Maybe it’s the sepia-toned portraits of the era, the formal attire, or the fashionably generous facial hair. Whatever the reason, looking at 19th-century photographs of the founding Knights of Columbus, it’s easy to forget that the first Knights were not the venerable grandees of St. Mary’s Parish, but — as a contemporary described them — the “energetic, pushing, go-ahead young men” of New Haven. Inspired by 29-year-old Father Michael J. McGivney, the charter members were mostly in their 20s and 30s.
Blessed Michael McGivney would no doubt recognize the same youthful, energetic sense of mission in the grand knights and district deputies profiled on the following pages. All under 35, these men assumed leadership roles in their councils at relatively young ages, motivated by love of Christ to serve their parish communities through the Order’s charitable and spiritual initiatives.
Encouraging and mentoring young Knights of Columbus leaders like them is one of the Order’s greatest challenges and most important goals, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly told state deputies Feb. 16, 2021, in his first address to them after being elected Feb. 5.
“I am here because previous generations went to great lengths to inspire a new generation of Knights, myself included,” said the supreme knight, who joined the Order in college and whose grandfather and father were Knights. “What they began, we must continue. The future of our Order, our Church and our culture depends on evangelizing and inspiring more men to lead lives of charity, unity and fraternity.”
These “go-ahead young men,” representing a new generation of Knights of Columbus leaders, recognize the enduring impact of Father McGivney’s vision and the Order’s principles in the 21st century.
Why I Joined: My family has always been involved in the Church. I grew up in the Columbian Squires program, and when I turned 18, I wanted to join the Knights right away to further my spiritual life and serve my community. I saw how powerful and important it was to care for the most vulnerable — people who are sick or suffering, and children in the womb.
Becoming a Leader: My council was looking for some new leaders. I didn’t really want the job, but when I was asked, I prayed about it, and I felt the Lord calling me to do a little bit more in my life. Being a younger Knight in a parish council is different from being a college Knight because you’re dealing with men of different age groups. I was so inspired by how my brothers welcomed me as one of their own.
“To be a Knight of Columbus is to be a man of service — and being able to offer men opportunities to serve their community has been the biggest blessing in my own spiritual life.”
In Service to All: Men join the Knights because they want to do something, they want to give of themselves. To be a Knight of Columbus is to be a man of service — and being able to offer men opportunities to serve their community has been the biggest blessing in my own spiritual life. Another thing I’ve loved is being able to reach out to the peripheries, to people who may have never encountered our Catholic faith. I love it when people get to know our faith because of the visible work that we do.
Challenges & Opportunities: Time is always a challenge. A grand knight has a lot of administrative tasks, and you also have the task of building up your brotherhood, which takes effort. Another challenge is helping Knights grow in their faith, in their spiritual lives. Knights need to pray, to spend time with our Lord — that is our lifeblood.
After this very long pandemic, I think people, and especially men, are looking for more. Men are asking themselves what they believe, and they’re looking to get involved, to find fulfillment. Truly the Knights are a vehicle to give menopportunities to find more meaning in their lives, to bring them faith. If you feel that the world is not giving you what you’re looking for, the Knights are here to offer you something different — brotherhood, faith, opportunities to serve and grow.
Why I Joined: I grew up in Los Angeles and then moved to Sacramento, where my parents, who are from Mexico, rediscovered their Catholic faith. This had a big impact on me. I started seeing the difference in my parents, the love they were showing, and that’s when everything started clicking. After my father joined Council 16475, one of the guys at St. Rose Parish invited me to join. It felt like a calling.
Becoming a Leader: I had been a Knight for only nine months before being elected grand knight. Some of the brothers were saying, “Julio, you should do it,” but I resisted. I even asked God, “Why me?” But in that process, I thought about ways I could help the council and prayed more, and it became clear: “OK, I’ll do it.” I began during the pandemic, so it was difficult. They closed the church, and we were all struggling spiritually. But one thing I kept hearing in my head was “perseverance.” So we moved forward. Members became more active, and new members started joining.
In Service to All: As a Knight, keeping the faith is central, both personally and in the community. I also love the fact that our goal is to help anyone who’s in need and to help our parish priest as much as we can. For me, it’s the joy of taking action. Our council is growing and getting stronger. Our men are excited with the activities that we’re doing, and the community is saying, “Wow, the Knights, they’re helping us and the parish.”
Challenges & Opportunities: One of the challenges I’ve seen is the language barrier that sometimes causes separation between Spanish speakers and English speakers. But we’re one Church, so as a Knight I’m trying to bring them together more. Another challenge is the stereotype that younger people are not able to accomplish things. But I’ve been told that just being a young leader has motivated others. Also, guys my age see me, and they get productive, which makes me more productive. So it goes back and forth. Another thing I would like to mention is that we pray the rosary before our meetings. It’s great that we get together, but we also need to get spiritually filled together. When our faith is growing, our numbers will grow too.
Why I Joined: After a confirmation retreat at St. Leo Abbey strengthened my relationship with Christ, I decided to become a peer minister at the abbey and at my parish. Then, when I was 16 years old, I started a Columbian Squires circle. As Squires, we grew in our faith together, performed our civic duty and learned how to be leaders. Naturally, when I turned 18, I made my First Degree.
Becoming a Leader: I was nominated and elected grand knight at 19, making me the youngest grand knight in the Florida jurisdiction. The beginning was on-the-job training, but by the end of my first year, I had developed lasting friendships and introduced new projects that continue today. After I served as grand knight for two years, the state deputy offered me the opportunity to be district deputy, and that was one I could not refuse.
In Service to All: I am grateful for being afforded this opportunity and take pride in performing my duties. As district deputy, I feel I cannot ask the members to do what I would not do myself. So I always enjoy when I can help the councils at events, whether it’s speaking at a membership drive, hanging Christmas lights or sharing a St. Patrick’s Day dinner. I have also helped get councils to attend retreats together and to collaborate on important projects such as our county’s annual pro-life rally.
Challenges & Opportunities: While there are some who feel that younger members aren’t qualified to be leaders or have our voices heard, I’ve been blessed to have many brother Knights throughout Florida welcome and mentor me. And they have helped where they could to recruit and retain younger members, who are the future of the Order. I was recently involved in reactivating the council at Ave Maria School of Law, and being with these Knights gives me hope that more young men will join our Order to grow in faith and help others, carrying it on for future generations. My advice for younger Knights is to stay dedicated to your faith, stay strong in putting your faith into action, and follow the path God has for you.
Why I Joined: I grew up Catholic and I’ve always been involved in the Church. When I first got to college at the University of North Texas, I met a couple of guys at the Catholic Newman Center who were Knights. I started hanging out with them, and they eventually encouraged me to attend one of their information sessions. From there, I got really interested in the community service work the Knights were doing — it was something I wanted to be more involved in.
Becoming a Leader: In high school, I saw myself as a follower, but when I got to college, I wanted to try to become more of a leader. We started a roundtable at the university, and they were looking for a coordinator. The senior Knights were busy with schoolwork, so I decided to take on that role. That’s where my leadership in the Knights started. When the roundtable transitioned to a council, I became the charter grand knight.
“My hope is that the Knights continue to be leaders in our families, our communities and in the Church, and that we continue attracting younger Knights so that this organization can thrive into the future.”
In Service to All: I try to be with my brother Knights as much as possible, participating in their activities, helping them out as best I can. If they need an extra guy at a softball game, I’ll help them out there; if they need an extra guy at a pancake breakfast, I’ll help them out there. I try to learn everything I can from the older Knights, whether it’s how to build a shed or how to communicate effectively with other people. And I try to teach the younger Knights everything I’ve learned so far.
Challenges & Opportunities: One of the biggest challenges I face is getting everybody involved. Sometimes, you’ll have the same people participating in each event, and eventually they can be overwhelmed with that. But the councils in my district are very zealous when it comes to getting projects done, and every year they challenge themselves to do better than the year before — raising more money to donate to charity, increasing the number of activities they do. They inspire me. My hope is that the Knights continue to be leaders in our families, our communities and in the Church, and that we continue attracting younger Knights so that this organization can thrive into the future.
Why I Joined: My journey in the Columbian family started in 2006, when I joined Columbian Squires Circle 5102 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Mechanicsburg, Pa., as one of its charter members. I was a squire for about six years, until I turned 18. That’s when joined my home council, St. Joseph Council 12788, and I was with them until I moved to Silver Spring. The Order’s principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism really go to the core of who I am, and I try to live them out every day.
Becoming a Leader: Our council here was in need of new leadership, some new young blood to climb the ranks. In my second year, I became chancellor and the next year became deputy grand knight. And since July 2021, I have been the grand knight. My dad and my uncle have both been grand knights of their councils, so it’s kind of a family affair. They are figures that I have looked up to my entire life, and it means a lot that I am following in their footsteps.
In Service to All: It brings me great joy to serve my parish and my community as grand knight, to have the opportunity to fulfill the Lord’s work every day. The last two years we have adapted very well and remained active, despite the pandemic. For example, in 2020, one of our brothers started a ministry to deliver meals and groceries to families in need in our community. We worked with other churches around the area to help and continued that for almost a year. That was something we were very proud of.
Challenges & Opportunities: The challenge of being an active Knight today is that many of us are very busy. For me, it is balancing work and school and the work I do with the Knights. A lot of our guys have families, and it is tough to find a good family-work-life balance. Even so, as we continue to emerge from this pandemic, I encourage men to get involved with their local councils and parishes as much as possible, because they are needed now more than ever. And I really encourage some of our younger guys to take on leadership roles. We need good Catholic men like us to step up and do the Lord’s work.
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