By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published May 29, 2015
DECATUR—For 25 years, the members of Knights of Peter Claver Council 313 have been the go-to guys at Sts. Peter and Paul Church.
With their time, fundraising skills, and often with household tools in hand, the Knights serve both the parish and those in need in the Decatur area.
The Council and Court marked its 25th anniversary at an April 26 Mass at Sts. Peter and Paul with Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory as celebrant.
Dressed in their regalia of plumed hats, sashes and lapel pins, the Knights and Ladies Auxiliary, in white, attended the Mass and enjoyed a reception afterward.
The Gospel for the fourth Sunday of Easter highlighted Christ as the Good Shepherd. In his homily Archbishop Gregory said this image holds appeal even for those living in urban or suburban settings.
“Sheep always remain secure under the watchful eye of the Good Shepherd, and that image is reassuring even for those of us who don’t ordinarily see many shepherds or sheep for that matter,” said Archbishop Gregory.
The archbishop said without seeing the Shepherd, one can hear his voice in Scripture.
“He calls us to live more mercifully, more compassionately, and more joyfully. He chides us all to remember especially the poor and the neglected,” he said.
Mentoring youth, serving those in need
Spreading the word and propagating the faith is the mission of the Knights of Peter Claver, noted Grand Knight Stanmore Hinds, parishioner of Sts. Peter and Paul since 1994. Hinds said the council has 30 active members who are “constantly out working, serving the community.”
A native of Mobile, Alabama, he grew up in the parish where the Knights of Peter Claver originated.
Founded in November 1909 to allow men of color to be members of a Catholic fraternal society, it is the largest historically African-American Catholic lay organization in the United States. The order is named for St. Peter Claver, a Spanish Jesuit who ministered to African slaves in colonies of the New World. The order is headquartered in New Orleans.
Several of Council 313 members are fourth-degree Knights, the highest degree of the order.
Locally, the Knights fund student scholarships and take an active role in guiding the young men in the parish.
“We do have a mentoring program,” said Hinds. The Knights serve as advisors and role models for seventh- and eighth-grade students.
“We also raise funds for scholarships for the young men and young women graduating each year,” said Hinds.
Avery Daniel, a seminarian of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, grew up at the Decatur parish and was a past recipient of a KPC scholarship. Daniel is studying at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio.
The Knights are on standby for minor home repairs for families having difficulties. Father Bryan Small, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul, will send the Knights an email alerting them to a particular need.
“OK, you guys, get the tools,” is the typical response, said Hinds.
Council members also help bring groceries to those in need.
“We work with Gregg’s Pantry,” the parish outreach ministry, explained Hinds.
Individually, council members are active in multiple ways at the parish as lectors, Eucharistic ministers, ushers and in other ministries.
“We support the bishop and participate in the Eucharistic Congress,” added Hinds.
Putting in garden at regional school
At the national and district level, the Knights of Peter Claver back a variety of efforts, including assistance to underprivileged youth, sickle cell disease awareness and patient support, and have pledged $50,000 to the World Meeting of Families in September in Philadelphia where Pope Francis will speak.
The local council takes its cues and guidance from the national and district organizations.
“We try to identify things that we can accomplish,” said Hinds. “It requires a definite commitment.”
The Ladies Auxiliary has 53 active members, and Hinds said a lot of times it’s the auxiliary members who get the ball rolling on projects.
“The ladies are very key,” said Hinds.
Grand Lady Joi Parks, auxiliary member since 2003, said one of the primary efforts each year is to raise scholarship funds for the Junior Daughters, who range in age from 7 to 18.
“We have our annual prayer breakfast,” said Parks about spiritual efforts.
This year, the Ladies secured a grant from the Knights of Peter Claver Foundation for a garden project at St. Peter Claver Regional School, located on parish grounds.
For students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, the garden has become “part of their learning experience,” said Parks. The garden ties into science and math lessons, and children can write about what they see there.
The Christ Child Society teamed up with the Ladies to offer their expertise.
“They helped to install part of the garden,” said Parks.
In the life of the parish and the school, Council and Court 313 play an invaluable role.
“The Knights and Ladies bring a real sense of fraternity with them. They’re loyal to the cause they support, but they’re also very loyal to each other,” said Father Small.