It is a general custom at the annual Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus that the ordinary of the diocese or archdiocese where the convention is held celebrates the opening Mass.
This year in Philadelphia for the Aug. 4-6 convention the Knights got a twofer, because Philadelphia happens to have two sitting Catholic Archbishops. On Tuesday, Aug. 4, Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia celebrated the opening Mass at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
On Wednesday, Aug. 5, Archbishop Stefan Soroka, of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and the Metropolitan Archbishop for Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, celebrated the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the same venue.
It was only the second time in the Knights’ history that a Ukrainian Catholic liturgy was celebrated at their convention; the first was in 1988, the millennial year of the Christian conversion of Ukraine.
In this case the altar area took on the look of an Eastern Christian sanctuary, with a large icon of the Theotokos (Mary the Mother of God) dominating, a central feature in Eastern Christian theology.
For those unfamiliar with the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Soroka explained they are “one of 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in union with the See of Peter, of which 18 serve their faithful in the United States.”
In his homily the archbishop explained some of the points stressed in Eastern theology, including “the divinization of man beginning at baptism.”
In a special way, he said, “men who choose to become Knights of Columbus following in the footsteps of our founder, Father Michael McGivney, also experience special transformation as they are transfigured on this path to divinization.”
Archbishop Soroka related how some years ago when he was a parish priest he helped organize a K of C council in the parish. Men who had never been active in parish programs and appeared shy and hesitant nevertheless joined the council, and were transformed into energetic leaders both in the parish and the community.
“They became so bold, so confident, that they were not hesitant to even advise me as to what I should be doing,” he said. “Their natures changed. The power of fraternal prayer and works of charity in an atmosphere with a patriotic love for God, Church and country transformed these men and their families.”
Very clearly Archbishop Soroka endorses the Knights of Columbus. He could even write their recruitment brochures.