IN SERVICE TO ALL — The Knights of Columbus in Rome is continuing its community service despite dwindling numbers. Pictured from left are lecturer Rob Countryman, treasurer Tom Murphy and Grand Knight Daniel Fenton. (Sentinel photo by Roger Seibert)

Rome Knights of Columbus seeks new members, continues community service

Published Jul 9, 2017 at 9:00am

The Rome Council of the Knights of Columbus (KOC) has committed to serve the Rome community in several areas. The city’s Honor America Days parade, fishing derby, local Little League teams and ministry to the area’s poor, among others, have all received the compassion and commitment to service brought by the KOC.

Members like treasurer Tom Murphy, who has served the Knights for 70 years, continue to grow the Knights’ message in practical ways.

“We have expanded our service to the fishing derby. We gave out more prizes this year than ever before. And we have increased our giving to our annual clothing drive. We helped 12 boys and 12 girls who lacked money with winter clothes this past year,” KOC lecturer Rob Countryman said.

The Knights’ influence goes beyond financial aid. They instill a sense of pride in those they support. “We like to support local groups. Our Little League team finished first this year,” Countryman said.

The combination of financial and moral support has resulted in civic pride, and a sense of cooperation in the city. Matt Miller of the Rome Rescue Mission stopped by the Knight’s facility on Ridge Street last week to share his vision for helping Rome’s poor.

“We have been working with groups in the Rome area, and that has helped us help them,” Grand Knight Daniel Fenton said.

History of helping

Rev. Michael McGivney founded the Order of the Knights of Columbus at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn.

It’s goal was to share the love of Christ through community outreach. In 1898 the Rome Chapter was formed when 66 charter members attended a ceremony at Sink’s Opera House. By 1917 the Rome KOC had grown to 380 members, with 52 members leaving Rome to fight in World War I.

Between 1929 and 1939 financial pressures caused by the Great Depression left the council $7,000 in debt and membership had fallen to 80 members. Bingo games were held at St. Mary’s Church to help pay off the debt and to renovate club rooms.

The clubs were officially opened and a celebration of total debt elimination was held in December 1941. The celebration was held in respectful silence; the clubs were opened on Dec. 7, the date Japanese aircraft attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The Rome chapter returned to prosperity. In 1956 it boasted 680 members, and in 1958 legalized Bingo games helped fund an increasing number of local charities.

“We continue to be supported through Bingo, and also membership dues,” Fenton said. “We also solicit help from local businesses. We received $3,000 from local businesses to help with this year’s fishing derby.”

The council chamber used by the Knights opened in 1972 after their club was moved from its location along the northwest corner of the former Fort Stanwix. Plans to rebuild the fort had begun with surveys in 1967, and the fort was rebuilt from 1974 through 1978.

Small numbers, big hearts

The Knights provide service despite a membership base that is beginning to lessen. Membership requirements in the KOC are fairly broad: one need only be male, Catholic and 18 years old. But a series of modern distractions have limited membership. These include attending various area churches, busy work schedules and other activities that occupy free time. The Rome Council is looking to address these issues.

“Most young people prefer their cellphones, and some are just too busy balancing work and family to volunteer,” warden Robert Dyer said. “It would be nice to get them involved in community service.”

Inclusive activities would also help membership. “We have people who attend different churches, like St. Mary’s, St. John’s, St. Peter’s and Immaculate Conception,” financial secretary James Mullin said. “If we can get everyone together to serve it could help membership.”

Those interested in the Knights may call 315-337-4010 or visit www.kofc.org.