Members of the Knights of the Southern Cross Victoria (KSCV) gathered on Sunday 20 February for their centennial celebration at St Clement of Rome Parish in Bulleen. The Order is a national organisation of laymen who, guided by the Catholic faith, strive to serve the wider community and those in need through charitable works. In attendance on Sunday were Knights from across Victoria and interstate, in what was one of their first public gatherings since the beginning of the pandemic.

Archbishop Peter A Comensoli was the main celebrant of the Mass, with concelebrating clergy including bishops emeriti Most Rev Hilton Deakin, Most Rev Peter Connors (former National Chaplain) and Most Rev Les Tomlinson (former Chaplain of the International Alliance of Catholic Knights, of which the Order is a member), as well as Very Rev Tony Kerin EV (Victorian State Chaplain) and Monsignor Franco Cavarra (Parish Priest of Bulleen).

In his homily, Archbishop Comensoli paid tribute to the charitable works of the Knights over the years, especially in the face of adversity. He reflected upon the Order’s early years when sectarianism and bigotry were rampant in Australia, with many Catholic Australians unable to find work and support their families during the post-War years and the Depression.

In fact, the beginnings of the Order can be traced to a letter written by one of its founding members Sir Michael Chamberlin who, in 1917, wrote to the editor of The Advocate calling for the formation of a lay organisation to counter the continual discrimination of Catholics. Five years later the Knights of the Southern Cross was formed (initially known as the Knights of St Francis Xavier), with the first official Victorian meeting taking place in 1922. One of the Order’s first activities was the formation of an “employment committee” to assist Catholic men and women struggling to find work.

Drawing on the words from Luke’s gospel, Archbishop Comensoli said the Order became an organisation that embodied the words of Jesus to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. … Give to everyone who asks you ... Treat others as you would like them to treat you’ (Luke 6:27).”

Through the work of the Knights, along with the good actions of many other Christians among our ecumenical brothers and sisters, sectarianism is all but dead in Australian society today. The fruits of the seeds planted and nurtured over the past 100 years should not be lost on today’s generation.’

‘We might look with some concern at the rising tide of the new animosities toward those who hold to and live by a particular religious creed, but we also need to be deeply thankful that we no longer live at a time when people were unable to work and feed their family because of what they believed,’ the Archbishop said.

‘What might a creative return to your original charism look like as you plant seeds for future generations?

‘The specifics of the old battles are passed, but reasons for continuing are still there to be taken up: love; do good; bless; pray. And nurture the families of today and tomorrow.’

Following the Mass, Victorian State Chairman Paul Mitchell OAM expressed his gratitude to those gathered – clergy, members, their wives, the widows of past members and the Order’s supporters. He said the Order’s longevity – and its future – finds its source in its simple but faithful call to fraternity.

It is fitting that the month of February is designated the month of fraternity, he said, ‘not just because it coincides with the anniversary for which we are gathered, but fraternity is one of our priorities … and how the objects of the Order will be fulfilled: by being a good neighbour.’