Knights go above and beyond for San Luis, Diocese of Pueblo

By Michelle Sandoval
On the last Friday in April, at the request of Father Francisco Quezada, a group from the Highlands Ranch Knights of Columbus Council 1498 stopped by the chancery for a quick visit with Bishop Stephen Berg and Monsignor Jim King. It was quick because they were on a mission. They were headed south to San Luis with the supplies and energy to complete much needed repairs to the hall at the Sangre de Cristo church. This story actually starts some months ago when Council 1498 began plans for their annual black tie fundraising gala. During this gala, the group typically does a paddle raise, where people simply donate money without receiving anything material in return.

The funds from this paddle raise were traditionally earmarked for the group’s Angel Fund. This fund is set up to assist with the emergency needs of Knights of Columbus members or their families. This year, the council was in the fortunate position of having enough cash reserve in the fund that they felt the money raised might be better spent somewhere else. So, council member Keith Lowry began to look for a worthy endeavor not only for any funds raised but also for a project that the council might be able to take on as a group for which they could offer some of their time and talent in addition to their treasure.

Not surprisingly, providence played a part at this point. Lowry grew up in Monte Vista and his mother and father currently live in Pueblo. Knowing the financial situation of the area, he instinctively began by reaching out to the diocese to research where needs might be the greatest. After connecting with Fr. John Ozella at St. Pius in Pueblo and being told that, in spite of the very spartan operations there, the needs further south were far more pressing, Lowry was directed to vicar general, Monsignor Jim King. The two of them collaborated to put together information regarding areas that were sorely in need of support for Lowry to present at the gala. The generous response to the presentation was overwhelming. Enough funds were raised to off-set the cost of a substantial repair project, such as the replacement of the roof and windows at St. James in Blanca, a mission church of the Sangre de Cristo Parish. In addition to the generous giving, there was an amazing response from the council members in regard to the actual construction needs. The parish hall at the Sangre de Cristo church stood out in particular as the parish hall flooring was in desperate need of repairs and updating and Council 1498 happened to have some flooring experts among its members. One member in particular, Miguel Gutierrez, was adamant that those repairs were something the council could do themselves, thus stretching the funds raised to cover more than one project. This was just the type of opportunity for which Lowry had been looking… and so it began.

Construction managers, flooring specialists, those with construction backgrounds and few helping hands were all organized for the trip to San Luis, and on the first Friday in April they headed south. They were not without challenges. The Knights would not be deterred though. They braved snowy weather and, thanks to the ingenuity of Bernie Kuta and the other team members, found ways to address all the issues that arose. The results were wonderful. The parish hall at Sangre de Cristo is beautiful and will again be of great use to all those in the area. The Knights were touched by the reception and gratitude of Father Beto Torrez Velasquez and the parish members of Sangre de Cristo. Fr. Beto introduced the council members at the Saturday evening Mass, and the congregation made sure they were well fed and felt very welcome and appreciated. It was a great experience for all those involved, including those at the chancery who were a part of that quick stop Council 1498 made on their way south. They had come to see Bishop Berg to drop off a little something – the funds to cover the substantial repair project previously mentioned. Including the parish hall project at Sangre de Cristo, the Knights of Columbus Council 1498 and their families donated well over $20,000 to the Diocese of Pueblo to address the overwhelming needs of the Catholic community.

We are so very grateful and ask that you keep Keith Lowry, Bernie Kuta, Cary and Colin Cahill, Patrick McAllen, Chris and Zach O’Reilly, Dave Barnett, Chet and Ryann Elder, Miguel Gutierrez, Jaime Cabrera, Bruce Allen, and Erik Banta (who was doing his confirmation community service) along with all of Council 1498 and their families in your prayers.