November 17, 2017

Knights, Ladies of St. Peter Claver celebrate 70 years of faith

Members of St. Rita Parish’s Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary hold hands while praying the Lord’s Prayer on Oct. 22 during their organizations’ 70th anniversary Mass at St. Rita Church in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

Members of St. Rita Parish’s Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary hold hands while praying the Lord’s Prayer on Oct. 22 during their organizations’ 70th anniversary Mass at St. Rita Church in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mike Krokos)

By Mike Krokos

Members of the Knights of Peter Claver and its Ladies Auxiliary were encouraged to follow their namesake’s example of displaying conviction as they live out their lives of faith in service to others.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson offered that encouragement in his homily during an Oct. 22 Mass at St. Rita Church in Indianapolis celebrating the 70th anniversary of the parish’s Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary (St. Rita Council #97 and Christ the King Court #97).

“St. Peter Claver, referring to himself as the ‘slave of slaves forever’ … displayed incredible conviction in carrying forth his mission to the poor, the vulnerable, the mistreated, and those cast aside by society,” the archbishop said.

Born in Spain, St. Peter Claver was a missionary who travelled to South America in 1610. He was the first Jesuit priest ordained in Cartagena, Colombia, a port of entry for West African slaves. He ministered aboard the ships and ashore before the slaves were sold, feeding, comforting and baptizing them. It is estimated that St. Peter Claver catechized and baptized 300,000 slaves. He is also the patron of missionary work among African-Americans.

“His conviction enabled him to do with a spirit of joy and enthusiasm for God’s unconditional love and mercy in the face of such adversity, oppression and even indignity toward the dignity of the person and the sacredness of life,” Archbishop Thompson said, “so much so, that people who were out to destroy his dignity came to realize the great dignity of this man’s faith, this man’s conviction, moved by love and mercy for all humankind.”

The conviction we must have in our lives, the archbishop noted, “stands in direct contrast to apprehension, indifference and disloyalty.”

“One who possesses conviction stands firm in resolve amid adversity, challenge and uncertainty,” he said.

“Given today’s climate of gun violence, injustice, terrorism, racism, hate crimes, opioid crisis, and scapegoating of immigrants and refugees, a person of faith necessarily needs to possess conviction.”

Mel Blaylock, a member of St. Rita Council #97, said this was the second time he had been to a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Thompson.

“He’s very inspirational,” said Blaylock, who has been a Knight for 15 years and a member of St. Rita Parish for 12 years.

Rosemary Lee, a member of Christ the King Court #97, was excited to have Archbishop Thompson at the Knights’ and Ladies’ celebration, too.

“I just had to touch him because it’s a blessing for me,” she said.

Father Kenneth Taylor, pastor of St. Rita Parish, noted that the Knights of Peter Claver is the largest black Catholic fraternal organization in the country, and was founded in 1909 in New Orleans “as a way to keep the black Catholic men tied to the faith and tied to the Church. Everywhere the Clavers have gone, they’re connected to a parish.”

St. Rita Parish also began a trend for both the men’s and women’s organizations, he added.

“This one is the original council and court for the city of Indianapolis, then others came along afterward,” Father Taylor said.

In closing, Archbishop Thompson offered words of encouragement for the organizations.

“It is my hope that the Knights and Ladies of St. Peter Claver will continue to carry forth that conviction of faith and hope that leads others to encounter the person of Jesus Christ, the very presence we celebrate here and now in word and sacrament,” he said.

‘Amid the demands of this world, let us never compromise what belongs to God—that is you and me.” †

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