KCs caught off-guard by regalia change

Iowa delegation plans to issue timeline, guidelines in September

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

The announcement of new uniforms for the Fourth Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus by the Supreme Council on Aug. 1 sent ripples of mixed emotions throughout the Diocese of Davenport.

But the most common reaction has been one of surprise. The Supreme Council made the announcement at its convention without having formally polled lower delegations. Smaller groups at the higher levels tested out the new uniforms at events prior to the convention, according to Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. The new uniform consists of a blue blazer, an official Knights of Columbus tie and a beret, all with the Fourth Degree emblem on them, along with a white shirt and dark gray slacks. Anderson said response to these early test-runs was “positive.”

Anne Marie Amacher
Members of the Fourth Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus celebrate the ordination and installation of Bishop Thomas Zinkula June 22 at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf.

The decision was made by the Supreme Council Board of Directors in reaction to statistics concerning the Fourth Degree Assembly. Anderson said in a post-convention letter, “Today there are about 2 million members in the Order, but only 358,000 of them are Knights of the Fourth Degree, less than 20 percent. The previous uniform was often one of the reasons why the Knights did not wish to advance to the Fourth Degree.” Most members of the Fourth Degree are older; they’d like to attract younger men, as well, and feel a new uniform might help bridge the age gap.

For many years, the Fourth Degree, known as the patriotic degree, has worn a black suit with a black bow tie, along with a cloak and chapeau, sash and sword. Anderson said the old uniforms will continue to be acceptable for a yet-unannounced period of time.

Antonio Banuelos, State Deputy of the Iowa Knights of Columbus, said the state delegation will make an announcement about the timeline and guidelines for implementing the new uniforms once more information becomes available. He estimates this will happen sometime in early September.

Grand Knight Isaac Doucette, 27, of Council 842 in Iowa City is a Fourth Degree member. He said he’s heard mixed feedback on the new uniforms so far. “It will take time for everyone to adjust,” he said.

Some of the negative feedback he has heard is that the new uniforms look too much like modern-day service uniforms. “We want to respect our service members. With similar uniforms it is difficult to distinguish the two. It creates an uncomfortable situation of wanting to respect the service members but looking very similar to them. On the other hand, they are more subtle, which makes it easier to focus on the reason for the honor guard rather than the individual knight. For example, in a Eucharistic procession the Knights are not there for themselves, and too much pomp can take away from the true presence in the Eucharist.”

Father Joseph Sia, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction and a member of the Knights of Columbus, heard the news about the uniforms in-person at the Supreme Convention in St. Louis. He understands that change can bring about a sense of uneasiness and mixed emotions. There can be “feelings of loss, uncertainty, and anger, and on the other hand, feelings of excitement and hopefulness. As Catholics, we are already aware of this through the changes we are experiencing in our parishes, in our diocese and in our universal church.”

He encourages “open and productive” conversation about the topic of the uniforms, and for people to pray for those on the state and local level “so that they may guide their members during this time of transition.”

Doucette said, “The Knights will continue to give glory to God; they’ll just look slightly different.”

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