A local man became leader of the state Knights of Columbus July 1.
Arthur J. Harris of Penfield was elected in May to a two-year term as the state deputy of the New York Knights of Columbus, which comprises 98,000 Knights who belong to the Catholic fraternal order.
"We are the largest jurisdiction of Knights in the U.S.," said Harris, a founding member of the Msgr. Richard K. Burns Council No. 11749 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Irondequoit.
As part of his new office, Harris selected Bishop Matthew H. Clark to be chaplain of the state Knights of Columbus. In this role Bishop Clark will be invited to attend Knights of Columbus functions throughout New York and will oversee the spiritual needs of New York’s Knights and their families.
Harris also selected associate state chaplains, including Father John Gagnier, pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Greece and pastoral administrator of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Greece, and retired diocesan priest Father Ralph Fraats, who now lives in the Syracuse Diocese.
Father Gagnier, who also is the chaplain for the Finger Lakes Chapter of the Knights of Columbus, which comprises Knights councils throughout the Diocese of Rochester, applauded the Knights’ choice of Harris as their leader.
"I think he’ll inspire a lot of growth in the Knights throughout the state," the priest said.
Although this is his first time being state deputy, Harris has occupied a variety of state offices, and most recently he was secretary to State Deputy Edward F. Castellazzi. He said he enjoys the opportunity to work on behalf of others.
"You just get it in your heart, and you have to do things for other people, especially those who have less than you do," Harris said.
Mobilizing Knights to volunteer for other charities in New York is one of Harris’ priorities for his new position. This initiative is part of an international Knights of Columbus effort called the Year of the Volunteer. The Knights organization is asking its members to top the nearly 69 million man hours and $150 million in charitable donations its members gave last year.
"Especially in these trying times, we know charities today are getting less and less dollars because of the economy," said Harris.
Harris, who is usually up at 6 a.m. and answering e-mails soon after, is dedicated to service, said Christopher Smith, vice president of development and public relations for Special Olympics New York.
"He very much wanted to continue the partnership that the Knights in New York state have in selecting Special Olympics as a charity of choice," said Smith, who noted that the Knights’ support is highlighted at www.specialolympicsny.org.
Over the past four years the Knights have raised about $125,000 and volunteered many hours for Special Olympics New York, and have helped regional Special Olympics groups, Smith said.
In addition to continuing work on behalf of Special Olympics, Harris said he plans to promote pro-life causes and the Knights’ Fathers for Good campaign. He also wants to start and expand college and military Knights councils and start Squires Circles for boys ages 10 to 18. Harris said the Knights will promote priestly vocations in these groups to support Pope Benedict XVI’s celebration this year of the Year for Priests.
"We’re an army of Christian soldiers, but if we are not replenishing our ranks, we will slowly die," Harris remarked.
Harris, one of 5,300 Knights in the Diocese of Rochester, said he is only the second Diocese of Rochester Knight to be elected state deputy. The first was Raymond Pfeifer of Williamson.
Harris worked for Eastman Kodak Co. for 32 years and then worked for an information-technology company until retiring two years ago. He will use his technical expertise to revamp the state Web site, www.NewYorkKnights.com.
Harris, 64, and his wife, Marlene, have seven children and 11 grandchildren.