By Dan Russo
DAVENPORT — Matt Bahl, a 2017 graduate of Wahlert Catholic High School in Dubuque, was recently honored as the 2017 Knight of the Year for Iowa by the Knights of Columbus at the organization’s state convention in Davenport April 6-8.
Bahl, one of the youngest members of David J. Ochs Council 15813 in Dubuque, has only been a Knight for a short time, but is an extremely active member of the Catholic fraternal organization. He was selected from about 33,000 Knights in the state due to his work on charitable causes, his dedication to the church, and the strength and faithfulness he demonstrated while experiencing a personal health crisis over the past year.
In 2017, Bahl participated in his council’s Food for Families Thanksgiving and Christmas events during which meals are distributed to households in need, volunteered at multiple fundraisers, including all parish breakfasts, donated his time to hand out Tootsie Rolls during an annual event to support persons with mental and physical disabilities, served on the Fourth Degree color guard at various parish events, and provided help in numerous other capacities. At St. Columbkille Parish, Bahl serves as an usher and eucharistic minister and has participated in a trip to the March for Life in Washington, D.C..
“Matt deserves to be recognized by the State of Iowa and his fellow brother Knights because of his involvement in Council 15813, his parish and community,” read the application for the award submitted by Bahl’s council. “Matt may be young, but his spirit and determination have been noticed by others within our council. As our past (financial secretary) stated, ‘While so many of us Knights have many years and pounds more than Matt, it is exciting to see the future of the Knights and our Church in Matt’s Youth.’”
Bahl also provided inspiration to many and helped to unite his community in prayer and action as a result of an unexpected serious health problem diagnosed in the then 19-year-old.
“In July of 2017, Matt received the news that he had a brain tumor,” read the award application. “At a time in his life when he should have been looking forward to college, jobs, fun, etc.; Matt was faced with a life-changing event. He faced every challenge thrown at him with a positive attitude and knew he was putting faith in God’s hands.”
Despite this situation, Bahl remained active serving his community.
“Matt was directly involved in two council fundraisers done to support his family with defraying the costs of countless tests, doctors’ visits and finally surgery,” wrote the council leaders. “He exemplified courage and was thankful and humble in his response to the overwhelming support shown by his parish, community and council members.”
Bahl had to put plans to attend college on hold temporarily, but is now recovering and continues to serve his community.
“Matt’s surgery … at the Mayo clinic was successful, but this was yet again another event that showed the deep concern and love for Matt displayed by others,” read the application. “Even though Matt had already graduated from Wahlert Catholic High School, a prayer service was held at the school on the day of Matt’s surgery. At the same time, a number of Knights and their spouses gathered at the Power of Prayer Adoration Chapel to pray for Matt’s health and recovery during the entire surgery. Both of these prayerful events were due to the positive influence Matt has had on so many people.”
Matt Bahl (center) shown after receiving the award for 2017 Knight of the Year for Iowa. Also pictured (l to r): Antonio Banuelos, KC state deputy; Steve Hesprich; Mark Hoeger; Deacon Travis King; and Bishop Tom Zinkula of Davenport. David J. Ochs council has brought home the Iowa Knight of the Year award four out of the last five years. (Hesprich 2014, Hoeger 2015, King 2017, Bahl 2018) (Contributed photo)