Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others. — 1 Peter 4: 10
Both my father and uncle were Knights of Columbus. Unfortunately they were also inveterate pranksters, so that when I asked them about becoming a Knight the picture they painted for me of the process almost drove me into therapy.
“The Knights?” my uncle said, raising his voice alarmingly, and then he melodramatically scanned the surroundings for spies and agitators. “You mean, the . . . Knights?” He looked at my father who inexplicably began to shake his head and mop his brow. Then began what can only be construed as a handshake performed by two men being electrocuted.
“I could tell you about them,” my dad finally whispered, “but then I’d have to kill you.”
My uncle was quick to clarify: “Actually, even if we don’t tell you, we may have to kill you. Just in case they’re listening.”
“Who’s listening?” I asked naively.
“Can’t tell you,” said my dad. “But the initiation was hell. That’s even more top secret.”
They then went on to speak of their initiation ceremony where they were made to scale enormous cliffs, live in an isolation chamber, eat raw goat (I think they suggested it was dead at the time but my memory is a bit hazy on this), and then walked a high wire across sacred sites. It was at about that point I began to understand that maybe I would never learn the truth until I myself became a Knight, but I still made a mental note to delay this as long as possible just in case. I’ve never been a fan of goat.
I think it’s safe to say that many people have a sense of curiosity about the Knights of Columbus. Despite their incredible presence in the community, their extensive support of a staggering number of charities and social causes, the Knights are also rather humble players, supporting, but rarely taking centre stage. Perhaps this is why they are so valued and respected.
For St. Mary’s University we are the beneficiary of their legendary fundraising ability, and can proudly thank the Knights for the restoration of the building in which our education program is housed: Father Michael J. McGivney Hall. Over 130 years after they were founded, the Knights continue to be a force for good in an age of need, and for this I will always be grateful to them.
And, for the record, I did not need to eat raw goat!
Turcotte is president of St. Mary’s University in Calgary.