The Knights of Columbus have returned to Tioga County after a nearly 35-year hiatus — and it appears to be back stronger than ever, as evidenced by the enthusiasm surrounding Blessed Trinity Council 251’s formal activation on Sept. 14.
"To sum up in one word, spectacular. I couldn’t have asked for anything better," Will Gower said of the event at St. Patrick Church in Owego, which featured a Mass and banquet.
Gower serves as grand knight for one of the most newly activated councils in the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization. K of C members in the United States and other countries serve the Catholic Church and wider community through volunteer work, charitable giving, an insurance program and advancing public policy based on church teachings.
Formal efforts to form a Tioga-area K of C council began nearly two years ago, thanks in part to strong encouragement from Father William Moorby, pastor of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes. In his July 7, 2013, bulletin column, Father Moorby noted that his brother, David, had become a Knight of Columbus at his parish in the state of Washington.
"He talked to me about the things he was involved with for the church as a Knight, and his enthusiasm led me to ask the men of our parishes if they were interested in forming a local council," wrote Father Moorby, who is Council 251’s chaplain.
Indeed there was interest, between men willing to become first-time Knights and others who committed to transferring membership from other councils. Bob Weitzman, an Endicott, Broome County, resident who was the K of C membership director for upstate New York at the time, said these men were encouraged to spread the word as much as possible and "it kind of took on a life of its own."
Eventually the Tioga contingent reached the minimum total of 30 to form a council, as specified by Supreme Council, the K of C’s governing body. (Weitzman noted that the lower limit has since been changed to 20.) Blessed Trinity Council received its charter from Supreme this past April 18, and it was formally presented at the Sept. 14 event at St. Patrick Church. Supreme Director Art Harris, a resident of the Rochester area, also presided over the installation of new council officers that evening.
This actually isn’t the first time a Tioga-area Council 251 has existed. It originally was chartered in 1897 as St. James Council 251 in Waverly, and continued for several decades until disbanding in 1979. Weitzman noted that the number 251 was still available when the new group was formed, and Blessed Trinity Council was thus able to reclaim it.
Gower said approximately 40 men from all parts of Tioga County are currently active with the council. The Knights hold meetings on the third Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m., alternating between St. Patrick and St. James churches. They will next meet on Oct. 17 at St. James. (Those interested in joining the Knights should contact Gower at 607-687-8904 or Bob Krempa, membership director, at email@example.com.)
Why become a Knight of Columbus? Gower, who also previously served as a grand knight while living in Delaware, sees this as perfect vehicle for adult men of all ages to share their faith.
"Catholic fraternal brotherhood, those simple words," he said.
In addition to meetings, the Knights have been engaged in such goodwill efforts as helping construct a new playground at St. Patrick School and assisting with parish pancake breakfasts. Up ahead are selling raffle tickets as part of a major fundraiser to support St. Patrick School; cosponsorship of a Binghamton Senators hockey game on Nov. 2 to support Lourdes Hospice; and the "Keep Christ in Christmas" initiative that emphasizes the religious, rather than commercial, aspects of the holiday.
"I think we’ve achieved quite a lot, and I’m looking so forward to the future," Gower said.
Weitzman, who currently serves the Knights of Columbus as state warden, said this level of activity helps erase an inaccurate stereotype of the Knights as nothing more than a men’s social club.
"We are the right hand of the church," he stated.
Gower observed that by being so visible in the community, the Knights naturally attract even more quality members such as the eight Knights who he said recently joined Council 251.
"It’s like a full circle. When you do good deeds, those good deeds eventually come back to you," he remarked.