Knights Of Peter Claver Mark 100 Years Of Service
Published: December 10, 2009
(L-r) Knights of Peter Claver George Greene of Most Blessed Sacrament Church, Atlanta, and Raymond Harris of St. Paul of the Cross Church, Atlanta, prepare to process into church for the Knights of Peter Claver Founders Day Mass, Nov. 7. (Photos by Michael Alexander)
ATLANTA—On the heels of the Knights of Peter Claver national 100th anniversary Mass in New Orleans, the local chapter of the nation’s largest lay organization for African-American Catholics celebrated in its own way with a Founders Day Mass and dinner.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory served as the main celebrant for the Knights of Peter Claver Founders Day Mass, which was held on Saturday, Nov. 7, at St. Paul of the Cross Church in Atlanta. The Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary and the Junior Knights and Junior Daughters of Zone 7 were also on hand for the event.
The Knights of Peter Claver, which follows the organizational model of the Knights of Columbus, is headquartered in New Orleans and has about 18,000 members in more than 400 parishes in the United States and South America.
Following the Mass Archbishop Gregory, far right, joins (l-r) immediate past Supreme Knight Arthur C. McFarland of Charleston, S.C., Lady Caranell B. Lott and Sir Knight Clarence A. Lott Jr. Together the Lotts have 110 years of continuous membership in the Knights and Ladies Auxiliary of Peter Claver.
The women’s division, the Ladies Auxiliary, was added in 1922, as were youth programs, the Junior Knights and Junior Daughters, in the 1930s. When it was founded, the group chose St. Peter Claver as its patron. The saint was a 17th-century Jesuit priest from Spain who ministered to slaves in what is now Colombia.
The familial vibe of the organization was present at the Atlanta Mass, as well as at the August Mass in New Orleans, where Archbishop Gregory was also the principal celebrant.
Father Edward Chiffriller, superior general of the Josephites and homilist at the New Orleans Mass, told about 4,000 people at the Ernest Morial Convention Center that no matter what distance they had traveled to honor the organization’s legacy, or whether they were young or old or even didn’t know many people in the crowd, they were all one family.
“Whether we are from Maryland or Mississippi, Louisiana or California, by baptism, confirmation and Eucharist we are God’s church family,” the priest said. “Jesus is the head of our church and we are members of his body. And secondly we are Claver family.”
Knight of Peter Claver Faithful Navigator Tommy Mason of St. Paul of the Cross Church, Atlanta, proudly displays his fraternal organization medallion and sash.
“We believe that God is with us. God is on our side,” Father Chiffriller said. “We need not be afraid. Our noble order will face the next 100 years with faith-filled confidence and the blessed assurance that we’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in his holy word. He’s never failed us yet.”
On the evening of Nov. 7, the local Knights gathered for “A Magnificent Centennial Journey,” a dinner and dance for members, at the Omega World Center in Decatur. Dancing and door prizes were just a couple of the night’s highlights.
Seventeen-year-old Junior Daughter of Peter Claver Shanae Leslie participates in the Mass at St. Paul of the Cross Church marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Knights of Peter Claver. Leslie is a member of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Decatur.
The centennial was officially commemorated concurrently in Mobile, Ala., where the organization was founded in 1909 by four Josephite priests and three laymen, with an initial membership of 40 men.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory stands before the altar with his brother clergy during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. On the altar, far left, a print displays the seven founders of the Knights of Peter Claver.
During his closing remarks, Archbishop Gregory reiterated how the intrepid men—and later the women in the auxiliary—who founded the Knights of Peter Claver were the answer to fighting discrimination. He said the group’s founders would be astonished at the social changes that have taken place in recent years.
“They should be pleased with their vision to love the church and nation, even when they were not loved in return,” he said.
The Georgia Bulletin and CNS contributed to this article.