Don Palace of Rochester is trying to achieve social change with spare change.
Each Advent he helps Blessed Damien of Molokai Knights of Columbus Council No. 11411 at Rochester’s St. Anne and Brighton’s Our Lady of Lourdes parishes collect money for the post-abortion healing and counseling programs Project Rachel and Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat.
Through the urging of Palace and other local Knights, Knights of Columbus throughout the state pledged in 2006 to support such post-abortion counseling services as Project Rachel along with their other designated charities. Palace said he hopes to see the national Knights of Columbus organization make the same pledge.
According to Father James Hewes, diocesan coordinator of Project Rachel and pastor of St. Joseph Church in Rush, spare change has added up to about $3,000 to $4,000 each year for Project Rachel and Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat.
But the spare-change project goes beyond dollars and cents, Father Hewes said.
“It’s not just raising money,” he said. “It’s raising awareness through the campaign.”
Roots of service
According to local Knights and clergy, pro-life projects are a natural extension of the concern for others that prompted 29-year-old Father Michael J. McGivney and a group of his parishioners to form the Knights of Columbus on Oct. 2, 1881, in the basement of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn.
The Knights’ first project was to start a life-insurance program for the widows and orphans of deceased members; that insurance program is now global in scope. Taking their name from explorer Christopher Columbus, the Knights have more than 1.7 million members from the U.S. and its territories, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and Poland.
As Knights have celebrated the 125th anniversary of their order during the past year, they have increased calls for sainthood for Father McGivney, who died in 1890 at the age of 38. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints is reviewing his life and a cure attributed to his intercession.
The Knights of Columbus is open to men who are practicing Catholics and 18 or older. The fraternal organization also offers affiliated organizations for boys, girls and women. Knighthood consists of four degrees that teach participants about the order’s values of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. Fourth-degree Knights also have the chance to join the area assembly’s color corps, which is recognizable by members’ tuxedos, feathered chapeaux (hats), capes and swords.
There are 100,000 Knights in the state and 6,000 in the Diocese of Rochester, said Arthur J. Harris of Penfield, secretary to state Deputy Edward F. Castellazzi and a member of Msgr. Richard K. Burns Council No. 11749 at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Irondequoit.
“It is the largest Catholic, family fraternal organization of the church,” Harris said.
Despite such large numbers, Knights say they have trouble getting the word out about their good works.
“Most people in our parishes have little or no idea what the Knights even are or what we do on a local level,” said Robert McClarrie, a district deputy in the Finger Lakes Chapter.
Global and local giving
Last year, the Knights from across the globe volunteered 68 million man hours and gave $144 million to charity, including nearly $3 million to pro-life ministries, Harris said.
“We have taken on (the pro-life cause) because it’s part of our Catholic heritage to be in the forefront of these issues,” said Father John F. Gagnier, chaplain of the Knights’ Finger Lakes Chapter, which includes the Diocese of Rochester. He also is pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Greece.
Local Knights have supported crisis-pregnancy centers, participated in the annual March for Life, helped unify pro-life groups in Rochester, lobbied congressional representatives and state legislators about pro-life issues, hosted Masses for the unborn and taken part in pro-life rallies.
“A lot of it is through prayerful protests,” said Michael Flanagan, the faithful navigator, or head, of the John W. Steger Fourth Degree Assembly and a membership facilitator for the state council.
Knights also have built 21 memorials to the unborn throughout the diocese and opposed euthanasia.
“We’ve always believed in the sanctity of life,” Harris said.
Many local councils support seminarians and those pursuing vocations; host such youth events as sports tournaments; and raise tens of thousands of dollars for the Special Olympics and other charities.
James V. Smith, district deputy for District 88 and treasurer of the Finger Lakes Chapter, said Ithaca-area Knights have supported such area veterans’ organizations as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the VA Medical Centers in Canandaigua, Bath and Syracuse. Kevin Fitzpatrick, faithful navigator for the Finger Lakes Chapter and a member of Council 11411, said the Knights raised $3,200 this year for Rochester’s Veteran’s Outreach Center on South Avenue by selling flags for Flag Day.
Internationally the organization gave $1.2 million to education, $2.1 million to vocations, $9 million to community projects and $1.6 million to youth projects in 2006.
Local Knights say they get back as much as they give.
“I have really enjoyed it,” said Patrick O’Connor, warden, or officer, for the Finger Lakes Chapter and a member of Our Lady of the Cenacle Council No. 3892 in Greece. “When I started, I never dreamed I’d get this involved.”
Recruiting new members
To ensure its future, the national organization has suggested its members step up efforts to recruit more young people and minorities.
Last year, several Catholic young men at Rochester Institute of Technology followed this advice, founding the first college council in the diocese. In addition to Jesuit Father Richard Hunt, RIT chaplain, the initial founders were Nick Quaranto, Tim Garvin, Robbie Gladman and Josh Dietrich.
“I was the only one who was already a member back at home,” said 19-year-old Dietrich, a Mercer, Pa., native who is deputy grand Knight of the RIT council.
Dietrich acknowledged that he and other Knights are much younger than some of their other parish-based counterparts.
“But we all have the same mission no matter if they are old or young,” Dietrich said. “We’re here to serve the community.”
RIT Council No. 14336 will receive its charter at the 10 a.m. Mass Oct. 14 on RIT’s campus. A new council at Syracuse University also will receive its charter Oct. 5. Eighteen college councils operate in New York state, with the council at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point being the biggest in the state, Harris said.
“We are always looking to work with our youth and leaders of tomorrow,” Harris said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To find a local Knights of Columbus Council, visit www.kofc.org or call 203-752-4000. A 125th-anniversary dinner will take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 13 at Red Fedele’s Brook House Restaurant and Party House, 920 Elmridge Center Drive, Elmridge Plaza, Greece. Tickets are $30; for details call 585-964-3077. To reach Project Rachel, call 888-972-2435.
Knights to host anniversary banquet
Knights of Columbus Rochester Council No. 178 will host a banquet Saturday, Oct. 13, at Red Fedele’s Brook House Restaurant and Party House, 920 Elmridge Center Drive, Elmridge Plaza, Greece, in honor of the 125th anniversary of the national organization’s founding.
Father Gabrielle O’Donnell, the postulator for the sainthood of Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, will be the special guest and speaker.
Father O’Donnell also is the founder and president of the Father Michael J. McGivney Guild, whose main purpose is promoting Father McGivney’s sainthood.
Also present will be other special guests and clergy. Knights of Columbus New York State Deputy Edward Castellazzi and other Knights of Columbus dignitaries will be in attendance.
The event will begin at 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour. Dinner and festivities will begin at 7 p.m., and a prime-rib buffet will be served. The cost is $30 per person. For details, contact the Rochester Council No. 178 Grand Knight Tony Liccione at 585-964-3077.