Knights of Peter Claver elect local as the 18th supreme knight
February 28, 2023
Knights of Peter Claver Supreme Knight Dr. Christopher Pichon speaks to parishioners, family, and guests at a Mass Blessing in honor of his election to the highest national office in the Order. The Mass, held on October 8, 2022 at his home parish of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Houston, was attended by members and officers from the local, state, and national levels. (Photo Courtesy of Dr. Christopher Pichon)
HOUSTON — The top two national positions in the Knights of Peter Claver Inc., the nation’s largest African American Catholic lay organization, are again claimed by Knights from the Archdiocese.
In July of 2022, Christopher Pichon, Ed.D., of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Houston was elected the 18th Supreme Knight and CEO, which is the top officer of the order. Pichon is also the assistant superintendent of operational vitality for the Catholic Schools Office of the Archdiocese. Reginald C. Auzenne of St. Phillip Neri Catholic Church in Houston is the 18th Supreme Navigator over the Meritorious Fourth Degree of the Order, the highest-ranking national officer of that division.
Auzenne, who is also the Grand Knight of Council 63 at Queen of Peace Catholic Church in La Marque, said the two roles were “a great acknowledgment to the leadership that Houston has developed.”
Pichon’s efforts are focused on revitalizing the Knights of Peter Claver, which was founded in 1909 by four priests of the Catholic order of Josephites, including a native from Poland and three black Catholic laymen in Mobile, Alabama. The Knights were named after St. Peter Claver, according to the Knights’ history.
Inspired by the acroynm “RISE,” Pichon plans a “reimagining the 21st Century health, viability and systems of the order;” improving the “inclusiveness of all members, regardless of age;” efforts to “reignite Spiritual works of mercy;” and “raise brand awareness and reputation of an eminent organization.”
Pichon said he hopes to lower the average age of the Order down from 71 to 55 and below, by “engaging more of the youth, the younger adults in the organization,” involving them in decision-making and other appealing activities. The order also has groups determining what the organization needs to do to remain “viable for the next 100 years,” he said.
A fourth-generation Knight, Pichon had a non-traditional journey to becoming Supreme Knight. Though both of his parents were in the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary at St. Francis Xavier, he didn’t become a member until adulthood.
In 1999, he volunteered to drive local youth members to a junior national convention in Washington, D.C., where they also did a Black college and history tour. During that trip, he learned more about the Order from Council 138 Knights Sam Lewis, who was the Junior Knight Commander at the time, and his Assistant Junior Knight Commanders Walter Lewis and Otis Bias. With Pichon working in the field of education, he joined to continue positively influencing young people at St. Francis Xavier.
After serving as assistant commander for some years, Pichon was encouraged to step up as junior knight commander. In that time, the Pichon family was starting to build their family’s legacy within the order. Gracious Lady Sonya Pichon, wife of Pichon of 33 years, served as Jr. Daughter Counselor for Court 138 and later served as Texas State directress. With two children serving on the Jr. Texas State Board, in 2006, Christopher Aaron Pichon II and Cambrian Pichon became the first brother-sister duo to be Junior Texas State Presidents for the Jr. Knights and Jr. Daughters. Sadly, a tragedy hit the Pichon family on Sept. 18, 2006, when 14-year-old Christopher II died from an unknown heart condition.
Chris Pichon said that the challenge, tragedy and hardship “drew us closer as a family.”
“It was a tremendous learning curve because we had to develop a different kind of skill set,” he said. “We had to develop the skill set of being able to endure while focusing on what is best for the entire family and not always what was best for us as individuals.”
Their son was then the second child that Chris and Sonya Pichon had lost. Their daughter Brittany had died shortly after birth.
In 2008, Pichon’s youngest son Cortney became the Jr. Texas State President and Pichon became the Texas State Conference Junior Knight director. After serving as state director for six years, Pichon then joined the national board as director general of the Junior Knights in 2014.
During his ascent, Pichon has showcased his knowledge of the organization and experience with youth as an educator, Auzenne said.
Cortney Pichon, who holds several titles, including national emerging leader chair, Senior Texas State financial secretary and newly elected Grand Knight for Council 138, said he’s “super proud” of his father’s accomplishments. The election confirmed what the family already knew: “that he was the best person for the job to revitalize the organization,” according to Cortney.
Despite a vibrant membership — there are more than 14,000 members worldwide — Pichon said he understands that the crisis happening in the Black Catholic churches, the decline of parishioners, ultimately affects KPC as well.
“We need to build our parishes back up, especially with our youth and young adults,” Pichon said. “They’re the ones that are seeking their spiritual guidance and spiritual growth in other areas, and some don’t see Catholicism doing it for them.”
Recruiting younger members is also a struggle that Auzenne is experiencing within the fourth-degree division.
Auzenne said a committee was focused on galvanizing leaders to engage and grow younger members.
“A younger makeup gives us new ideas and fresh beginnings,” he said. “We look forward to being able to share our wisdom and to help cultivate our young members so that we can start to grow as a fourth-degree division and we can move forward.”
For the first time in the organization’s history, all three divisions — the Knights, the Ladies Auxiliary and Junior divisions — will meet this summer at the 107th annual national convention in New Orleans for a Claver family Mass and other joint events.
“When we come together as a true family,” Pichon said, “that is what makes us truly a powerful, phenomenal organization.”