Knights of Columbus, Santa Maria Council #1443, hosted dozens of nuns from across the Diocese of Camden on Saturday, Feb. 23, for an annual celebration held to thank the sisters for their service.
The Sisters Appreciation Night event attracted 72 nuns from all over South Jersey for a free buffet dinner, drinks, gifts and socializing at the Council home. Grand Knight Gerald P. Burke said the Brother Knights hold the event to not only thank the nuns in attendance for their vocations but to honor all the sisters who have shaped their spiritual development through the years.
“This is to thank the sisters who have done so much for us, through Catholic schools, CCD, the community,” Burke said.
“This is a great opportunity to see their human side along with the spark of divinity in all they do,” added Deputy Grand Knight Adam Elgart.
Santa Maria, the third-largest Knights council in New Jersey, got in the habit of hosting South Jersey sisters 47 years ago, and has made the dinner an annual tradition. District Deputy and Past Grand Knight Michael Weiglein, who emceed the festivities, said many council members and their families work to decorate the hall, buy, collect and wrap gifts, and to work at the dinner to wait on the sisters’ every need.
On Saturday, men wearing either Knights gear or a suit and tie ferried drinks and food to the tables. Each sister was given a free raffle ticket, and each went home with multiple gifts given out in random drawings.
“We even send the leftover food home with them,” said Daniel McNamara, former House Committee chairman.
A number of the sisters said they look forward to the event every year.
“I’ve been coming to this for 40 years,” said Sr. Rosemarie Wdzieczkowski of Bellmawr. “It is great to feel appreciated by the Knights of Columbus.”
Sr. Helen Murage of Vineland said it is rare for the sisters to be able to socialize with so many other nuns from around the region.
“The sisters always look forward to this great event. They ask when we are getting the invitations,” Sr. Helen said. “We love getting together.”
Santa Maria Council #1443 was established in 1909 and has more than 600 members. The council’s charity activities included fund-raising drives to fight Alzheimer’s Disease, multiple sclerosis and developmental disabilities. It hosts an annual dinner for local police as well as the nuns and sponsors multiple events for local youths.
On Saturday, all efforts were focused on paying back area nuns for their contributions.
“The Brother Knights enjoy this night as much as the sisters,” Weiglein said.