KOC has been helping the community for decades

Published 7:00 am Friday, May 27, 2016

In 1882, Father Michael McGivney of New Haven, Connecticut founded the Knights of Columbus. Since that time, the service organization has grown to include more than 15,000 charters located all over the world.
On December 13, 1976, 36 men became charter members of Picayune’s Knights of Columbus Oscar J. Gelpi Council #6872. Last weekend, the group celebrated their 40th anniversary.
Grand Knight Bryan Cassagne said there are three charter members left: Paul Schommer, John B. Huck and Glen Dubuisson.
KOC member Ron Sperier joined the Picayune chapter about 20 years ago, but has been a member of the Knights since 1956. He was a member of the Santa Maria chapter in New Orleans and is a charter member of the Our Lady of the Lake chapter in Covington.
“Knights of Columbus is the largest fraternal order of Catholic men in the world. It was named after Christopher Columbus, who brought Christianity into the new world,” he said. “There are now about 1.9 million members. Fr. McGivney had a vision to have a KOC presence in every Catholic parish. The Picayune group received the number 6872 because that’s how many groups they had at that time in the United States.”
At the time of the organization’s inception, many immigrant Irishmen worked dangerous jobs and succumbed to illnesses such as, malaria, which they didn’t know about, Sperier said. Fr. McGivney felt a desire to take care of their widows and children, he added. The priest also initiated the KOC’s life insurance policy, Sperier said.
“He figured that if they bought a little insurance, families would have that added benefit in the event of a loved one’s passing,” he said. “The insurance is only available to KOC members.”
In order to become a KOC member, prospective members are required to be a practicing Catholic, Sperier said.
The fourth degree of the Knights is the Micahel A. Leane Assembly 2227, which is the more patriotic end of the organization, Cassagne said. The fourth degree was formed to change the attitude toward Catholics, he added. They dress in tuxedos, capes, hats and carry swords.
“At the time, it was said that Catholics who served a Pope couldn’t serve America,” he said.
The main function of the Knights of Columbus is to serve the community and help the church, which for the Picayune chapter is St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Cassagne said.
There are 160 members in Picayune’s KOC. The chapter also has a Ladies Auxiliary group, which is made up of members’ wives, Sperier said.
“They aid and assist the Knights in whatever they’re doing,” he added.
Group members participate in a variety of community activities and in 2015, they logged in 15,464 volunteer hours and raised more than $40,000, all of which was utilized for those in need in Picayune, Cassagne said.
Every Monday night members host Charity Bingo. They also hold an annual Tootsie Roll Drive and community BBQ to raise funds for various agencies, which include Sav-A-Life Pregnancy Support Services and The Arc of Pearl River County, Cassagne said.
They also host the annual Blue Mass, a Memorial Mass, a Prayer Breakfast and support local Scout troops.
Each year, the Knights award three Ronald Cassagne Memorial Scholarships, two to seniors and one to an NJROTC cadet to help offset the cost of summer camp, Cassagne said.
As Grand Knight, Cassagne oversees the council’s operations, programs, committees and finances. He is also responsible for organizing events and completing the required reports to send to the KOC headquarters.
However, without help from his Deputy Grand Knight and other office holders such as the chaplain, recorder, financial secretary, lecturer, advocate and many more, they wouldn’t be able to complete
Members are nominated and elected by ballot, which provides everyone a chance to hold office, Sperier said.
The principles of the KOC are charity, unity and fraternity and the principle of the 4th degree is patriotism, Cassagne said.
Each year, the group holds a membership drive and hand out relevant material to prospective members, Sperier said.
They meet the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. and host a monthly social for members and their families.
For more information about the KOC, contact members by phone at 601-798-9857 and visit the Facebook page at Picayune Knights of Columbus Council 6872.
“It’s a great gathering of men who have a connection through faith,” Cassagne said.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox