February 11, 2018

Westfield Knights of Columbus hold appreciation dinner for priests

Story and photo by Kathleen Harrington



WESTFIELD- “This night is always a morale booster for me.”

That’s what one of Westfield’s Catholic priests said on Friday night as he sat at the table of honor at the “Men in Black” appreciation dinner. The Knights of Columbus Westfield Council 100 sponsored the evening. All seven priests serving at Holy Trinity, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, St. Mary and St. Peter and St. Casimir parishes were on hand for the dinner.

“To know that these people show up for an evening like this because they want to support us, that means so much,” said Father William Wallis, pastor of St. Peter and St. Casimir Parish. Father Wallis joined Father Daniel Brunton, Father Frank Lawlor, Father Daniel Pacholec, Father Rene Parent, Father Ryan Sliwa, Father Tom Shea, and Father John Tuohey at the table of honor. During the evening, each was singled out for special recognition by the Knights of Columbus.

“I really do appreciate what our priests do for us. I wanted to be here to celebrate them,” said Gail McArdle, a parishioner of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish. “I need to hear what the priests have to say. Spiritually, they give me strength,” added Michael McArdle, Gail’s husband.

“This is a good way to show our solidarity with the priests,” said Fran Coffey, financial secretary for the Knights of Columbus Westfield Council 100. “A lot of time you can show appreciation, but with the numbers of people here tonight, the priests can see it.”

“We’re very happy with the turnout. It’s exciting to see,” said Cynthia Coffey, Fran’s wife. The couple invited fellow parishioners Carolyn and Bill Lawry to the dinner. “We’re glad to see all four priests from St. Mary Church here,” said Bill Lawry.

Among the four is the newest addition, Father Tuohey. The Westfield native is back home and in pastoral service after a career on the west coast as  the senior director of Providence Center for Health Care Ethics in Oregon. On this night, his family gathered friends to join in the tribute to the priests.

Father Parent visited with the three tables of parishioners from Holy Trinity Church. “It was important to be here for him,” said one of the women. Parent, a native of Holyoke, grew up at Immaculate Conception, which was staffed by the La Salette Missionaries. “I got my vocation from them,” said Father Parent.

The youngest of the seven “Men in Black,” Father Sliwa, St. Mary’s parochial vicar, noted that it isn’t often that all seven priests are together. “It’s good for the people of Westfield to see this.” Ordained in 2015, the young priest said feeling “fatherly” toward his parishioners was a surprise. “I didn’t think it would come so naturally. I thought I would learn it over time with experience, that I would be a spiritual father.”

Thanking the seven priests, Greg Perrault, grand knight of the Westfield council, explained the host group’s involvement. “We support the priests, the community, the churches, the families, and the youth,” he said.

The audience responded with a standing ovation for the priests.

Perrault said the Knights of Columbus is a family, fraternal, charitable, service organization. always welcoming new members, he said membership is a way to grow deeper in faith and increase a person’s involvement in the renewal of parish and family life.

For more information on joining the Knights of Columbus click here.