Knights of Columbus install new officers

New district officers of the Massachusetts council of the Knights of Columbus are sworn in at the Sept. 14 installation Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church in Walpole. Pilot photo/ Neil W. McCabe

WALPOLE -- The Massachusetts council of the Knight of Columbus installed their new statewide and district officers Sept. 14 at a Mass held at Walpole’s Blessed Sacrament Church celebrated by state chaplain Bishop Daniel P. Reilly.

In addition to the 53 new district deputies serving the 45,000-strong fraternal organization in the state, the new statewide officers are: state deputy William F. Donovan, state chaplain Bishop Reilly, assistant state chaplain Father Thomas S. Rafferty, state secretary Michael J. Baldner, state treasurer Peter K. Healy, state advocate Thomas P. McGinn, state warden Russell A. Steinbach and the immediate past state deputy Vincent M. Rumasuglia, said Donovan, who is a member of the Walpole council, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of its charter this year.

The Knights of Columbus were founded in 1882 by a New Haven, Conn. priest, Father Michael J. McKivney, to provide social and intellectual fellowship to Catholic men, as well as charity and burial benefits for Catholic families, who were excluded from existing programs because of their religion, according to the organization’s Web site, Today it is the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world with 1.7 million members in 13,000 councils.

In his remarks at the Mass, Bishop Reilly, who is the bishop emeritus of the Worcester Diocese, said he was hopeful because of the quality of the local leadership and their agenda for the new Columbian year. “Our leaders have a plan to make the Knights ever stronger, more visible and more effective with our Catholic presence.”

In the early days of the Church, Christians had to practice their faith hidden in the catacombs of Rome, he said. “We don’t have to.”

The bishop said, “People ask: ‘Why don’t Catholics walk in the front with their faith?’ Well, the Knights of Columbus are doing just that.”

Bishop Reilly also presented Donovan with an Apostolic Blessing from Pope Benedict XVI, which was given at the request of Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley.

In his own remarks, Donovan said he was proud of the work the Knights perform and the support the Knights give during natural disasters, such as after Hurricane Katrina and man-caused disasters, like after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Knights are the largest pro-life organization in the world and are at the forefront of supporting the Church and her clergy, Donovan said. “The next time you see the pope on TV -- the Knights of Columbus are responsible for every broadcast, worldwide. We also own the popemobile, all three of them.”

Donovan said a more local example of helping the Church was how his members supported the mission of a priest working with troubled youth.

“I want to recognize someone who is here with us this afternoon, Father Joe Baggetta,” he said with a smile.

“For those of us who don’t know Father Joe, he runs a prison ministry over in Dorchester for incarcerated boys and girls. Father Joe says, ‘I’m going to put a chapel on that piece of property.’ Somebody told him: ‘Hey, Father Joe, you can’t do that, it’s state property. You can’t do that.’ He said, ‘I’m putting a chapel on that piece of property.’”

Donavon said Father Baggetta found a dilapidated trailer from a job site and presented it to the Knights. “He told us: ‘Now I have the trailer, you guys have the work.’ It was from a lot of hands and a lot of sweat that the Knights built that trailer into a chapel. Father Joe, thank you for coming here today.”

Speaking at the reception held at the Blessed Sacrament School, Donovan said he joined the Knights 41 years ago and the biggest change he has seen is the decline in enrollment while at the same time the membership is getting older.

In his upcoming one-year term, Donovan said his first priority is growing the membership, including building on the five College Knight councils on Boston-area campuses.

October is the kick-off for a statewide membership drive, said Paul G. Sullivan, the state’s membership director and a former district deputy.

The installation ceremony is crucial to the success of the membership drive, Sullivan said. “This is when we get the district deputies motivated to step up for recruitment in October. They need to put new men on their recruitment list and ask men that they have been meaning to ask for a long time.”

Sullivan, a member of Council 6063 in Foxborough, said he first joined the Knights in 1974, but left the organization and rejoined in 1994.

Looking back on then and now, the Knights is a different organization than the one Sullivan knew 34 years ago, he said. “In the 60s and 70s, it was more of a men’s club. Now, it is much more family and parish-oriented.”

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