PUTNAM — The date was Wednesday, March 29, 1882. In Hartford, the Connecticut General Assembly was in session at the state house. In New Haven, a young parish priest was waiting for news about what lawmakers were going to do.
Since the previous October, Rev. Michael J. McGivney had been working in New Haven to start a fraternal benefit society for Catholic men. The 29-year-old McGivney had seen up close the crushing poverty, bigotry and discrimination being suffered in America by many Catholics. He saw Catholic men leaving their faith in order to get a job, or too often dying of tuberculosis or pneumonia or some other disease at an early age, leaving his widow and children destitute. McGivney wanted to start a society so they could help to support each other and their wives and children religiously, morally, socially and financially.
News soon came from Hartford; lawmakers had granted a charter to McGivney’s new organization: the Knights of Columbus was born. Since then Knights around the world have referred to March 29 as Founder’s Day.
That was 135 years ago. Last weekend, a total of about 30 Cargill Council Knights commemorated the anniversary at the four masses celebrated at their council’s two parishes, St. Mary Church of the Visitation in Putnam and Most Holy Trinity Church in Pomfret.
At first, the 9:00 a. m. mass celebrated on Sunday at St. Mary’s seemed ordinary. However, a closer look showed something different: The Knights were wearing distinctive dark blue K of C sashes. Several were in the choir, with more in the pews. As the mass began, Knights escorted St. Mary’s pastor and their council’s chaplain, Very Rev. David P. Choquette, down the center aisle to the altar. They also escorted him out when mass was over.
The Knights’ presence at the weekend’s four masses showed in part just how strong the council’s commitment is, with Cargill Council Knights helping in various ways, including serving as choir members, lectors, ushers and Eucharistic ministers distributing Holy Communion. They serve every week, not just once a year.
Founder’s Day also marked the start of the next few months of celebrations by Cargill Council, which will turn 125 years old on July 26. Council 64 is one of only 47 local councils in the world in continuous operation since at least 1892.
Cargill Council’s elected leader, Grand Knight David G. Lamontagne Sr., said that even after all these years the council is proud to continue serving today.
“Years ago, a small group of people decided to start an organization that would make a difference in people’s lives,” Lamontagne said. “Now, 125 years later, we’re still going strong, as we continue to work and follow the same principles that made us one of the oldest organizations here in the Putnam area. I am honored to be part of that history.”
Cargill Council 64 is made up of over 200 local Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Catholic men and their families. The council serves Putnam, Pomfret, Woodstock and parts of surrounding communities.
Led by Lamontagne and its other elected officers, Cargill Council raised and donated over $16,000 in the last fraternal year.
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