Fred Camillo, First Selectman of Greenwich and a Knight of Columbus from Orinoco Council 39, has been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of this interview, 64 patients at Greenwich Hospital tested positive for coronavirus, including nine who are residents of the town. He recently closed all the town parks and beaches, as well as the town hall, in order to stop the spread of the pandemic.
As a public official and a member of the Knights for nearly 40 years, he has a unique perspective on how to combat the coronavirus.
Q: What inspired you to join the Knights of Columbus?
Camillo: When I was young my dad, who was a Marine Corps drill instructor, always talked about the Knights. He said, “I wish I had joined it when I was younger.” So myself and 20 other friends all joined at the same time. We knew, being Catholics, the good work that the Knights have always done and we learned more about Father McGivney, the founder of the Order. It was just a great thing to do.
What are some of the aspects about the Knights that you enjoy? Are there specific council activities? The comradery?
Around Christmas, we do a sit-down lunch for people who may not have anybody. For people who can’t make it out, we deliver to their homes. The Knights do so much for the community. It’s an organization that does a lot for the town, especially now during this pandemic. Our local council is partnering with Meals on Wheels and the United Way to give people rides and deliver groceries. They’re stepping up to the plate as always, and it makes you proud to be associated with them.
What have been the challenges dealing with the pandemic?
It’s unlike something we’ve ever seen before in that people are out of work, they’re watching their savings dwindle in the stock market and they’re also fearful for their health. It’s a trifecta in a bad way. That being said, every time there has been something terrible in our nation’s history, we come through. You see some bad actors out there, forwarding misinformation and being critical, but they’re in the minority. Most people are doing the right thing. This particularly hits home to me because during the pandemic of 1918, the neighborhood where I’m from lost 200 people. It was mostly Italian immigrants. Two of them were my great-grandparents who were 45 years-old. They died within days of each other. They left several kids, and the oldest was 15. He had to raise the others.
How does your Catholic faith help during this time of crisis?
You really need to try and be consistent. We all struggle with that. When things are going good, you’re busy. To me, the best times to pray are not Sunday Masses, but going to church during the week and sitting there quietly, whether as a daily communicant or with no one else there. I think that’s something that helps to keep all of us grounded. I certainly don’t do enough of it, but I hope that times like this pandemic will bring us back to things that we should be doing and incorporating into our lives every day. That’s always my hope.
Do you have any advice for Knights who want to help their communities?
I would certainly encourage people, in whatever community, to reach out and help those in need and collaborate with other service groups. There are always people looking to step up in their communities, whether it’s individuals or Knights as a group. There are so many ways you can give back. There’s an old saying someone told me a long time ago: “Give and forget, receive and remember.” It’s so much better to give than to receive. It’s nice to receive, but there’s something special that comes with giving, and that’s what the Knights are all about.
Editor’s Note: If reaching out to help others, please follow the specific guidelines regarding COVID -19 from the Supreme Council, your diocese and local community, and the Centers for Disease Control
Share your story of how your council is helping strengthen people’s faith and offering support during this time. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in a special bi-weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. Access Knightline’s monthly archives.
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