.- The Knights of Columbus awarded top honors to three Catholic families who have shown exceptional service to their surrounding communities.
Ronald and Elizabeth Simurdiak of Phillips, Wisconsin were named the International Family of the Year by the knights during the group's 129th convention in downtown Denver from Aug. 2-4.
The Simurdiaks mortgaged their family farm to purchase property that was transformed into a St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store for low income individuals. The whole family – including 19-year-old Joesph, 17-year-old John, and 9-year-old Jenna – worked together to raise funds for the effort.
Parents Ronald and Elizabeth also volunteer as teachers on a Native American reservation and assist with catechism and confirmation classes at their parish.
Their local pastor describes them as “the epitome of a giving family.”
The winners of the first runner-up Family of the Year are Ray and Tina Barr from Brook Park, Ohio. Ray and Tina, along with their four children, are deeply involved in their parish life. In addition to serving on multiple parish committees, Ray also serves on the local town council and community emergency response team.
Tina, who is active in the family church's youth ministry, is also a member of the local ladies auxiliary of the knights.
The couples' four children contribute as altar servers for their parish.
Sam and Mary Bazzarelli from St. Albert in Alberta, Canada are the second runner-up Family of the Year. Sam is a counselor for their local Squires Circle, president of his parish council and assists refugee families in adjusting to the community. Mary serves as chair of her local Catholic school, helps deliver meals to families in crisis and will chaperone her parish's trip to World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain later this month.
The Knights of Columbus convention in Denver this week brings together 500 delegates – including 85 bishops – from the global, 1.8 million member organization.