Michael Hawke, third degree Knight of the Father Leo John Dehon Council 14051, speaks about living out his faith on behalf of the “least of these.” (Matthew 25)
What does it mean to you personally to put your faith into action?
I was always taught that the best way to bring others to the faith is simply to show them what a person living a faith-filled life can look like. I have never been one to actively evangelize through discussions with people, but I try to do it by living as the best example I can, answering questions when people ask. My Catholic faith is part of my daily living. It shapes how I look at the world and other people. Always looking for Christ in others.
In general, how do the Knights show faith in action?
First and foremost by being an open, welcoming group of compassionate people. I firmly believe that Christ’s intention was for us to be welcoming of all people and walks of life and to refrain from being judgmental. That has never meant changing my own values to match others, but instead always trying to be understanding of where they are coming from. If their actions and thoughts don’t match up with Catholic teaching, it may simply be because they have been misled. But it is not for me to judge. It is always for me to act with compassion to them and treat them with respect.
I believe that the parish and the Knights of Columbus must embody that spirit. We believe in service to others without asking their affiliation or life choices. Simply helping those who need help and, hopefully, through that example, we bring more people to our faith. I believe that by being that example to the public, without using it only to “show off” or “gain publicity,” is the single most important thing any group of faith can do. Those actions are what will generate curiosity in others, sowing the seeds that the Holy Spirit can use to change a person over time.
Describe one or two of your ministries where faith in action is seen.
First, the Knights of Columbus as a group shows faith in action. As a group we stand together as practical, Catholic men, not ashamed to make that claim or wear the signs of our brotherhood. Through that we can seek support from each other on our own faith journey while aiding people in the community who need it. By being visible both in the community and the church, we show that it is still possible to be a practicing Catholic who has compassion and working to make things better for everyone.
A second ministry that is near to me is RCIA. I have acted as a sponsor and teacher for the program, currently and in the past. It is always important to me as the process unfolds to help people understand the misconceptions about the Catholic faith that were taught in my protestant and non-denominational church as a way to scare people away from Catholics. As they learn what our faith is truly based on, they can interact with Catholics in that setting where than can see that many of us have had faith struggles. They see people converting, and a change can be seen in their outlook and faith. It brings me a great sense of peace to know that I have helped sow the seed of faith in someone and brought them to our beautiful Catholic tradition. Through that process I continue to learn more about both our faith and myself. The questions and challenges that people learning our faith go through become a catalyst for me to question things myself in order to learn more about our faith.
What impact has this faith in action ministry had on the people served and on those involved in the ministry?
I think the biggest impact that I have seen with RCIA is to help bring people to our faith. Most importantly, providing some ways for them to develop a personal relationship with Jesus and God the Father. To understand that he is someone they can talk to as long as they are willing to listen. When I see people continuing to go to Sunday Mass after completing the program and becoming a full member it brings a sense of peace to my soul.
What challenges have you faced in developing this ministry and what kept you going despite the challenges?
I have faced a couple challenges, both personal and because of work. I travel frequently for work which makes it more difficult for me to participate at times in parish activities. But Queen of Peace parish, and the Knights of Columbus have always been understanding of those difficulties and been willing to work with me on schedules. I was always apprehensive to get involved because it was hard for me to commit, knowing that a sudden business trip could call me away. However, once I started into the parish as a lector and Extraordinary Eucharistic minister and realized that the parish and people in it would work with my scheduling issues, I slowly became more involved in other things.
As a teacher and sponsor within RCIA, it is sometimes a challenge to remember that we are all in a different place in our faith journeys. There are tenants of our faith or ways that the church has acted that some may accept and others will struggle with. It works both ways. It is important to remember that we each come to the Lord’s table as who we are, bringing our own doubts, sins, gifts, and talents. The Lord accepts all of us and expects us to do the same of others. Everyone has their own struggles of faith they are working through. I would guess that very few people besides maybe the Pope fully accept everything or understand everything the church presents or teaches. That is why as Catholics we believe that conversion and being “saved” is a lifelong process and not something that happens in an instant.
What suggestions do you have for people that aren’t sure how to put their faith in action?
To start somewhere, simply. The easiest and most comfortable place to start is with like-minded people. If your family shares your faith, that is a place to start. If not, work to find a group at your parish that you can act through. There is plenty of fellowship in the available groups of people, like the Knights of Columbus, or men’s and lady’s clubs, etc.
The important thing is to start somewhere. Once you start, you will continue to grow. And don’t be afraid to try a different parish if you can’t find what you need. Every parish has its own personality and groups of people. No one should feel bad about wanting to try a different parish to get what you are looking for. Our faith is a journey, that means accepting change and going to new places to find what you are looking for.
I have been blessed with living many different places in the U.S. and traveling abroad for most of my life. That has allowed me to experience parishes throughout the country and made me come to the realization that everyone is different. From the people, to small changes in how Mass is celebrated, or the flow of the church. All those things are part of the faith experience and you must be willing to hunt around and find what you are looking for. No one else can do it for you.