Bidding Adieu to Tradition
Marquette Assembly Knights of Columbus say goodbye to chapeaus and capes
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
July 18, 2019
ELBURN—A special noon Mass on June 29 was the last official event where Knights of Columbus Marquette Assembly 188 wore the chapeaus and capes that have been a KC tradition for the last 60 years.
 
The international Knights of Columbus organization retired those distinctive and colorful parts of the fourth-degree official regalia as of June 30. 
 
The new regalia for fourth-degree members and the Color Corps present a subtler look. 
 
The Mass was celebrated by Father Christopher DiTomo, pastor of St. Gall Parish who will become a Fourth Degree Knight in October. 
 
Father DiTomo said in his homily that he liked the “very visible sign” of the traditional, brightly-colored regalia, “a change in regalia does not mean a change in mission. We still need you to be like (Saints) Peter and Paul.”
 
He challenged about 30 Fourth-Degree Knights who were present, saying, “You’re the ones who really try to live out all the virtues,” and even without the capes and colored hats “we can stand out just like the saints stood out.”
 
In his remarks following the Mass, District Marshall Ty Simmons admitted that he spent much of the past year telling people he had become a Knight for the regalia. An early-morning revelation reminded him that the Color Corps regalia in fact had not been his original motivation for joining.
 
The real reason, he told the men and women at the Mass, “was to serve our Church in the charitable efforts we put out, (and) I wanted to be a better Catholic.”
 
“I will not allow the demise of this beautiful regalia” to impact that quest, he added. “We are still the Knights as we were called to be ... let us not allow the regalia to define who we are. We can be better.”
Simmons said, “Nationwide there were several similar Masses for the Knights” to say good-bye to their old garb.
 
“There is no universal mandate as to disposal of the traditional regalia,” he added. “There will not be a mass burning event.” 
 
To his knowledge, many Knights are keeping the regalia they have always worn, “with prayers and hope” that there may be a chance for them to wear it again.
 
“I am not sure if that will ever happen,” he said, “but, I also hope that it may because of what the regalia has meant to the many brother Knights who wore the traditional regalia for many years as the visible arm of our order.”
 
At the Mass, most of the Knights wore red or white chapeaus and capes. However, Simmons wore green and Deputy Commander Bill Dugan wore purple. Two other Knights wore distinctively-colored chapeaus and capes as befitting their state and province offices. 
 
Gold feathers and cape identified former State Warden Raymond Biliskov of Schaumburg. Paul Isherwood, outfitted in a powder blue cape and feathered chapeau, came from Orland Park in support of these Knights whom he oversees as Vice Supreme Master of the Marquette Province. 
 
Isherwood says he switched last year to the new regalia and had not worn the traditional regalia for a while. 
 
He summed up the Elburn Mass, saying simply, “What a nice way to end it.”
 
Other Fourth Degree Knights in the diocese have also been making the change.
 
“The uniform, or regalia, that was just retired, and now changed to a new uniform, is not the original uniform of the Fourth Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus,” said Paul Kehoe, a member of Knights of Columbus Council 735 of St. James Parish in Belvidere and the Fourth Degree Assembly 198 in Rockford. He recently marked his 25th year as a Fourth Degree Knight.
 
The cape and chapeau uniform “has only been in use for the last 79 years,” Kehoe said.  “Prior to that, the Fourth Degree uniform included a tuxedo and a top hat and there were other changes before that.”
Chris Asher, recorder for the Knights of Columbus Siena Council 8596 of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in West Dundee, agrees.
 
“The type of uniform doesn’t matter to me,” Asher said. “Nothing will change, as we will continue to serve.”
 
Dan McCullough from St. Mary Parish Durand is a long-time member of the Bishop Muldoon Assembly 190 in Rockford. McCullough’s health led to opt to step down from active duty instead of buying a new uniform.
 
The new uniforms “look nice, but I prefer what we’ve had.” The chapeaus, he said, were designed “after an admiral’s cap because we’re named after Admiral Columbus.”
 
“We don’t always like change in our lives,” Kehoe said. “Change can be uncomfortable. ... but the mission still remains the same.”
 
 — Lynne Conner, Pat Szpekowski and Sharon Boehlefeld contributed to this story.