith formation programs that already exist in a parish.
Cor is not designed to replace the many activities the Knights sponsor, according to Dee. “It is a new initiative to expand on the good things you’re already doing,” he told council leaders during a recent meeting at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Nashville.
The name of the initiative is drawn from the Latin word for heart, cor, and is inspired by the motto of St. John Henry Newman, Cor ad Cor Loquitur, which means “Heart Speaks to Heart.”
“When you think about the Cor initiative, I want you to think about heart,” Dee said. “I’m talking about an opportunity to get men together where they feel more comfortable to discuss difficult questions about their faith.”
The Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus, which has more than 2 million members worldwide, developed the new initiative.
“Prayer, formation and fraternity all begin with the heart and direct the heart in relationship to God and each other in true charity,” says a Knights handout on the new initiative. “The goals of each Cor meeting are to provide the opportunity for Catholic men: to encounter Christ; to strengthen their bonds of brotherhood; to share their faith, as brothers, and bring souls to Jesus Christ.”
It aligns with the efforts of the Tennessee State Council over the last six years to put Christ and the Catholic faith at the forefront of all the Knights do.
“They shared their admiration for the work we have been doing,” said of Supreme Council officials who developed the Cor initiative. “Many times, Tennessee has been called out as an example” for the rest of the order, he told the Tennessee Register, Nashville’s diocesan newspaper.
In outlining the initiative, Dee pointed to troubling trends in the Church, including surveys in recent years that found that 65% of Catholics didn’t believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
He noted that 70 to 85% of council members don’t engage in council activities. “We’ve got to do something to start looking at new ways to reach those men,” Dee said.
“Our problems are not new,” he added. “These are the same problems Father (Michael) McGivney faced when he started the order.”
Blessed Michael McGivney established the Knights of Columbus after witnessing men in his parish drifting from the Church.
In addressing council leaders at the meeting at the pastoral center, State Deputy Fred Laufenberg said quoted from the remarks of Father J.H. O’Donnell in 1900 at a memorial service for Blessed McGivney:
“It was his aim to surround his proteges with an atmosphere of religion and to bring them into even closer relationship to Mother Church. … Father McGivney was actuated primarily by religious motives. Zeal for souls is the cornerstone of the superb organization.”
The Cor initiative is part of the effort “to bring the order back to its roots,” Laufenberg said. “The Tennessee Knights of Columbus are fully committed to seeing that Father McGivney’s vision is fulfilled and our mission is accomplished.”
But he said there is work to be done to keep “our Christocentric heritage at the forefront of all our endeavors” and to address “the challenges and influences that living in a secular world places on our mission to serve Christ properly. We must be retrained in the ways of discipleship and how to lead others to Christ.”
The meeting included a leadership retreat for council leaders focused on leading with the heart of Christ, the mind of Christ, the will of Christ and the mission of Christ.
“Everything we do in the Knights of Columbus is built on God’s love for you, and for me, and for every man in our order, and how many men do we run across who don’t know this,” Dee told the leaders about on leading with the heart of Christ. “What’s your job? Find that man to make sure he knows he is loved by God.”
“The word of God ignites the heart,” he added. “How comfortable are you sharing the Gospel? … I want you to let your heart become vulnerable to share it with other men.”
The goal of every Catholic is to be virtuous, said Joe McInerney, director of leadership and ethics education for the Knights’ Supreme Council. “To be with God means we have to be better than we currently are,” he said in addressing the mind of Christ.
“The reality is we are sinners. Sin is not something that can exist in the presence of God,” McInerney said. “But there is a way to fix that. … Through God’s grace, through prayer, through the sacraments, we can be transformed.”
In Christ, people have the perfect model of a virtuous man, said Robert Nayden, director of the Catholic Information Service of the Supreme Council, who addressed leading with the will of Christ.
“We need to go back to the Gospel over and over again to see what Jesus actually did,” Nayden said. “The only way we’re going to know the will of Christ is if we spend time with him.”
The first step is to remove the obstacles to virtue in your life, Nayden said, “and then we need to commit ourselves to a disciplined life of daily prayer. … The more time in prayer, the more we come in line with Christ.”
Greg Orr, one of the diocese Cor captains named by the state council to help councils organize their Cor meetings, addressed leading men on a mission for Christ.
The mission is to put God first in our lives, get to know the Gospel and help as many other men as possible to know it, he said.
Andy Telli is the managing editor of the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.