Idaho Knights of Columbus recount yet another year of service; honor fellow members and their families at annual convention.
The following story appeared in the April 30 Idaho Catholic Register.
by Emily Woodham
BOISE – The spirit of service that is intrinsic to being a part the Knights of Columbus means there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of families in Idaho, who, like the John and Dorcus Matovu family, give countless hours of service to their parish and their Knights council.
But not many are presented with the opportunity to help save the life of a fellow parishioner.
On Nov. 8, as a heavy wet snow fell in Boise, parishioners cautiously exited Our Lady of the Rosary Parish after a Sunday morning Mass.
Without warning, a woman collapsed on the concrete just outside the church doors of the east Boise parish. Dorcus Matovu, a nurse and seven months pregnant with her third child at the time, immediately rushed to the woman’s side. As other parishioners called 911, Dorcus’s husband, John, started praying. Other parishioners joined him in prayer while the Matovus’ sons, Frances, 8, and Emmanuel, 6, helped others gather coats and blankets to keep the unconscious woman warm.
“We wanted to carry the woman back into the church because of all the snow,” John said. “But the paramedics told us over the phone not to move her.”
Dorcus, a nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital, took vital signs while holding the woman’s hands and speaking softly to her. Father Dat Vu, pastor at the parish, anointed the woman as paramedics made their way to the church. Slowly, she regained consciousness. The woman recovered.
“It was as if the Matovu family was sent by angels to be in the exact right place, at the right time, to spring into action to save the life of our suffering friend,” said Bruce DeVino, a fellow Knight with John in the OLR Knights of Columbus council.
The Matovu family was named Family of the Year at the April 16-17 Idaho State Knights of Columbus Convention. The convention, at the Red Lion Inn Downtowner in Boise, was both an in-person event as well as providing an opportunity to members to attend virtually. About 70 attended in person and another 23 participated online.
Also receiving top honors were Jim Burkhardt of St. George’s Council 12560 in Post Falls as Knight of the Year and Father Timothy Ritchey, pastor of St. George’s Parish in Post Falls, was named Priest of the Year. Overall, it was a good night for St. George’s Council, as it was also named Council of the Year. The northern Idaho council excelled in a wide range of activities, including membership recruitment, insurance sales, community and charitable activities and compliance with required reporting.
John and Dorcus Matovu, and their sons, from left, Frances, Emmanuel and Samuel (in Dorcus’ arms), were honored as the Family of the Year at the recent Idaho Knights of Columbus State Convention. Originally from Uganda, the family moved to Boise in 2013 and are parishioners at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)
Family of the Year
John and Dorcus Matovu have been active with the Knights of Columbus for six years. They have been parishioners at Our Lady of the Rosary from the time they first came to Boise in 2013.
John Matovu completed his Ph.D in chemical engineering at Clarkson University in New York before accepting a position with Micron in Boise in 2013. A year before accepting the Micron position, he married Dorcus in their hometown in Uganda. Dorcus later moved to the United States with their first-born son, Frances. The couple joined Our Lady of the Rosary right away. With no family in the United States, the parish, whose members she describes as “loving and caring,” became their family.
John attended minor seminary in Uganda for all four of his years of high school. Although he discerned that the priesthood was not for him, he did not lose his heart for serving others, nor his love of fellowship. He joined the Knights of Columbus Council 10581 at Our Lady of the Rosary in 2015.
His favorite activity is the pancake breakfasts the Knights sponsor for parishioners. He enjoys the camaraderie with his fellow Knights and their families as they work to provide food and fellowship for the parish.
John loves making people feel welcome and bringing people together, Father Dat Vu said. He also enjoys studying the faith with his fellow Knights.
Dorcus has seen the impact of his prayers and study in their family. “It changed my husband,” she said. “In the culture in Uganda, the husband doesn’t take care of the wife and children that much. He focuses on other friends and going out with them. But John has been more involved with the family. He has been very loving,” Dorcus said.
The couple had their third son, Samuel, in January. He was baptized last month at OLR.
John and Dorcus help with Vacation Bible School, volunteer at the food bank, and serve lunch for students at St. Joseph Catholic School, where their older two sons attend. Dorcus helps with religious education at the parish. John was recently elected to a 3-year term on the parish council.
When the house they eventually bought was more than 20 minutes away from OLR, they made the decision to stay with the parish that had become their home.
Jim Burkhardt, Grand Knight at the St. George Council, is honored as Knight of the Year. (Courtesy photos/Brad Bugger and Knights of Columbus)
Knight of the Year
As Grand Knight for St. George Council 12560 in Post Falls, Jim Burkhart was instrumental in leading his council to a number of awards at this year’s convention.
Burkhardt is a convert, joining the Church in 1979 just before marrying his wife, Lisa, in Nebraska. He joined the Knights in 1983. The father of three is now a grandfather of four and a retired law enforcement officer. He and Lisa moved to Post Falls and joined St. George’s Parish five years ago.
“Being a Knight has strengthened my faith and has placed me in situations where I have seen God’s presence and love,” Burkhardt said. “The Knights put Gods’ words into action. They feed the hungry, provide shelter to the homeless, put warm clothes on cold children, support life and pray for the sick.”
The St. George’s Council provided a number of reasons that Burkhardt should be named Knight of the Year.
He recruited many new members to the council. He started a Novena for Life program, which included praying the Rosary between Masses on all Sundays in Lent. When the COVID-19 pandemic closed churches, Burkhardt coordinated the video-taping of Masses for those who could not attend. He trains and manages the Church Safety Team, which he began with Father Tim Ritchey, pastor of St. George’s. The team of 35 members is prepared to handle parish threats and emergencies.
Burkhardt also started the Outdoor Sports Group, which is among his favorite activities. Every Friday, the group goes on hikes, bike rides, kayak trips or snowshoeing in northern Idaho, western Montana and eastern Washington. “Not only is this fun, it also strengthens my faith. All of the natural beauty that surrounds us is God’s gift to us, and we should enjoy it. Plus, the exercise is good for us,” he said.
At St. George’s, Burkhardt has been an usher, lector and Eucharistic Minister. He has also been a parish council member. He and Lisa have been on pilgrimages to the Vatican and Medugorje, and they are hoping to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
“There are many outstanding Knights in Idaho. I am honored and humbled to receive this recognition,” he said.
Priest of the Year
Father Tim Ritchey’s exemplary leadership during his 36 years in the priesthood was cited in his nomination for the award. Most recently, the safety program he implemented in his parish as a response to church shootings across the nation inspired other parishes throughout the Diocese of Boise to begin similar programs.
Father Ritchey, a Knight for 34 years, is an Honorary Life Member. He was appointed to St. George’s in 2011, after serving at Holy Apostles Parish in Meridian and several parishes before that.
Grand Knight Jim Burkhardt said Father Ritchey is not only an excellent manager of the many activities and needs in the parish, but is also a superb teacher. “His homilies capture your attention, while teaching all of us about our faith and how to be better Catholics,” Burkhardt said.
Father Ritchey attends all the meetings for the Knights. “He encourages us to be compassionate yet firm in our values and beliefs,” Burkhardt said.
The Safety Team program, modeled at other parishes in the Diocese, consists mostly of retired law enforcement officers. They also have established surveillance and alarm systems to ensure safety on the parish grounds.
Father Ritchey is retiring in July of this year. “I can honestly say that I have never met a more welcoming, engaging and effective priest as Father Tim,” Burkhardt said.
Pandemic did not stop
Idaho Knights’ active service
Despite facing continued challenges from the coronavirus pandemic, the Idaho Knights of Columbus continued to serve their communities with financial support and time, said Idaho State Deputy Roy Bartholomay.
In his convention address, Bartholomay lauded the hard work of Knights.
Despite the challenges faced during the pandemic, the Idaho Knights of Columbus donated more than $216,000 to charitable causes and more than 61,000 hours of labor, Batholomay said. “With efforts like this, I can honestly say that the future of the Idaho Knights of Columbus continues to be very bright,” he said.
Among the highlights of the Knights’ charitable efforts this year were the Food for Families/Leave No Neighbor Behind and Coats for Kids Programs.
Idaho councils donated more than $27,700 to the Food for Families Program, and more than 7,300 hours of service to local food banks. One council did a scavenger hunt for food, combining a fun family activity with giving to local causes. Two councils purchased beef cattle, and paid to have them butchered and wrapped to give meat to those in need. Post Falls Council 12560 won the challenge award for being the first council to donate 5,000 pounds of food to the local food bank. The council ended up donating 16,262 pounds of food.
About three-fourths of Idaho councils participated in the Coats for Kids program, purchasing more than $20,000 in coats.
The Knights continued to support a culture of life in Idaho. Council 1397 in Moscow raised funds to purchase an ultrasound machine for the Wish Medical Center, a free pro-life clinic which helps women with unplanned or crisis pregnancies. Councils around the state raised $9,000 for an ultrasound initiative and provided over $8,300 to local pregnancy support centers, along with many volunteer service hours. Idaho Knights participated in Marches for Life in Idaho Falls, Boise, Lewiston, Moscow and Coeur d’Alene.
The Knights supported Special Olympics around the state. Every dollar raised through the sale of raffle tickets for a car went to Special Olympics. Local councils donated many service hours and more than $6,200 to Special Olympics this year. That, in addition to a $2,500 award given to the Idaho Knights from the Supreme Council, totaled an $8,700 donation to Special Olympics.
Mountain Home Council 3707 was honored for helping the disabled and the Post Falls Council for public relations.
During the convention, the Knights also heard from the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a pro-life Presbyterian pastor and speaker from Washington, D.C. Rev. Mahoney helped found Stanton HealthCare International with Boise’s Brandi Swindell in 2006.
If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.