by Patrick B. McGuigan
Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius J. Beltran and Carol Herrick were honored at the anniversary awards dinner of the Chief Justice Kane Assembly, Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus.
With worldwide attention focused on a papal vacancy, it seemed appropriate that this year’s dinner fell on what is designated the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter.
Paul Weigl, a regional leader of the Knights, presented Beltran the Excalibur Award for his service to the Catholic Church and to Oklahoma.
In an introspective address, Beltran said, “I have had a happy life. I have felt blessed, always feeling close to God, thanks to my parents.”
Beltran told the Knights, their families and guests, including Air Force Gen. Rita Aragon, that his father was born in Spain, while his mother was of Polish descent.
Beltran’s father had felt family pressure to become a priest: “Grandmother had wanted my father to be a priest,” but his father, as a young man, did not believe that was his life’s purpose. “He was in and out of seminaries, but he did not want to be a priest.”
As young Eusebius grew up, his oldest sister “begged and begged to become a nun before she went to the convent.” Eventually, she became a nun, serving a lifetime as an African missionary before retiring here in the U.S. She is now 88.
Eusebius himself felt the call to priestly life. Years later, Eusebius wrote a letter to his grandmother to tell her of his studies at St. Charles Seminary in his home state of Pennsylvania. He invited the old woman, living in Spain, to his priestly ordination. She was unable to come, and yet, “Because of her prayers, she had five grandsons who became priests, serving in the United States, Argentina and Spain.”
Beltran encouraged attendees, especially young people, to learn what God intends for their lives. He observed, “Every person has a vocation. Each one of you is called to a definite life, to a calling from God. Discover the plan God has for you. If you find it, follow it. I know He called me to be a priest 53 years ago.”
Addressing fellow members of the Knights, Beltran said, “The Knights have interrelated with my vocation throughout my life.”
Herrick, designated winner of the Knights’ Public Service award, profusely thanked the organization, saying her work in support of military families, through Operation Home Front, is made possible by patriots who share her admiration for America’s military personnel.
Keynote speaker for the event was Maj. Ed Pulido, U.S. Army (ret.).
He described Herrick as “a hero” who “steps up to the plate for our soldiers, sailors, Marines and Airmen. How great it is to have an advocate such as her.”
Pulido said Beltran’s story “touched my heart. It is a story about God, country and family and the dream that we all seek. Please continue to carry your message, the message of patriots. Carry on the message of belief in God. And the Knights of Columbus, what a great group for everything you do, especially for our veterans.”
He emotionally spoke directly to one attendee – Gen. Rita Aragon, U.S. Air Force (ret.) – calling her “my mentor and friend, an officer who cares about me and my family. Her heart and soul is in the right place.”
Pulido said his father, a Columbian immigrant and U.S. Army veteran, “told me it was a privilege to defend the greatest nation in the world, and its people.”
While serving in Afghanistan, Pulido was greviously wounded when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded aside the vehicle in which he was traveling on August 17, 2004. He recalled, “It was a working enlisted Army guy who pulled me out and said, ‘Man, major, you are hurt bad.’ He took his training seriously.
“My back felt like it was on fire and I knew I was in trouble. I needed him, and I needed you – the American people and the Knights of Columbus – in my corner.
“My life indeed flashed before me then and in the days after. I wondered about God. Who is He? And, is He really in control? I wondered that day.
“But today I know God is in charge. He gave me a purpose in life. Something was different for me after I lost that leg. That day, I thought of my wife and little girl. The Army flew me to Baghdad, then to Germany, then to Walter Reed and ultimately to Brooke Army Medical Center.
“I prayed about my leg, but God made that decision. I am a disabled Army veteran, but this is not about me. It is about you. It is about living outside yourself.
“I became involved with the Folds of Honor, which has provided 3,800 scholarships for those effected by war. Over $20 milion raised. It’s about taking care of soliders and Marines and other service personnel, these great patriots who serve us and defend us.
“Now, I can tell you, I am glad God gave me this life I live. His greatest gift is my life, and a new way to look at that life. I plan to continue to raise dollars for these patriots, with the help of people like you. God bless the Knights, and every one of you.”
Maj. Pulido founded Warriors for Freedom to focus on mental, physical and “holistic” recovery for wounded American warriors and their families. Pulido was awarded the Bronze Star with valor, the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal and Joint Service Commendation nd Achievement Medals.
The story of his maiming in combat was featured in national news reports. He has emerged as a leading advocate of prosthetics for injured soldiers, and increased awareness of post traumantic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). He lives in Edmond with his wife Karen and their daughters, Kaitlin and Kinsley.
Archbishop Beltran was Archbishop of Oklahoma City from 1992 to 2011. Previously he was Bishop of Tulsa for 14 years. He became a priest in 1960, and was active in the civil rights movement. He is a member of the Knights’ Oklahoma Council 1038, and of the Kane Assembly in Oklahoma City.
Beltran is the first priest to win the Excalibur Award, which is presented to a man considered a “Knight’s Knight” in the Catholic fraternal and family organization.
Past winners include Paul Weigl, Jim O’Brien (who runs the Center of Family Love in Okarche), Ernie Chastain, George Denelsbeck, Gabe Duty, Willard Patocka, Dale Harrison and Richard Schulte, as well as the late Joe Schneider, Max Schmidt, and Henry Roewe.
Herrick is a founder of Operation Homefront, and has run the Oklahoma chapter (now merged with Arkansas) since 2009. The group has provided over $5 million in support to military families and wounded warriors in Oklahoma, assisting more than 15,000 families. Her husband Donald is a First Sergeant in the U.S. Army; they have two children: Jessica and Matthew.
Herrick is only the second woman to receive the Matthew John Kane public service award, named in memory of the first Roman Catholic to serve on the Oklahoma state Supreme Court. M.J. Kane IV, a district judge in Osage County and a member of Council 1038, attended the event to help honor Herrick and Beltran. The first woman to win the Kane Award, in 2008, was then-Congresswoman and now Gov. Mary Fallin. Other past winners include Frank Lucas, Don Nickles, Frank Keating, David Walters and Dan Webber, educators Burns Hargis and James Halligan, national commentator Deal Hudson and Kansas U.S. Sen. (now Gov.) Sam Brownback.
The event, held at the 50 Penn Place banquet facilities, was organized by Kane Assembly Faithful Navigator Pat Determan, Vice-Supreme Master Paul Weigl (a provincial leader for the fraternal organization), Steve Lalli, a past faithful navigator and Assembly member Peter Pembroke. Knights hold the dinner customarily on Feb. 22, George Washington’s Birthday, the anniversary of founding of the Fourth Degree, deemed the patriotic and “visible” arm of the Knights, where engagement with the community and nation is exemplified.
A night for patriots: Knights honor past archbishop, family advocate and military hero
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