Story by S.L. Hansen
WAVERLY (SNR) – At the invitation of Bishop James Conley, four brothers of the Knights of the Holy Eucharist, a lay Franciscan community founded by Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, PCPA, have moved to Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House in Waverly.
“The Knights will be guided and encouraged by the Diocese of Lincoln during this time while they, and Bishop Conley, will discern if it is advantageous for them to establish a more permanent presence in our diocese,” explained Father Gary Coulter, co-vicar for religious and director of the retreat house.
The brothers model Saint Francis, who was sometimes called the “Knight-Errant of Assisi.” As they practice devotion to our Eucharistic Lord, they cultivate a deep sense of faith, fiery enthusiasm for Christ, and readiness to battle for His kingdom on earth. Their move to Lincoln is one way of following Saint Francis’ example to “go wherever he was called and do whatever he was called to do.”
While in Nebraska, Bishop Conley has asked the Knights to assist in fostering Eucharistic Adoration and in training altar servers throughout the diocese.
Father Coulter said that Eucharistic devotion is essential for the effectiveness of any parish or apostolate. He attributes his own vocation to Eucharistic Adoration.
“It was in Adoration that I discovered the reality of the real presence, the love of Jesus Christ, and my desire to respond to that love by service in the Church,” he revealed. “I also believe a primary reason our diocese is blessed with many vocations to the priesthood and religious life is because of the contemplative orders and strong Eucharistic Adoration programs.”
With no regular means of income, the Knights rely wholly on the Lord to provide. They fulfill the Franciscan tradition of “paying their own way” by laboring in exchange for donations of food or funding.
In the few weeks since arriving, the Knights have made themselves useful at the retreat house, the Marian Sisters’ motherhouse and Villa Marie School. They participated in the Newman Center’s “NightFever” Eucharistic Adoration event at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. They also helped with the recent Catholic Social Services furniture drive, and worked at Camp Kateri.
Brother David Mary, KHE, has been a member of the order since shortly after its founding on the Feast of Saint James, July 25, 1998. He was named guardian (equivalent to superior) in February 2002. Brother David explained that the community had long expected to eventually relocate from Alabama as it grew.
“When Mother Angelica founded our community she gazed upwards as if to prophesy and said, ‘One day there will be 40 men knocking on your door seeking entrance.’ I never forgot those words and always knew that one day the Knights would go beyond the Shrine property,” Brother David said.
Seeking God’s will for their new home has been a year-long process as careful as it is prayerful. While seeking advice from trusted bishops, the Diocese of Lincoln was recommended as a possibility.
Currently, there are 12 Knights, three in vows and the rest in formation. Brother Michael Mary, KHE, vicar for the Knights in Lincoln, said they hope to find a suitable temporary residence for the community in time to start a year of formation in October.
“There’s only room for four of us here at the retreat house,” he said. “We’re looking for a large house or an older convent or something like that.”
“It would be ideal to be near Lincoln where we believe much of our work of promoting perpetual Adoration and training servers will take place,” Brother David added.
The Knights can be identified by their distinctive habit – brown, knee-length hooded tunics instead of the full-length Franciscan robes, and Franciscan Crown rosaries hung from black leather belts.
“Mother wanted us to wear the tunic rather than the traditional full robe because she wanted us to be Knights, ‘lovers and defenders of the Holy Eucharist,’” Brother David explained. “Rather than the traditional rope with the three knots representing the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, she wanted us to wear the Franciscan Crown rosary as sign of our weapon.”
So far, the probationary period has seemed positive to Brother Michael. He hopes the joyful life the brothers live as adorers of the Eucharist and laborers for the Lord will become contagious here.
“It’s been a great blessing these past few weeks to feel so welcomed. The bishop has been very pastoral and supportive,” he said. “There’s so much potential for our community in the diocese… It has been harvesting many, many vocations, and I think the lay brothers can be one more facet in this beautiful gem of a diocese.”
Brother David said the Knights are relying on the prayers and encouragement of the people of the diocese.
“In 1965 there were 12,271 religious brothers in the U.S. Today there are only 4,200 remaining and half of those are retired,” he said. “We would hope that the people of Lincoln see the true value in religious life and encourage young men to give it a try.”
Anybody who knows of a large house or other type of residence that would be suitable for the Knights to rent or purchase for their immediate use can contact Father Gary Coulter at the Retreat House, (402) 786-2705.
More information is available on the Knights of the Holy Eucharist website: www.knightsoftheholyeucharist.com.