By Jerry Johnson
For The Catholic Messenger
MUSCATINE — Twelve years ago, Muscatine Laurent Council 1305 of the Knights of Columbus began to participate in the Knights of Columbus Refund Support Vocations Program (RSVP). Through RSVP, councils, assemblies and Squires circles “adopt” one or more seminarians or postulants and provide them with financial assistance and moral support.
Seminarians and those in religious formation use RSVP donations for tuition and books, car insurance and maintenance, travel during vacations, emergency expenditures and other living expenses. The Knights provide more than financial support. Members write letters to students, sponsor dinners, invite them to join the order and, most importantly, pray for vocations.
The Muscatine council began this effort in 2004 by writing to each of the Muscatine Knights of Columbus and asking for a donation to support vocations. Member Knights also received permission to solicit donations at Sunday Masses during vocation week. In 2009, the Muscatine Knights decided to discontinue the weekend Sunday Mass extra collection and make the project their own.
Each year the Muscatine council asks every member to consider making a $60 donation to the vocation fund. Members’ generosity provides a major part of total donations to the
fund. Individual donations from parishioners of Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish also provide needed funds.
“We work closely with Father Thom Hennen, director of vocations for the Davenport Diocese, in selecting the candidates to support each year,” stated Nick Nietzel, vocations committee member. “Fr. Hennen has been a great help to us when we consider candidates for our donations.”
Participating in the Knights of Columbus International RSVP program has helped the Muscatine council provide support to more candidates. Qualifying councils and assemblies receive a $100 refund from the Knights of Columbus International for every $500 donated to a candidate. This refund provides the Muscatine council with a start for the following year’s campaign.
International RSVP program guidelines allow a candidate to receive a maximum donation of $2,000 from a council while studying for their religious formation.
“We have experienced great support from many of our Knights members,” said Joe Keitel, Grand Knight of Council 1305. “Without the generosity of Knights members and the support of parishioners, this project would not be where it is today.”
In 2015, donations to the vocations fund totaled almost $3,200 and were added to the balance in the vocations fund. That helped the Muscatine council support a record number of candidates. Last year, each of 11 candidates from the Davenport Diocese received $500 from the vocation fund, Nietzel said. “Thanks in part to the refund we receive from the National Knights of Columbus organization and the generous support of our local members we were able to help so many candidates.”
Muscatine Knights of Columbus are making plans for the 2016 vocations campaign. Each year the goal is to support at least five seminarians or postulants who are studying for the priesthood. That goal will require donations totaling $2,500. With the support of each member of the Muscatine council and parishioners, Council 1305 will reach that goal, Keitel and Nietzel say. The council hopes that every Knights of Columbus council would prayerfully consider starting a vocations campaign to provide spport to seminarians.