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Knights serve the community

Elizabeth Cheffers | Friday, September 24, 2004

Each year during the traditional Smokers event sponsored by the South Bend Knights of Columbus, there is a surge in student interest in the Knights – an organization that remains largely mysterious despite its easily identifiable stone building nestled beside the Coleman Morse Center.

In fact, the Knights of Columbus is the largest lay organization in the Catholic Church, with over 1.6 million members in 12 countries. It is dedicated primarily to serving each other and the community through educational, charitable, religious, social welfare, war relief and public relief works.

It was founded in 1882 by a 29 year-old parish priest, Father Michael McGivney, in the basement of Saint Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn. The Vatican is currently investigating McGivney’s case for sainthood.

Brent Burish, grand knight at Notre Dame, said the organization accepts only men so as to maintain its goal of being “Catholic gentlemen committed to the exemplification of charity, unity, fraternity, patriotism, and defense of the priesthood.”

The order has been called “the strong right arm of the Church” by popes, presidents and other world leaders who laud their staunch principles, and states that it is consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and is unfailing in its loyalty to the Pope.

“It is firmly committed to the protection of human life, from conception to natural death, and to the preservation and defense of the family” Burish said.

The Notre Dame council was formed in 1910 and has a long history of active participation in campus life. The organization was the founder of Bengal Bouts and its buildings housed SUB movies on campus in the past.

While times and events have changed, the Knights are still very involved with different groups on campus. They often work with Right to Life on events and have many partnerships with other campus groups that use their building.

The Knights throughout the world place a great emphasis on service. In the past decade, the Knights of Columbus has donated nearly $1 billion to numerous charitable causes and has logged nearly 400 million hours of community service.

The Notre Dame council’s renowned steak sale on football weekends is currently estimated to be the second largest fundraiser at the school, raking in around $40,000 in revenue each year. All proceeds go to various charities, including schools, women’s rights organizations and Holy Cross missions.

The Knights serve in the community in different capacities, with some recent projects being all-campus poker smokers, Right to Life, women’s right’s lectures, the donation of a statue of the Virgin and Child in remembrance of the victims of abortion on the North side of the Basilica and various other campus service projects. Any male, who is at least 18 years old and is a practicing Catholic, may join.