By Steve Gust
The Sooner Catholic
As the leader of more than 8,000 Catholic men, John Pierce has quite a job ahead of him in the foreseeable future.
This past spring, he was elected state deputy at the Oklahoma Council of the Knights of Columbus convention. Although a volunteer post, Pierce quickly will find his plate full with an abundance of tasks, all designed to promote the faith through multiple acts of charity.
He's carrying on a legacy, first started in 1882 by Father Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, Conn.
Today the Catholic, fraternal service family organization has thousands of councils both here and internationally. Annually, millions of dollars are donated to charity, matched by millions of volunteer hours.
"One of my goals will be to revitalize some programs which may have languished," Pierce said.
He has served years with the state leadership in various posts, learning the group's organization and honing his skills. Giving back isn't new for Pierce. He regularly goes to Peru to help his wife, Cheryl, with a medical mission team. It's part of his parish’s outreach to Santisimo Sacramento Parish in Piura, Peru. Pierce is a member of Saint John the Baptist in Edmond. The parish's pastor in Peru is Father Joe Uhen, originally from Oklahoma City. Pierce does his volunteer work along with his full-time job with the design firm Benham.
His mission work is typical of helping the needy, one of the tenets of the Knights. Another member of Saint John, Richard Schulte, knows the task ahead for Pierce. Schulte served as state deputy from 1997 to 1999.
Back then, there were about 4,500 Catholic Oklahoma men in the order. Today, the membership is nearly 8,200 with 74 active councils in the state.
"I'm glad John will be leading us," Schulte said. "He has proven himself and is very qualified."
Although his term began July 1, Pierce had several tasks awaiting him, as he appointed chairmen to many programs managed by the Knights.
Perhaps the top priority for Oklahoma Knights is in Okarche. It is home for The Center of Family Love, which helps developmentally challenged adults. The Knights helped to found the center in 1981 and they continue to support its mission through volunteer efforts and an annual candy drive.
Schulte said last month's Gift of Love Gala at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum raised more than $600,000 for the center.
Pierce said he will concentrate on membership retention and helping to expand the charitable outreach of the Knights.
That covers a lot of ground as the Knights support clergy, religious retreats and strongly encourage devotion and participation in the faith. The Blessed Mother is the patroness for the order.
Pierce said a former state deputy, Ron Schwarz, who is now an officer with the Knights Supreme in Connecticut, represented the national office with a donation of $100,000 at the state convention for the beatification of Father Stanley Rother.
Earlier this year, hundreds of Knights were part of the annual Catholic Men's Conference in Norman, both as attendees and volunteers. The group is involved in pro-life activities, including 40 Days for Life, and an ultrasound program. The Knights have donated several ultrasound machines to clinics across the state. The machines are used to enhance the health of both the mother and her unborn child.
Other Knights activities such as an annual bowling tournament or softball tournament are used to promote family activities.
As state deputy, Pierce will be involved with a lot of paperwork as well as meetings. Yet, he knows the work is important and he welcomes the challenge.
"I've always liked and admired being around these men because of their commitment to Christianity," he said.
He encourages all Catholic men, not yet Knights, to consider membership.
Steve Gust is a freelance writer for the Sooner Catholic.
For more information about the Knights of Columbus in Oklahoma or on becoming a member, go online to kofcknights.org.