“To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
--Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism (1709)
With Council elections fast approaching, this installment of the St. Thomas More Corner will be the last for the 2011-12 fraternal year. As announced earlier, I am not running for re-election as Grand Knight of St. Sebastian Council # 14255 for the 2012-13 fraternal year. Having been an officer of this Council since its charter issued, I am convinced that the Council needs new blood at the top of the organization. In July 2011, I attended a meeting in Garfield Heights at which a State Officer spoke. One of his remarks particularly struck me: if the same people run a Council at the highest leadership positions year after year, such is the path to stagnation and ultimate loss of membership for that Council.
Any organization needs new ideas and fresh approaches to retain vitality. A Council continuously operated by the same people will naturally tend to pursue the same programs in the same way as in prior years, both from a sense of comfort and inertia. It is simply human nature to do so. I recall that when the great NBA player and later coach, Lenny Wilkins, was discharged from employment by the Cleveland Cavaliers, he said that a change might indeed be warranted, as the players had become tired of hearing the same voice and needed to hear a new one. So it may be with our Council.
Council elections will occur at the June 6, 2012 general membership meeting. I strongly encourage every member of this Council who is a Third Degree member, and therefore eligible for election, seriously to consider running for an officer position. To be sure, being an officer requires a commitment to the charitable endeavors of the Council, to being willing to organize programs in order to effectuate Council priorities and to handle the administrative aspects of the Council, whether it be timely filing reports and financial assessments with the State and Supreme Councils or ensuring that IRS obligations are discharged and website updates occur in timely fashion. A substantial commitment of time is necessary. But, for the Council to function as it should, some new officers with new ideas and approaches are equally necessary.
During the 2011-12 fraternal year, four accomplishments were particularly meaningful to me. First, the Council completed work on the lower level of Forest Lodge and moved our operations to that site. Second, as a result of the yeoman efforts of our Deputy Grand Knight and Knight of the Year, Tony Burgoyne, we conducted the inaugural 5K Race Around the Park, which was a smashing success as a Council and community event, as well as a substantial, non-raffle, fund-raiser. Let us hope the 5K Race will become that one event which we always conduct, and for which our Council will become known throughout the area. And may we ultimately be able to rely less on raffles as a source of income for conducting our charitable activities. Third, we more completely effectuated the original concept of the Rose Mass by selecting a worthy recipient of the Dr. Carl Krill Award, which was bestowed at a liturgy over which a Bishop presided. Fourth, we continued our commitment to the Deacon Terry Peacock scholarship program, which shows that the Knights support Catholic education at the secondary school level.
The 2011-12 fraternal year, of course, also saw some shortcomings, the most obvious of which was my failure to organize a membership recruitment program which would ensure that the number of new members exceeded suspensions for non-payment of dues. As a result, our Council suffered a small net decrease in membership this fraternal year. I must admit that marketing is not my strength; an important task facing the new Grand Knight will be to implement a more effective membership recruitment and retention program.
Next fraternal year, I will remain active in the Council. I will continue to coordinate the First Degree team. I will assist with the golf outing and the 5K events to the degree that I am able. And, if something needs to be written, whether it is the form 1728 annual report of fraternal activities, website updates or reports of programs on the State website, I shall be happy to participate.
Finally, I am fully aware that my interpersonal style can, at times, be viewed as abrupt or abrasive. That personality flaw is particularly noticeable when one wields a gavel. For that personal failing, I must apologize. But, as the second most often quoted writer in the English language, Alexander Pope, recognized, error is a human matter. Forgiveness is participation in the divine. And so, I ask you to follow the model of our Lord and pardon me for the shortcomings attendant to my term as Grand Knight.
Bernard A. Smith
May 15, 2012