NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- Thousands of Knights of Columbus members and their families were welcomed to Nashville Aug. 1 for the 140th annual Supreme Convention of the Catholic fraternal men's organization with a private concert at the legendary Grand Ole Opry House.
Between the featured performances of the Hillbilly Thomists, a band of Dominican friars, and country music star Craig Morgan, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly and his wife, Vanessa, presented awards to individual Knights, councils, assemblies and jurisdictions for their outstanding achievements over the last year.
Among the most prestigious honors were the International Family of the Year Award and the inaugural Blessed Michael McGivney Medal.
The Sewell family -- Robert and Tracey Sewell and their eight children -- of Douglasville, Georgia, was named International Family of the Year.
Robert Sewell, a member of the St. John Paul II Council 10821, has been a Knight for 15 years and has served in a variety of roles with the Knights.
His family members are regular volunteers in their parish and their community, particularly with the local Pregnancy Resource Center's Walk for Life and the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Mass in Atlanta.
"To say that we were pleasantly surprised would be a gross understatement," Robert Sewell told the crowd after accepting the award with his family.
"Being raised as a Christian in the Catholic faith, we were always taught that a family that prays together, stays together and that always resonated with us," Sewell said, before crediting his wife for being "the glue that has kept our family together."
He said their children "embody faith in action with their charitable works in the community and in the church, and we don't have to twist their arms to do it."
He also said it has been "a privilege serving in a Catholic fraternity of gentlemen."
Thanking the group, he said: "Without you all, all the work we do as a Knight in the organization and as a church, we wouldn't reach nearly all the people in the world that we have. The Knights truly embody charity, diversity, unity and patriotism."
The 2022 convention also marked the inaugural year for the Blessed Michael McGivney Medal, which will be given annually to a Knights of Columbus chaplain "whose priestly zeal and exemplary service are in the finest traditions of our founder," according to the awards program.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, the Knights supreme chaplain, presented the award to Father Matthew Keller, former state chaplain of New Mexico.
Father Keller "is always ready to serve his people and knowing that in serving his people, he's serving Christ," said Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, New Mexico, in a video announcing Father Keller as the inaugural recipient. "He really embodies that spirit of Blessed Michael J. McGivney."
The video noted Father Keller's efforts to serve the people of the Diocese of Gallup by working with the New Mexico and Arizona Knights to implement the "V8s for Vocations" project.
Through that project, Knights and seminarians work together to fix and restore classic V8 muscle cars that are then raffled off across the nation. The proceeds from the program, which raises more than $300,000 annually, benefits the education of seminarians in the diocese.
Additionally, Father Keller has helped to spread his own devotion to the Eucharist across the diocese, Bishop Wall said.
The priest ministered during the pandemic, delivering last rites to those in the hospital, which is how he was exposed to COVID-19. He ended up developing pneumonia in both lungs and was in the hospital for five weeks, even receiving last rites, but his health started to improve after a relic of Blessed McGivney was brought to his hospital room, Bishop Wall said.
Father Keller, who currently serves as the chaplain of Fray Marcos Council 1783 and Fray Marcos de Niza Assembly 686, both in Gallup, said he believes Blessed McGivney's intercession contributed to his recovery.
"I feel as though I had already been honored to be visited by the intercession of Blessed Father McGivney during my illness and recovery," he said after accepting the award.
Several other Knights and councils were recognized during the award ceremony.