The Knights of Columbus say Dechant was instrumental in helping to grow the Knights of Columbus, and fostering the organization's collaboration with the Vatican during the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II.
Dechant "forged a close relationship with the Vatican during the pontificate of St. John Paul II, leading the Order to sponsor numerous renovation projects – including of the façade of St. Peter's Basilica, and working with the pope to promote the faith in Eastern Europe, which was then behind the iron curtain," the Knights of Columbus said in a press release.
He also "oversaw tremendous growth in the Order's membership as well as in its assets and insurance business, while also opening the Order to greater involvement by the wives and families of its members," according to the statement.
Dechant was a Kansas native who farmed, sold farm equipment, and owned a car dealership before he began working for the Knights of Columbus as Supreme Secretary in 1967. He became Supreme Knight ten years later.
In recognition of his committment to the pro-life movement, Dechant received the National Right to Life Award in 1998. He was also the recipient of several Vatican honors,
In 2005, he escorted President George W. Bush to the funeral of Pope St. John Paul II at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.