Like many organizations, the Knights of Columbus, which is affiliated with Catholic churches throughout the United States, is dedicated to service within its church and the community it serves.
Their origins reach back to the late 19th century, with a young 29-year-old assistant pastor in St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut. Father Michael J. McGivney saw a need to address two pressing needs for his parishioners.
The first challenge he saw dealt with the discrimination against Catholics in the fairly new nation, which had been founded by a predominately Protestant population of British origin. Many of those Protestants had fled an oppressive Anglican Church, which had roots in the Catholic religion.
The second pressing issue was the dangerous work conditions within the factories, which many times led to serious injury or death of a family’s primary wage earner. This resulted in many families being left destitute and in need of assistance.
Around the nation at this time, other charitable organizations were being formed. Father McGivney saw the need to establish the same kind of help for those in his ministry. Hence, in February of 1882, Father McGivney began his quest to establish a lay organization, which would become known as the Knights of Columbus.
They chose to name the organization after Christopher Columbus to show their allegiance to their country and to their faith. Columbus, a Catholic and the discoverer of America, would serve as a perfect symbol for their organization.
On March 29, 1882 the Knights of Columbus would assume official corporate status. Today, 136 years later, the Order boasts over two million Catholic men within their ranks. They account for 75 million hours of service to their church, to their communities, and to efforts worldwide. They are also responsible for charitable giving exceeding $178 million annually.
Council 6344 of the Knights of Columbus on Marco Island was organized 43 years ago. It is now one of the larger councils within the state of Florida, boasting 311 members out of the San Marco Catholic Church on Marco Island. Recently they inducted their new officers for the upcoming year, following a special Mass given by Father Tim Navin.
Longtime member Joe Swaja was elevated to the position of Grand Knight, replacing Joseph Fatony, who will assume a trustee position. Frank Reifsnyder, Jr. joined Swaja and took the oath as Deputy Grand Knight. Their oaths were administered by District Deputy and Council Chancellor Ben Farnsworth.
Farnsworth also swore in former Council 6344 Grand Knight John Caltabiano as a District Warden for the Knights of Columbus.
Council 6344 was quite busy over the 2018 season, hosting a total of 37 events and raising over $150,000, which was distributed throughout the community as part of their philanthropic efforts.
Some of those donations helped to support Saint Vincent de Paul’s assistance to those in need in the greater Collier County area. Donations were also used to help those in need on Marco Island. Additionally, the Knights of Columbus helped support the month-long celebration of Christmas activities on the island put on by Christmas Island Style. The Knights assisted veteran’s organizations and other local philanthropic activities, as part of their effort to support charitable and patriotic causes.
“I know Father McGivney would be proud of what his vision became,” said Joe Fatony, as he walked to the parish hall with Joe Swaja to celebrate the ceremonial changing of the guard and enjoy dinner with their wives and extended San Marco Catholic Church family.