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Opinion

A grand organization

AT RANDOM - Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, SJ -
In October 1881 a young assistant priest, Michael McGivney, gathered together a small group of Catholic laymen in New Haven, Connecticut, and proposed the creation of a fraternal association. It was chartered in 1882. From that modest beginning the Knights of Columbus today has nearly two million members (1,700,000 in 2001) in over 13,000 councils in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, the Philippines, and a few other countries. Among its many educational projects, it has created chairs in American History in several universities, and supported schools for Black children in the southern U.S. states.

Among its many cultural projects was the restoration of art works in the Vatican, including the Michaelangelo murals of the Sistine Chapel. The KofC financed the microfilming of documents from the Vatican Archives. These are now available to researchers at St. Louis University, Missouri.

The KofC was brought to the Philippines in 1905 and won members among the professional class, including several members of the House of Representatives. Because they were all Spanish-speaking, the Manila Council was called Caballeros de Colon.

One of the most active promoters of the KofC for the younger English-speaking professionals was a young Ilocano priest, Isaias Edralin, who established the KofC in several cities of the Ilocos and Pangasinan. (Later, having become a Jesuit, Father Edralin continued to be active with the KofC.)

News of Father Edralin’s success in the North reached Manila and got a young Jesuit scholastic, George Willman, interested. Later as a priest, having been appointed Philippine Delegate, Father Willman propagated the KofC throughout the country. Its rapid spread in the post-war years was phenomenal. Today almost every town has a council or chapter of the KofC. They are responsible for many projects on the local level, especially free clinics and educational benefits. On the national level the KofC has financed the publication of several books, including Father John Schumacher’s scholarly study of Father José Burgos.

I have a personal interest in the KofC. As a boy I loved to read the stories in their monthly magazine, Columbia, to which my father subscribed (he was a member of the Caballeros de Colon). I liked particularly the adventure stories of David Hogan about the Irish Catholics fighting against the brutalities of the British Black-and-Tans. (In later years Columbia no longer published stories. It has become merely a house bulletin for members.)

I became a member of the KofC (Council no. 1, San Salvador, New Haven) and for a time was active with the organization in Cebu and northern Mindanao. In Manila the KofC no longer needed my services so I gave up my membership. But I cherish memories of my friends in the KofC.

Last year, 2005, the KofC completed 100 years in the Philippines. As they begin a new century of service, I wish them every success.

AMERICAN HISTORY

BRITISH BLACK-AND-TANS

BUT I

DAVID HOGAN

FATHER EDRALIN

FATHER JOHN SCHUMACHER

FATHER JOS

FATHER WILLMAN

KOFC

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