An inside look a the world’s oldest and largest KofC college council
Founded by Bl. Michael J. McGivney in 1882, the Knights of Columbus has grown from a small New England benefit society to the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization. The Knights of Columbus—founded on the four virtues of charity, fraternity, unity, and patriotism—actively promotes and defends Catholic teaching, taking stances against abortion, contraception, socialism, and racism. Today, more than 1.9 million men around the globe are Knights of Columbus.
Additionally, it currently insures Catholic families around the world for over $120 billion—much of it in life insurance. Its massive life insurance operation was created to support Catholic families whose breadwinner died in factory accidents, a common occurrence among immigrant communities in the mid-19th century.
Notre Dame’s own Knights of Columbus Council 1477 was founded in 1910. In 1924, it clashed with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in South Bend during a planned KKK demonstration. After the students broke up the rally, local Klan members penned an angry letter to Notre Dame’s president, Fr. Matthew J. Walsh, C.S.C., that is now proudly displayed in the Knights of Columbus building on campus.
In an interview with the Rover, Christopher Winter, the Grand Knight of Council 1477 and a sophomore at Notre Dame, shared his experience with the knights. He joined Council 1477 his freshman year, following in the footsteps of his grandfather who graduated from Notre Dame in 1952. Winter stated, “I knew about the charitable work, and I really supported it.” Winter was the faith coordinator for the Council 1477 his freshman year and was elected Grand Knight this past spring.
When asked about Council 1477’s charitable works at Notre Dame, Winter first mentioned the council’s biggest fundraiser: “Every home football game, we grill steaks and sell them as sandwiches for charity.” So far this semester, Council 1477 has brought in more than $125,000 in revenue from the steak sales, donating all $76,000 of the profits to local charities in the South Bend area. In total, since steak sales began in 1973, Council 1477 has donated over 1.5 million dollars to local charities. Lines at the steak sales in front of the Knights of Columbus building routinely stretch for hundreds of feet along Notre Dame’s South Quad.
Council 1477 also participates in Coats for Kids, a nationwide program that aims to provide winter clothing for underprivileged youth. Recently, the national Knights of Columbus organization announced that the campaign had just donated its one millionth coat to a child in need in Denver, Colorado.
Winter also detailed how Council 1477 lives up to Bl. Michael McGivney’s original mission for the organization: “This is essentially a fraternity of Catholic men doing work for charity but also growing in faith together and growing in love for God.” In the absence of Greek life at Notre Dame, Council 1477 serves as a Catholic fraternal organization for men to grow closer to God through service.
When asked how his membership in Council 1477 has shaped his experience at Notre Dame, Winter answered, “Coming from Mississippi, there weren’t a lot of Catholic opportunities to serve something larger than myself … the Knights became the club I was most involved in.” The goal of Notre Dame Knights of Columbus was described by Winter as “building a fraternity of Catholic men for the twin purposes of charitable work and fellowship.”
The Knights of Columbus is actively involved in several aspects of Catholic life at Notre Dame. “We work with Right to Life [RtL] and pray the Angelus before their Masses on Friday,” Winter stated, adding that the RtL formal dance took place in the Knights of Columbus building last year. The Knights also cooked for RtL’s LifeFest event and the Faculty for Life picnic.
Winter also noted the importance of their building on campus for their operations. He said “No other club has their own building, and to be able to have other clubs—Catholic clubs—come in and use it to promote the Catholic mission of the university is a great privilege.” The Knights of Columbus building sits between the Coleman-Morse Center and Walsh Hall on the corner of South Quad and God Quad. Before Council 1477 was given the building in 1968, it was the Notre Dame post office.
The next steak sandwich sale will take place before the football game against Wake Forest on November 18, in front of the Knights of Columbus building.
Sam Marchand is a freshman studying political science and finance from Beaumont, TX. He sorely misses Dr. Pepper, which is unavailable in the dining halls, and squanders much of his spare time by aimlessly reading the Current Events section of Wikipedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: The Irish Rover
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