Without a doubt, there were many profiteers among the Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, Dutch, and English explorers who followed after Columbus, venturing forth in search of gold and other treasures. Yet this material goal still did not totally eclipse the vision of those who saw that the harvest was also ripe for the winning of souls to Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven. Many missionary priests and religious brothers also came on these voyages, for both the spiritual needs of the explorers and to bring the Catholic Faith to the native peoples of this vast land. Over the next few centuries, immigrants from numerous European countries came to the colonies in search of religious freedom and the opportunity for a new way of life in a land whose (eventual) Constitution would make no provision for an established state religion, and supposed equality for all people to worship God as they saw fit. However, that did not mean that religious persecution – particularly that of Catholics – would be completely unheard of.
Fast-forward 375+ years. Late-19th century Connecticut was marked by the growing prevalence of fraternal benefit societies, hostility toward Catholic immigrants and dangerous working conditions in factories that left many families fatherless. Recognizing a vital, practical need in his community, Father Michael J. McGivney, the 29-year-old assistant pastor of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., gathered a group of men at his parish on Oct. 2, 1881. He proposed establishing a lay organization, the goal of which would be to prevent Catholic men from entering secret societies whose membership was antithetical to Church teaching, to unite men of Catholic faith and to provide for the families of deceased members. The most recent biography of Fr. McGivney is simply called Parish Priest. There could be no greater calling for any priest than to be simply a parish priest.
As a symbol that allegiance to their country did not conflict with allegiance to their faith, the organization’s members took as their patron Christopher Columbus — recognized as a Catholic and celebrated as the discoverer of America. Thanks to Father McGivney’s persistence, the Knights of Columbus elected officers in February 1882 and officially assumed corporate status on March 29.
In addition to the Order’s stated benefits, Catholic men were drawn to the Knights because of its emphasis on serving one’s Church, community and family with virtue. Writing in The Columbia in 1898, a year before he was elected supreme knight, Edward L. Hearn wrote that a Knight should live according to the virtues of loyalty, charity, courtesy and modesty, as well as “self-denial and careful respect for the feelings of others.” Fraternity and patriotism were added to the Knights’ founding principles of charity and unity in 1885 and 1900, respectively.
Venerable Michael McGivney’s foresight of over 130 years ago is still very much in effect today, and perhaps just as necessary for the Catholic community as it was then. The Knights of Columbus insurance program is one of the largest and most secure in the world. Members participating in the program have the ability to provide for their loved ones in the event of a major calamity or death. The Knights and their work are not just present here in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, but in a number of countries in South America, Asia, and Europe. The Knights are a bulwark and example of organized Catholic laity taking their gift of faith and fraternity and defending the teaching of the Church and the rights of Catholics against segments of society (and governments) that are becoming increasingly atheistic; hostile towards religion in general and the Catholic Church most specifically.
The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic, fraternal, charitable order open to Catholic men 18 years and older who are in good standing with the Church, believe in Her teachings, are faithful to Holy Mass and the sacraments, and who want to bring the charity of Christ to others, both Catholics and those outside the Church. Included within the Order are the Columbiettes – the women’s branch – and the Squires and Squirettes –open respectively to Catholic boys and girls below the age of 18.
In our parish of St. Paul we are blessed to have both the Knights of Columbus and the Squires. Our Council is the St. Paul the Apostle Council of the K of C 6802 and is ably led by our Grand Knight Peter Boyle. He stands on the shoulders of our past Grand Knights (PGK) and is doing a terrific job, aided by his fine officers. Just last week I was so edified by the wonderful ceremony of the Installation of Officers. (The priests need good example also). Here were a group of dedicated men, most husbands and fathers, committing themselves to live the life of a Catholic Gentleman. We are so blessed to also have the Eugene J. Reilly Squire Circle #5612. This group of young men is led by our Chief Squire Daniel Esposito. They provide innumerable services to the parish and community and they make all of us very proud.
The Knights and the Squires both have the same goal of being focused on serving Jesus Christ and His Holy Church and trying to get to heaven by being shining examples of Catholic gentlemen in their parish and in the community while performing charitable works and enjoying each other’s company. I highly recommend membership in the Order to every practicing Catholic man. And yes, I am a Fourth Degree Knight and have the honor to serve as the chaplain of both the Knights and the Squires.
We extend sincere congratulations to Maria Berardi, Karen Graff, and Anne Maione, who were honored with Catechetical Service Awards last Tuesday evening at St. Agnes Cathedral for their many years of dedicated work in our Parish Faith Formation Program. I had the happiness to be with them in the Cathedral that evening. We extend sincere congratulations to Anne Maione who today (Sunday) will receive the St. Agnes Medal from Bishop Murphy at St. Agnes Cathedral. As you know, each year a different parishioner receives this honor.
I wish to thank one of our young parishioners, Alexandra Black, who is dedicating so much time, effort, and energy in establishing a Catholic youth group here at St. Paul’s. Alexandra is a senior at Kellenberg Memorial High School and was at World Youth Day in Brazil during the summer. May the seed she is now planting have a wonderful growth with God’s grace. It is an endeavor very close to my heart
Finally, may I thank you for all your effort in learning the new sung Mass parts under the able leadership of our organist, Gary Ducoing, and our cantors, Eva Ponce and Cecelia Hayden. These Mass parts are easier to sing and bring an order and serenity to the soul as does all Gregorian chant. The organist, cantors and I have been meeting to plan the establishment of a choir. Details will be coming forth soon. I have been so pleased that during October, the month of the Holy Rosary, we have been singing the Hail Mary after Holy Communion at every Mass. We will do so again in May, the month of Our Lady.
In Jesus and Mary
Monsignor James F. Pereda