A flourish in membership numbers and a dynamic quantity of activities have earned the Father Edward Gerrity Council #10474 of the Knights of Columbus a prestigious accolade from the Supreme Council: the Double Star Council Award.
The award is given to councils that exhibit service to the Church and community, increase members’ awareness of the fraternal benefits of the organization’s insurance program, and double their quota for new membership.
Of the 16,000 Knights of Columbus councils worldwide, less than 4 percent earn the Double Star each year.
Council #10474, from Holy Infant Parish in Manchester, has received it for the second year in a row.
“It is certainly not an easy task to do, but we have a wonderfully active council with a great mix of older and younger members,” said Grand Knight Robert Farabaugh.
“Not only do these men answer the call to be a Knight, they volunteer to be active in the council as well,” he said.
If a council wants to attract and retain members, it must be active in its endeavors to serve, said Farabaugh. At Holy Infant, council activities number nearly 40, enough to suit every member’s interest while fulfilling the worldwide organization’s commitment to community, faith, family and pro-life values.
Among the activities: the March for Life in Washington, D.C., recitation of the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet four times a year, a Mass for couples celebrating wedding anniversaries, breakfast with Santa, distribution of roses for women on Mother’s Day, weekly Bingo and an annual chicken barbecue fundraiser.
“I think our council is successful because we’re known for the things that we do, whether it’s giving financial support to an organization or helping a parishioner whose tree fell on their roof, cutting grass for a member who had surgery, building ramps for wheelchairs or going to funerals,” said Mark Andrasi.
“My son just turned 18, and he joined. He’s seen what I do, what the other members do, and wants to be part of it, too,” he said.
Numbering 122 active members, the council has increased its membership by 50 percent in the last two years. Many of them are younger men.
“In the past, the image was that the Knights were the old men of the Church. This is a young parish, and it’s reflected in our council as well,” said Harold Hartman. “We have three Knights who teach religious education, and they’re leading the younger people by example.”
Farabaugh isn’t shy about recruiting new members and urging fellow Knights to do the same.
“Sometimes, I’ll invite someone to join, and he’ll say, ‘I just don’t think I have the time to give to the Knights.’ To that, I’ll say, ‘What can we give you instead?’” Farabaugh remarked. “If you’re ailing, we’ll pray for you. If you need help, we’ll be there.”
In 2018, the Knights provided more than 5,000 hours of service.
“The Knights are Catholic men who love their faith and have a real calling to share it,” said Father William Forrey, pastor of Holy Infant Parish. “It means a lot to me as a pastor, knowing that if there is any need, I can turn to the Knights.”
Activities for Everyone
Council #10474 was established in 1990, and named for Father Edward Gerrity, who was assigned as Holy Infant’s first pastor after it was elevated from a mission to a parish. When the more than 600 Knights in a council serving the York Deanery split into separate councils at the parish level, Jerry Zurick went door-to-door with his cousin to recruit the 30 men needed for its formation at Holy Infant.
“There weren’t a lot of council projects back then, but we had a good core, and some of our founders are still members,” said Zurick, who still serves on the council.
The Knights had intended to purchase a council home years ago, and built up quite a savings for it. However, when it was decided by the Supreme Council that individual councils could no longer own property, the Knights at Holy Infant used the funds to benefit the parish.
“When Holy Infant Parish built a new church in June of 2016, the council gave $170,000 to the project: $100,000 toward the church, $50,000 for a new pavilion and $20,000 for the rectory,” said Charles Zitnick, a Knight and the chair of the parish’s Building Committee.
Other charitable donations are made possible through the council’s main fundraisers: weekly Bingo and an annual chicken barbecue.
“The Bingo takes a lot of man hours to run every week. We have a number of members who are dedicated to it, and then we have extra people who show up to help. You can’t do it without the dedicated volunteers,” said Richard Hazenstab.
The fundraisers enable the council to offer financial support to a bevy of projects. These have included a $10,000 donation to York Catholic High School’s Capital Campaign; yearly financial support of a seminarian and the Diocese’s Quo Vadis Days vocations retreat; the purchase of an ultrasound machine for the Women’s Care Center in York; yearly $1,000 donations to area food pantries; $1,000 scholarships for a graduating senior and for a student to attend a parochial school; support for local first responder units; and yarn for the parish’s Prayer Shawl Ministry.
But they aren’t stopping there. Farabaugh said this year’s plans include a CPR class for parishioners, a novena for the unborn, formation of the “That Man is You” program, involvement with Habitat for Humanity, and the purchase of picnic tables for the parish pavilion.
For council members, participation in the Knights of Columbus is all about service.
“In life, I realized I was placed on this earth to serve. There is so much that can be done,” said Terry Bradunas. “It started when I once stopped to change a tire for some women in the pouring rain. The feeling of service was so great, I couldn’t kick it. That’s a feeling all of us have when we serve.”
“I’ve always tried to help out where I could,” said council member Gary Clemens, a former Scout leader and member of the Veterans’ Honor Guard. “Since I’ve gotten into the Knights of Columbus, I’ve found it is the best organization I’ve ever been in. What I do is part of something that has a greater impact beyond myself. This organization, especially at Holy Infant, makes a positive impact on everything it does.”
(Learn more about the mission of the Knights of Columbus and find a council at www.kofc.org.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness