General News

‘Far Beyond Pearls’

Posted on February 22, 2024 in: General News

‘Far Beyond Pearls’

Spousal love and support, epitomized by the late Ann Dechant, make our work as Knights of Columbus possible

By Supreme Knight Patrick E. Kelly



Last month, on the feast of All Souls, I had the great honor to deliver the eulogy at the funeral of Ann L. Dechant, wife of the Order’s 12th and longest-serving supreme knight, Virgil C. Dechant. For nearly seven decades, Ann supported Virgil as he rose through the ranks of the Knights of Columbus. And for 23 years, she was at his side as he led the Order. In their relationship, every Knight — and every wife of a Knight — saw a Christian marriage par excellence. Virgil and Ann shaped the Knights of Columbus for the better — and always as a team.

Ann Dechant had a servant’s heart — and sacrificed for her family and the Order without complaint. Raised on a farm in Kansas, she left her home state to move to far-off Connecticut when Virgil was appointed supreme secretary in 1967. She cared for her young children and raised them to know and love Christ, all the while assisting her husband as he led a growing, global organization. And even as she kept the home fires burning, she was often expected to be with Virgil as he traversed the globe.

In many ways, Ann had an impossible task, yet her example reminds us that with God all things are possible (Mt 19:26). She was held in high esteem by presidents and popes. St. John Paul II appointed her to the Pontifical Council for the Family. But while she moved in high circles, she never lost the common touch or her Kansas kindness. She juggled the competing demands of her life with grace and prayer — and with a trusting devotion to our Blessed Mother. In doing this, she set an example for future generations of Knights and their wives.

Being the wife of an active, engaged Knight takes patience, teamwork, sacrifice and an understanding heart. It isn’t easy, but it is worthwhile because our mission is worthy.

Ann’s sacrifice typifies the sacrifice that so many of our wives make for us as Knights and for the Order. So much of what we do as Knights would not be possible without the support and dedication of our wives. Speaking for myself, I can honestly say that I couldn’t do what I do without my wife, Vanessa. Her steadfast love and support — for me and for our children — allow me to carry out my responsibilities to the Order and the Church.

The same is true for so many Knights Orderwide. The Knights of Columbus is and always will be a fraternal organization of men, but the reason we exist, the reason Blessed Michael McGivney established the Knights, is to serve the family. Our membership in the Order should make us better husbands and fathers, and many K of C activities involve the entire family. At the same time, our volunteer service can take us away from home on many weeknights and weekends, inevitably leaving our wives to adjust family schedules and juggle competing priorities. More often than not, our wives are called upon to go the extra mile to meet family obligations, while also serving as both trusted advisors and indispensable supports to us. In short, being the wife of an active, engaged Knight takes patience, teamwork, sacrifice and an understanding heart. It isn’t easy, but it is worthwhile because our mission is worthy.

The Book of Proverbs affirms: “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. … Her children rise up and praise her; her husband, too, extols her: ‘Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all’” (31:10-11, 28-29).

The wife of a Knight is truly a “woman of worth.” This Christmas season, we should all have gratitude in our hearts and — importantly — on our lips for all that our wives do for us, for the Order and for the Church. May the Holy Family, whose feast we celebrate Dec. 31, be a model and guide for us.

Vivat Jesus!