Although much has changed in northeastern Connecticut since 1892, Putnam’s Cargill Council 64, Knights of Columbus, remains a force for good in the community. That was recognized on Sunday morning, July 26, when council members celebrated a Roman Catholic Mass to commemorate the council’s 128th anniversary. Immediately after the Mass at St. Mary Church of the Visitation on Providence Street, more than a dozen Knights held the council’s annual memorial prayer service at the grave of Edward M. Mullan, the council’s first Grand Knight, at St. Mary’s Cemetery, just down the road.
St. Mary’s Pastor and Cargill Council Chaplain Very Reverend David P. Choquette conducted both the Mass and memorial service, which was held in memory of the council’s deceased members and their families. Council members spent the day before cleaning the Mullan family gravestones in preparation for Sunday’s prayer service.
The Catholic family fraternal benefit society was founded in Putnam 128 years ago that very day, on July 26, 1892, only a decade after the international Knights of Columbus organization was begun in 1882. Continuously active since its founding, Cargill Council was the 64th council founded since the Knights came into existence.
Cargill Council’s 20 original members elected Mullan, who later served as Putnam’s postmaster, as their leader, known as the Grand Knight. Elected to three terms, he served as Grand Knight from 1892 to 1895. He remained a member of the council until his death in 1916, at the age of 61.
Although it may seem strange to some people to hold a prayer service in a cemetery, Cargill Council Chancellor and Memorial Program Director David R. Adams explained that there was an important principle behind the idea.
“Cargill Council has had several homes here in Putnam since it started 128 years ago,” he said. “Its first home was in the Bradley Theater, downtown. Then we spent decades in a large building off Church Street. Since 1976 we’ve been on Providence Street, in what used to be the Putnam Polish Club. We wanted to go right back to the beginning, in one spot. As Catholics, we pray for the dead as well as for the living. The grave of our very first Grand Knight is the perfect symbol to remember every member of Cargill Council, living and deceased, past and present.”
Cargill Council 64, Knights of Columbus, is made up of more than 200 local Catholic men and their families. The council serves Putnam, Pomfret, Woodstock and the immediately surrounding areas served by St. Mary’s and Most Holy Trinity Church in Pomfret.
In addition to support for its members and their families, Cargill Council maintains a dedicated, strong, ongoing commitment to its two parishes and the local community. Led by current Grand Knight John D. Ryan, the council’s elected officers run Cargill Council. The organization does its own fund-raising, using the net proceeds to pay for its programs.
For example, Cargill Council raised and donated thousands of dollars locally in the last year, as part of conducting literally dozens of positive, local programs and events. Highlights include raising more than $5,000 for the local needy as part of the council’s annual Joe Bousquet Christmas Giving Appeal.
Dignitaries in attendance at Sunday’s memorial service included Connecticut State Knights of Columbus Council Advocate Dr. William P. Macnamara, III, of Brooklyn and Connecticut K of C State Deputy Gary P. McKeone of East Hartford. McKeone oversees the more than 23,000 Knights, serving in 178 active local councils throughout the state.
“Cargill Council 64 is one of the best local councils in Connecticut,” McKeone said. “When it was founded 128 years ago, Catholics were being persecuted and discriminated against. In our society Catholics are being persecuted and discriminated against today. But with Knights like this who stand firm for their faith and work so hard for their families and their communities we’ll still be here 128 years from now.”
Council 64 and the world’s other K of C councils provide members and their families with volunteer opportunities to serve the Catholic Church, their communities, their families and young people. Worldwide, in the 12 months that ended in June of 2019, the almost 2 million members of the Knights of Columbus donated more than $185 million and 76.7 million hours of service to charitable causes.
The Knights of Columbus was founded in New Haven, Connecticut, on March 29, 1882, by a parish priest, Father Michael J. McGivney. Earlier this year, Pope Francis approved a decree recognizing a child’s cure from a deadly case of fetal hydrops while still in his mother’s womb as a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father McGivney. This means Father McGivney is scheduled to be declared Blessed by the Catholic Church at an October 31 ceremony at a Connecticut location which has not yet been determined. This is the last step before sainthood. If he is eventually canonized, Father McGivney would become Connecticut’s first Catholic saint and the first American parish priest to be so honored.
Looking at the problems being suffered by immigrant Catholics in and around New Haven in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century, Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus so that Catholic men could continue to practice their faith while supporting each other religiously, morally, socially and financially.
Since then, the organization has grown to become the world’s largest Catholic lay organization, a worldwide fraternal benefit society operating in North America, Central America, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe. In 2005, the Knights of Columbus opened the first councils in Poland. In 2008, after a half-century of persecution, Knights began operating again in Communist Cuba. In 2013, the Knights continued their expansion, moving into Ukraine and Lithuania. The following year the first local councils were founded in South Korea.