Two Polish Knights: A Photoblog of a Father and Son’s Faith Journey.

Walk of Faith

I grew up the only-child of the first Polish Permanent Deacon of the Catholic Church’s history. He defected from Poland during communist occupation as a seminarian and is very close to the St. Maximilian Kolbe story. He retired from the US Department of Justice where he served as a full time chaplain at many different Prisons throughout the United States. While growing up, when he had clergy over for dinner, I never sat at the kid’s table; I grew up listening to many powerful stories of Polish strength. Our story is very unique and I feel it could be a book or a movie. Here are a few photos that showcase our life-long walk of Faith giving testimony to our journey for Religious Freedom, New Evangelization, Divine Mercy, and living FULLY ALIVE!


 

Photos

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In the 1980s, my dad and I – his Polish American son.

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In the 90s, we brought Franciszek Gajowiczek (Mr. G) to Houston to visit the Saint Maximilian Kolbe church. Here’s a family photo with my parents and Mr.G taking with the local multi-ethnic community.

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Here I am participating while wearing a cassock at the Polish mission church in Houston with Fr. Prill who was persecuted by German Nazis. Dad being deacon was something I was used to, but to Poland… it was something their modern community hasn’t heard about, a Polish Deacon?! He can marry and have child? They never heard of clergy like this. Here is a photo of the first Polish Deacons in history celebrating Mass with his Polish American son.

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That Mass somehow made the newspapers in Poland. It was the first time many people in Poland saw a married clergy, a deacon. It just so happened to be the first time many people in Poland saw a Knight of Columbus. After this published in Poland, we started getting a lot of visitors from Poland come and stay with us in America. Many of my dad’s friends from seminary in Poland reached out to dad.

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My dad studied philosophy in seminary in Poland. He knew many languages including Polish, Russian, German, English, and Latin. Look at the image on the wall,  he is a lifelong student of Maximilian Kolbe.

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Many years later, dad studied environment remains similar and delightfully simple. He has the same images on the wall, his pen and pad, but now he has his son helping the story be heard on the internet. Here I am filing images of Mr. G and organizing various relics.

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The communist made my dad join their army and forbid him to Mass. Here is a photo of him as a lector… participating in Mass at the same time disobeying a direct order. Once this image surfaced within the community, they publicly intimidated my dad to denounce the Faith. He was famously last heard yelling, “I want to know nothing of communist, but I want to know everything about Jesus Christ” before being dragged into an area named “Place without God” for a long period of time of torture.

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A few years later, here is a photo of my dad in the US Army with my mom in Germany on a tank called The Priest. They were both working in the chapel. I was born in Germany on American soil in 1982. I think you can say that dad has a look of victory on his face.

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I have this hanging in my home. Not many can say that a saint sent them a birthday card. This is a pledge of heavenly favors sent to me by the pride of Poland, Saint John Paul II. When receiving this, I remember my dad looking at it for days. Dad said to me, “Do you have any idea where I was just 30 years ago, boy?” With tears he said to me” You have a Polish Pope… and he sent you his blessing.”

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Lech Walesa came to speak at University of Kentucky and my dad was invited to meet him. Here is a photo of me and the Polish President with my dad just behind me.

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Dad encouraged me to pick a major that challenges me to learn to think critically and to see what the other side of ideology is teaching. I was in the political science department studying sociology at a school notoriously known as a liberal institution. I was involved at the Center of Global Engagement on the Spiritual Life Project working in public relations. This project was to make available to the student community choices of spiritual engagements. I was an advocate of Catholic values and on a panel was representatives of Islam and pro-active atheist; once the Dean/VP of the school literally called on the phone my parents to tell them that our Catholic views of ideal marriages being between a man and woman went against the culture of the school and to rethink what they are teaching our home and listening to at church (2013). I stated publicly then and still do: tolerance of evil is too close to acceptance of evil. When the dean called, my dad recognized the dean’s German name and he finished the conversation speaking German. Dad and I then made a bonfire where he opened up to me how he survived an institution that wasn’t aligned with his best interest. We played chess and he spoke to me in between-the-lines, “Benjamin, there’s snakes in the grass. Be true to yourself. Plant seeds.”

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Here is a photo of me and president of Florida State University with a professor from outside my department who I completed independent study for. This was a dinner rewarding excellence. While being at odds within my department and my professor who advocated  World Classification Theory (modern day Marxism mixed with communism), I managed to get invited to the president’s dinner anyways…  My professor was a Berkeley grad who studied Life in Eastern Europe in the 1960s. He published that the life span expectancy above age 30 of a Polish male born within the 10 year span that my dad was born, was less than .01%. He told me in a private conversation the likeliIn thihood  that my father survived defecting communism as a Catholic seminarian was impossible; the same professor told my class that the Catholic view of marriage was hate speech.

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I couldn’t be more happy to be done with FSU. Post graduation, the academic dean told me, “If your views aren’t within the circle of common interest, you are in a lonely world. A voice is much stronger within an institution.” He was telling me this in interest of humanistic secularism suggesting that the modern progressive movement (liberal agenda) doesn’t include any form of religion. Furthermore if I remain outside of the agenda, that my Faith was inferior to his science. Look at my dad behind me, how happy he was that I was fished with this university. I look forward to further education from another school.

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Maybe the dean was correct that a voice is stronger within an institution. I became an active member in an institution of integrity with many colleagues of Catholic Gentlemen. The first year there was 4th degree Knights in Poland, my dad and I became exemplified Knights of Columbus with the same class, but in Orlando. Look at the center of the photo, you will see my dad standing. This was the 1st year media and cameramen where allowed at this part of the ceremony. This photo was published locally and shared globally.

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Dad and I. He likes this photo.

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Polish Archbishop Thomas Wenski, during a lighthearted moment, asking my dad in Polish what happened to his beard. The first time they met, my dad was growing a beard during a year to remember late Pope John Paul II. The archbishop once came to my dad’s work at the federal prison in Tallahassee to celebrate Mass with the female inmates in four languages.

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Here’s a photo with my dad and Bishop Gregory Parkes, the tallest bishop in the world. This is near my dad’s land in Tallahassee where there is a land lot dedicated to remember La Florida Martyrs. I showed up with my camera and joined the momentum offering photojournalism to the project in the early stages.

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Little did I know the first photo I would take with my new camera would be a photo of three bishops having a special Mass (that was parctically in my backyard) published globally by EWTN. I was only the photojournalist but the author of the article made it sound like I planned the entire event, “Mass for Florida Martyrs Credit: Benjamin Horbowy”  Read the story for yourself, it was a remarkable event.

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One of the first times I wore regalia with the color guard was at this cool site that’s historic La Florida and shows how Florida was in the 1700s. Look at the tent and the old fashion knight in the back. Here is a photo the local Knights of Columbus providing the bishop an escort.  I had a squire working the camera.

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This is what the bishop posted for the event. We were there only to celebrate a historic Mass. This was my first time posing with the bishop as a KofC… look at the next picture how the local media spun the story.

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I wasn’t happy at the slightest when the local newspaper posted my face in my Knights of Columbus regalia with a headline that promotes witchcraft. They totally got the point of the Mass wrong and even cut out the bishop. I told myself that for the next local Catholic function I will have to write for the newspaper myself or else they will always spin good news into … secular propaganda.

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For a few years in a row, Archbishop Thomas Wenski would visit Tallahassee during the Red Mass. Every visit, I would get a moment with the Polish Archbishop of Miami. His advice was always very short, simple, and profoundly prolific. “Carry on the spirit of Poland. Work with youth.”

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I started working with middle school youth groups.

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With the Knights, I became a youth leader with the Squires program at John Paul II High School. I was recruited into the position of Deputy Grand Knight with the council and Faithful Captain with the assembly. With the school, they logged the students’ time with the squires as an executive leadership program. One seed this group of gentlemen planted was the founding of the http://www.WorldYouthFund.org which one day we wish to systematize and streamline fundraising for youth within the Knights of Columbus – the goal is to provide funds for youth to attend World Youth Days. This global project and an ambition of mine is currently inactive pending, but we own the domain name for life.

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The first project we did with the Squires and John Paul II high school was source funding and recruiting an artist to create a statue of the Pride of Poland. Here are the Squires, Knights, and the statue per-completion.

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The squires achieved a great success by providing the community with the likeness of the Pride of Poland. Here Bishop Gregory Parkes is giving the Church’s blessing of the image of the Pope. I wrote the story for the newspaper this time to ensure the proper exposure.

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While many, many local Catholics were happy the event was covered in the paper with 4 color photos, I never felt so much backlash from the general public. I received more than 400 messages that week from all kinds of hate against Catholics: about worshiping statues, about clergy working with youth, about a Pope, yada yada yada. I submitted 5 photos of the event and even a #PopeSelfie with the squires. The media cutout again the bishop. Where is there anything hateful about this article? So where did all that hateful mail come from? The Knights gave me a special thank you for all this, Knight of the Month.

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The assembly in the capital city of Florida does a lot of cool color guard events. Here we are marching on the capital. We had guys on the sides of the parade passing out Rosaries.

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Our assembly was able to get the Nativity Scene placed in the capital. However, we used a political strategy that allows for all forms of religious expression. The local community mocked us by placing obscene statues that represented their humanistic inspired “nonreligious-religious” group. Hey, dad said, “there’s snakes in the grass.” What was a noble gesture to share our Faith, turned out to be loophole for bad things too.

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As a U.S. Army Veteran (2001-2007) and Color Corp Commander for the Patriotic 4th Degree of the Knights of Columbus, I was proud to present the US Flag at the capital building of Florida for Flag Day that is also the Army’s birthday. Florida July in a tux, anyone?

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For me, I was honored that the first time the Knights of Columbus officially published a photo of me, that it was while I was doing something most sacred providing guard for the Most Holy of Adoration. Since I had on a purple cape, they asked me to lead the procession, “No thank you, I will follow Jesus. ” @KofC tweeted this.

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The newspaper was bought by a larger media company; I was informed that I was no longer a columnist in the Religious section, but now I was titled as a community blogger for the faith section. Many people in the Catholic community were happy that I was able to get a photo of all the clergy in the paper. I liked the line I put in the write-up: when a priest travels in basketball, they call it a pilgrimage. I had to mention silly things like that in order to get the story even published. The message I put in the paper was mainly about how much the Knights of Columbus helped the school by providing this event and raising thousands of dollars, but what came out was one line that the knights were there selling hot dogs. I took it as an insult from the paper to butcher my article and put the story under the fold with a generic sports image on the cover of the new Faith section. Listen, editors know every tiny detail about the messages delivered and how to mislead. When she (the new editor from the media company) edited the word “Jesus” out of this article, I left the paper. I guess you can say my last article for them was a slam dunk.

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I met my soulmate and married her on 1-15-15. Look where one of our first dates was: Knights of Columbus HQ in New Haven, Connecticut. She knew what she was getting into.

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In St. Mary’s where the Knights of Columbus was founded by Fr. McGivney, my wife and I were there the week we married. I was surprised what was across the street, the Skull and Bones Tomb of the highest order of masons. As Knights of Columbus, we are Catholic Gentlemen and founded as soldiers in spiritual warfare; Fr McGiviney visioned this more so than he envisioned the KofC to be an insurance company. I am happy to be a part of an organization that supports Catholic values. Our organization was formed 100 years before I was born in 1882.

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On the drive down, moving my wife from New York to Florida, we stopped in the National Shrine of John Paul II in Washington DC. Many people don’t know that this is a Knights of Columbus funded project – ask the tour guild how many millions of dollars KofC donated. Walking through the museum is a masterful delivery of the messages of Saint John Paul II’s legacy. He planted seeds throughout the world and had a passion to work with youth. This place showcases one of the missions JPII started, World Youth Days.

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Also at the National Shrine of St. John Paul II, a display of the martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe. I have some artwork and relics that this place might be interested in showcasing.

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Here’s a photo of me providing escort for the Florida State Deputy Paul Koppie at an assembly meeting in our new Parrish. After marring my wife, we moved from the capital city to Tampa Bay. I told my wife that I just spent a few years being very active with the Knights and maybe I could fly under the radar for a while. That never happened, within a month of my relocation the state council named me as the Public Relations Coordinator for the Diocese of St. Petersburg.  I created and currently host some of the largest Knights of Columbus digital communities and groups in the world, one being Tampa Bay Knights on Facebook and another group for 4th degree knights from around the world.  Not long after I was introduced publicly to the state, assemblies, and councils, we found out that one must be a PGK to be in this position. I wasn’t qualified yet, so I gave back the title. Now no one is in this role.

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The Papal Crest. I enjoy doing things for the Church more than engaging in the local politics of state councils. I love the new evangelization, being active in Catholic fraternity, and supporting charity. The Knights of Columbus help in more ways than many know. Here’s a photo of me carrying the Pope’s Crest at our local Parrish. My dad loves this photo.

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With my wife, Susan, after the 2015 Christmas Parade. It was an honor to wear regalia on loan to me by a knight of more than 50 years as we participated in a Tampa Bay event.

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Before the community, at my annual keynote on Global Polish Affairs at the Polish Society of Florida, I announced my marriage publicly as well as share stories of the Knights of Columbus in relation to the Polish community.  In this speech, I quoted the Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, the president of Poland, and Cardinal Burke. The speech ended by everyone in the room repeating together 10x, “Jesus I trust in You.” A member of the homosexual community reacted saying this speech contained hateful material and then they complained to the Knights of Columbus HQ, State Council, and my bishops office. His approach to me was that my beautiful marriage was insulting to his community and that the Knights was an organization to harbor pedophilia. In a heated moment, I told him to shut his face and that I don’t have time for a liberal antagonist. With that, he made a complaint to the Knights that I was outside the behavior of a Catholic gentleman. I had to write a formal response. Thankfully, thousands of Knights have supported me and encouraged me to continue to publicly  my witness of the Faith. The full speech is on youtube and posted at the bottom of this blog. I ask: where is there anything hateful at all .. or anything that would trigger any sober soul to be offended?   “Liberal Catholics are the worst enemies of the Church.” Pope Pius IX

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During this speech about our Polish heritage, our lives within the Church, the Faith, and relating it with the acts of Knights of Columbus, my dad joined me on stage to tell me, “I’m proud of you, son.” He has my back on this speech.

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“Benjamin, it’s time to tell the world!” My dad, Deacon Ted – Sir Knight and Reverend Mr. Thaddeus J. Horbowy – giving witnessees of the Faith, the power of Divine Mercy, and the strength of the Polish community. This was at the St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Houston.

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A Polish Knight’s hat in the Knights of Columbus Museum. The Polish are a huge supporter of the KofC. Poland is hosting World Youth Day 2016 and celebrating 1050 years of Christianity. Who do you think is arranging logistics of the event? Just last year – there were 30 newly ordained KofC Priests in Poland.

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These boots are in the Knights of Columbus HQ. They were made by an inmate on a life sentence. My dad was the inmate’s chaplain when my dad worked for Texas Department of Criminal Justice in maximum security prisons prior to his career working for the feds.

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These boots were made for my dad by the same life-sentence inmate who made boots for the Knights HQ.  My dad promised the inmate 25 years ago that he would help him get parole. My dad just made good (the other day) on that promise and the inmate is currently in a halfway home in Kyle, Texas being processed back into society.

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This photo was in the early 90s in Brzeg, Poland after visiting the home of Mr.G. Francis. This church is where he started a friendship with my dad Dec 12, 1970 giving him advice how to survive communism as a seminarian. We are holding the painting of St Maximilian Kolbe that Mr. G.Fransis signed. I was actually in Poland before AND after the fall of communism.

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My dad kept the painting in storage for about 20 years. When he opened it for the first time, he showed me the personal messages Mr. G.Francis wrote on the back of the painting and told me that something this valuable should only be owned by the Church.

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My father and I with the Polish Archbishop of Miami a day after opening the painting’s storage crate. The wooden carving is also signed.

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There are two paintings. One is a relic signed by Mr. G.Francis with a few cardinals’ and bishops’ signatures, this one is property of the church, in my family’s possession. Then the other painting is part of a mission to share the message of St Maximilian Kolbe, this one is property of my family. Later, it will be offered to the church once the painting finishes its purpose. Here is my father and the second painting being blessed by Cardinal Burke – Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

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My dad with the nun, Sr. Lareta in Krakow, Poland who made his deacon stole. This was the first deacon she met, as such this is the first deacon’s stole she made. She is in the same order of Sr. Faustina. Photo credit: Nancy Horbowy

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My dad with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo – the Archbishop of Galveston Houston, my dad’s archbishop.

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My dad with his goddaughter, of Russian decent, in Louisville, KY at her confirmation by Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz, President of the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Archbishop Jose Ruis Arenas visited Tallahassee, FL February 9, 2015. He spoke with my dad in Spanish about Prison Ministry for Death Row Inmates. He is the Secretary for the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

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Tallest statue of Jesus in the world. It was built 2010 and 30 miles from where my dad grew up in Poland.

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Fr. Francis from Sunny Hill, FL the spiritual leader of this painting’s pilgrimage. The goal is to place the painting in Nagasaki Japan after visiting the world.

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Veteran’s Day in Sunny Hill cemetery presented with the Knights of Columbus in Panama City. A video of the presentation is at the end of this blog.

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World known Franciscan Monk in La Crosse, WI signing the painting.

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Dr. Ricardo Grzona, Founder of the Ramon Pane Foundation for New Evangelization.

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Vietnamese man signing the painting on his 100th birthday

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My parish priest, Our Lady of Lourdes Dunedin, FL, Fr. Claudius signing the painting in Swaheli

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Polish Community of Clearwater, Florida.


Videos

Dad speaking to Polish Military men at the foot of the largest Jesus statue in the world in Poland only 30 miles from where he grew up.

Polish Global Affairs Keynote 2015 – Tallahassee, FL Polish Society of Florida.

Presentation of the Painting to the Polish community of Sunny Hills, FL.

Providing escort for our bishop as we publicly venerate this statue of St. John Paul II at the Catholic High School, John Paul II in Tallahassee. This video brought me much hateful emails from the antagonist anti-catholic community.

FYI: This is what is going on in Poland in today’s climate and a showcase of how serious we are as a community to defend religious freedom.


What’s Next in this Journey

My father is continuing to travel with the painting and we invite the Knights of Columbus to participate locally and globally. The painting journey is still alive with interest of being showcased in Poland, the Vatican, throughout USA, and on it’s way to Japan. My dad received a blessing from His Holiness Pope Francis on his 25th Anniversary of his Ordination of the Permanent Deacons.

With the Knights of Columbus, my father and I are transferring to Texas. He will rejoin the council he originally joined in Livingston Texas where they are active in prison ministry. I am joining the St. Maximilian Kolbe council where we brought Mr.G.Francis to visit in the early 90s.

The council number 16670 (which was Fr. Kolbe’s Auschwitz inmate number) is coming up and I am advocating that this council be a Knights of Columbus Multicultural Polish Council honoring St. Maximilian Kolbe. Leadership on the supreme level, in Texas, Japan, and Poland has shown interest in developing the council.


 

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Although I am pending an inactive status with the Knights of Columbus, I am not going anywhere far. I still host a few of the most popular digital communities with fellow Knights from around the world, am the founder of the WorldYouthFund.org – a future fundraising project for World Youth Days, and have relics of St. Maximilian Kolbe to share. I’m 33… if i double my age and return at 66, I still would be one of the youngest knights I know. Jokingly, in this photo, I am parked in Supreme Knight Carl Anderson’s space one a day he was out. “Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.”


 

For more information

BenjaminHorbowy@gmail.com

727-249-2272

 

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