By Lindsay Steele and Anne Marie Cox
The Catholic Messenger
DES MOINES — Todd Wieser was in the middle of serving fish to about 420 guests at a fish fry in Pella when his phone rang. It was a representative of the Iowa Knights of Columbus, alerting Wieser that he’d been selected as Knight of the Year.
“At the time, I didn’t even know I’d been nominated. It was a complete surprise to me,” he recalled. With a huge grin on his face, he went over to Grand Knight Joe Lickteig, who was standing by the tartar sauce, and shared the news.
Lickteig, who had worked with the Pella Knights of Columbus council to nominate Wieser, was thrilled for his friend. “He’s like the energizer bunny,” he told The Catholic Messenger, noting the former grand knight’s involvement in just about every KC activity and his ability to encourage his fellow knights and recruit new ones.
“I thought it was ironic that I was in the middle of a KC event when I got the call,” Wieser said.
On April 16, Wieser received his award at the Iowa Knights of Columbus Convention in Des Moines surrounded by his fellow KCs and his wife Tracy and daughters Jessica, Jaclyn and Jennifer. Wieser said, “I was proud to be honored in this way. There are so many guys in Iowa that do so much.”
Individual KCs and councils from the Diocese of Davenport received a total of six awards at the convention, which took place April 15-17.
Father Steve Witt, administrator of St. Mary Parish and campus minister of the Newman Catholic Student Center, both in Iowa City, was named Diocesan Chaplain of the Year for the Davenport Diocese. He was nominated by members of St. Mary’s Knights of Columbus council, including Grand Knight Isaac Doucette. “He is the chaplain of the biggest council in Iowa City. He participates in meetings despite his busy schedule and gives guidance on ways to grow our faith and on events. He also participates in many events the Knights host. This has had an impact on membership and reengaging brother Knights to grow in their faith through works and actions.”
Fr. Witt, in reaction to receiving the award, was quick to give credit to the men in the council for its success. “They do all the work,” he said.
Diocesan KC councils won four of the six service program awards at the convention. The Long Grove council won best community program for its North Scott Food Pantry golf outing. The Burlington council won best program for “One Council, ‘Visible to All’” and best youth program for its work renovating a community youth space. The St. Mary-Iowa City council won best family program for its Feast of the Holy Family celebration. Additionally, David Richie of Solon, Refugio Ceniceros of Muscatine and Adam Bormann of Davenport were selected as Supreme Convention delegates for that convention which takes place in Toronto in August.
About 500 Knights attended the Iowa convention for spiritual renewal, knowledge, growth and sharing, and fraternal bonding. State officers announced that the Iowa KCs are making progress on their Culture of Life initiative. Since the announcement of the project at last year’s convention, the Knights’ initiative had been turned over to a committee of 18. They have contacted each of the 85 to 90 pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in the state to identify their needs, whether they have ultrasound machines or would consider adding ultrasound machines, said State Convention Director Paul Lee.
Also during the convention, it was announced that collectively, the state Knights volunteered more than one million hours and contributed more than $2.2 million to various charitable causes throughout Iowa last year. In addition, the Knights honored military personnel by having on display the exhibit “Remembering Our Fallen,” a memorial to the Iowans who were killed during military service in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001.
During a ceremony, 62 Knights moved to the fourth degree, also known as the patriotic degree. This is the highest of the four levels of membership in the Knights of Columbus. Elevations to the other degrees occur on a local level, Lee said.