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Just what is safe environment?

By Reggie Vasquez, Star Council Awards Director

Vol. 4, 2016-2017

Reggie Vasquez

Got your interest? Sometimes a question is where the information flow begins. For the Knights of Columbus in Texas, recent training on the national, international, and State levels speak to “compliance” issues that set the criteria for becoming a Star Council. Texas goes out of its way each year to share the latest information available to each and every member under the Texas State Council. They publish an online book titled “Star Guide”. It can be read, studied, referenced, downloaded, and printed at any time by any brother Knight. One has only to go to: www.tkof.org, scroll to the bottom of the web page, go to the far right under Downloads and click on State Publications. A new web page will come up where “Star Guide 2018-2019” can be selected to open or download.

The reason for prefacing this article with the above information is that is where Councils find timelines and information on how exactly to achieve Star Council. Herein, councils find District, diocesan, and Council goals and a focused approach to achieve the Star Council Award. And since we are now working with a new programs model of Faith in Action some of the requirements and ways of doing KC business have changed. It is the desired goal of the Order that every council achieve Star Council, it is the desired goal of the State of Texas as well. Being practical and realistic means that every District Deputy focuses on at least one council per district and does everything within his leadership skills to get that council to Star Council. Better yet, he gets all councils in his District to Star Council. But it starts with councils knowing how to get there. The why is simple, if your Council achieves Star Council, your Council is vibrant, active, and fulfilling the vision of our Founder Fr. Michael J. McGivney. The Star Council Award is the Order’s affirmation and recognition that your Council is actively participating in growing our Order, growing the Domestic Church, building community, and putting your Faith into Action. It is the fulfillment of a vision sorely needed for our times.

Each fraternal year, the Supreme Council Board of Directors recognizes individual Knights, councils, and assemblies for outstanding achievement in the areas of charitable outreach, membership growth and retention, fraternal leadership, and insurance sales and service. The Order’s principles — charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism — continue to guide all of its programs and initiatives. This recognition showcases the best examples of those principles in everyday practice. One particular award is the focus of our State Deputy. The Supreme Knight’s Circle of Honor Award recognizes state deputies who achieve 100 percent or more of their annual membership goals. This achievement is not only an honor for the State of Texas, it is also a very strong indicator that Star Councils are being achieved throughout the state, that programs and initiatives are being carried out, and that the principles of our Order remain strong.

This article began with a question : “Just what is a safe environment?” Since achievement of Star Council Award is now contingent on your council’s understanding the compliance requirements of a safe environment, let’s look at a few elements of a “Safe Environment”. Our policy requires that members complete applicable arch/diocesan background checks and any other requirements that may be required by the local arch/bishop and/or pastor to serve as a volunteer on parish property. Our own program is operated in conjunction with our strategic partner in youth protection and safe environments –PRAESIDIUM, Inc. Praesidium specializes in preventing sexual abuse in organizations that serve youth and vulnerable adults. Our Safe Environment Program safeguards children and other vulnerable persons, assures members and their families that we maintain a safe environment, protects members from awkward situations, misunderstandings, and appearances of impropriety, builds trust with arch/dioceses and parishes, and protects the good name of the Knights of Columbus. Notice that the Knights of Columbus safe environment policy leads off by saying that members need to comply with diocesan requirements AND the Knights also has a separate and distinct program. Guidance for compliance with the Knight’s program is found in the Star Guide and the new Faith in Action Guide.

Under Faith in Action, certain state and council officers/chairmen are required to take safe environment training and may also be required to provide authorization for a background check. Some positions also have access to Presidium’s ARMATUS Administration dashboard to view member compliance within their council or jurisdiction. The Order’s safe environment partner will use email addresses from the Form 365 (Service Program Personnel Report) to send email notifications to the program directors and chairs who are required to complete safe environment training and to provide authorization for a background check. If members in certain positions are not compliant within 30 days of notification, they are subject to removal from those positions. For Councils those positions are: Grand Knight, Faithful Navigator, Program Director, Family Director, Community Director, Chief Counselor, and Adult Counselor.

All of this, circles back to the beginning paragraph and the importance of the Star Guide. Within the first few pages of the Star Guide is a check list and timeline of when necessary paperwork or online member management reports are due. Already the Forms 185 (Report of Officers) and the Form 365 (Report of Program Personnel) are past due. Has your Council submitted them? Shortly, the Form 1295 Semiannual Audit is due. These and subsequent forms provide structure and flow to our Order and facilitates communications on the national and State levels. Safe environment compliance is contingent on timely and accurate reports not only to Supreme but to the State office as well (www.forms@tkofc.org). What it really gets down to is this: “Do you want to be on a winning team?” If the answer is yes, then your leadership is needed. Urgency is needed. Go for the resources, use your council officers, district deputies, diocesan deputies, state directors and teams, and your State Officers and set the goal for Star Council. We can do this together, we can let our light shine. Stay positive, and do what you do best, be Star Council Knights of Columbus.

Vivat Jesus!

Reggie Vasquez

Star Council Awards Director

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