Backslapping and hearty laughter ensued as scores of Knights of Columbus, their families and 70 priests gathered at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre for Padre Night.
"Now we are all masters of our own fate but we support our bishops, priests, deacons and other religious," said Bill Smith, state deputy of the Alberta/Northwest Territories.
"The activities that we provide for our communities to make a better place for our families and future generations may not sound like easy goals to aspire to, but this evening we thank the clergy who help keep us on track through our daily lives," Smith said.
Padre Night is hosted every year by the Knights, in solidarity with the priests and bishops of the Edmonton Archdiocese. This year's event was Thursday evening, Feb. 20.
Apart from the appreciation for the clergy in attendance, a key theme was Building a Culture of Life, achieved specifically through promotion of the Sisters of Life, a contemplative religious community of women.
The Edmonton chapter of the Knights is trying to bring this order of women to the archdiocese. The collection after dinner was in support of this cause.
Smith said the Knights support family values and the family structure.
All religious communities make the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The Sisters of Life are also consecrated under a fourth vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.
"The Sisters of Life are on the radar in Edmonton to help mothers and their children. This is part of the family package to promote pro-life by leading the way against abortion," said Smith.
Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Bittman said building a culture of life is more imperative today than ever. While promoting and respecting life are important, he said that we live in a culture that does the exact opposite, and the culture of death has unfortunately become the new normal.
"Our support for the Sisters of Life is one way we can participate in building a culture of life as we seek to support pregnant women and the unborn. Tonight, and afterwards as well, I encourage you to support the Knights' initiative to raise funds to bring the Sisters of Life here to Edmonton," said Bittman.
Reverence and gratitude for the unique and unrepeatable gift of each human life made in the image and likeness of God fuels the prayer of each sister. Building a culture of life is the starting point for their interactions with others.
Three speakers highlighted the lifelong journey of Catholic formation.
John Acheson, a trustee of Edmonton Catholic Schools, said today's children are "Catholic illiterate," entering school with no introduction to the Catholic faith, no habit of prayer, and oftentimes no sense of Jesus Christ.
Father Terry Kersch, president of St. Joseph's College, said faith formation is achieved at the institution in three principle ways: Catholic intellectual tradition, campus pastoral ministry and residential life. Integration is the central theme in each of these three ways.
"The key to our formation efforts is the integration of mind, body and spirit. Only when these three dimensions of our lives are properly integrated can we be fully human in the way Jesus Christ was fully human," said Kersch.
Dr. Jason West, president of Newman Theological College, said that need for a theologically educated laity was at the heart of Newman College's founding.
Laity have an obligation to understand their faith more deeply and to evangelize others, West said.