Senior Josh Anthony held up a wooden plaque with three glistening emblems and gold lettering. It was the triple-starred version of the Star Council Award that praised Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Knights of Columbus council for raising 367% of its membership quota.
“That has actually placed this council, here, in the top 1-5% of all college councils,” he said.
Anthony is the elected grand knight of Knights of Columbus Council #9804, a completely student-run college council covering solely Franciscan University. Anthony, a theology major with a focus in Franciscan theology, has been involved with Council #9804 for two and a half years.
Anthony said Council #9804 dates back to the 1980s. After briefly dying off in the mid-2000s, it was soon re-founded and continues to this day.
Multiple archive binders exist, most from the early 90s, of local news clippings, magazine articles and more detailing the ministries of knights past. One story is of a previous grand knight, Joe Wolf, who helped fund the Tomb of the Unborn Child and was responsible for securing over 100 new members, Anthony said.
Anthony said there are currently 25-30 active members in Council #9804. The council’s roster, which gives the names of people who are signed on to that council in particular, includes students, professors, friars and other faculty. The paperwork required to remove someone from the roster is the reason the Rev. Michael Scanlan, TOR, a former president of the university, persisted on the roster.
Council #9804 has been active for about 40 years, but the Knights of Columbus as a whole has been around even longer. The order was created by the Rev. Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882.
Through the Knights of Columbus, McGivney sought to provide insurance for Catholic men working dangerous jobs. He wanted to protect families so that their children would not have to be adopted into anti-Catholic homes.
McGivney also created the order as a counter to the anti-Catholic Freemasons. The Knights of Columbus directly borrowed the Freemasons’ brotherhood and meeting structures so as to provide the same fraternity without leading the men astray.
“Over time,” Anthony said, “(the Knights of Columbus) has grown to the point where it has become basically the right hand of the Church. … (The Knights) build churches, produce movies, fund the pro-life march. Knights of Columbus is the reason that we say ‘under God’ in the pledge of allegiance.”
The Knights of Columbus motto is, “Tempus fugit, memento mori, viva Iesus,” which means “Time flies, so remember your death, Christ lives.”
Anthony said members of Council #9804 greet each other and end their ceremonies with this phrase or just “Viva Iesus.”
Anthony said the Knights of Columbus on campus has a two-fold goal: to help the campus in any way they can and to help the spiritual life of men on campus. The latter mission is the motivation behind the council’s most recent video series, the presentations of “Into the Breach.”
The video series “Into the Breach” is based on the apostolic exhortation about authentic masculinity by the Rev. Thomas J. Olmstead, bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix. The series will continue every Thursday at 9 p.m. in Egan 213 throughout Lent.
“Into the Breach” is not the only ministry Council #9804 does. Anthony said the council works closely with the Students for Life, helped plan their recent life chain event and occasionally helps fund the club itself.
However, Anthony said fundraising and volunteering have been difficult due to COVID-19 restrictions. Anthony and the council hope to procure a donation from the highest level of the Knights of Columbus in order to help AIM Women’s Center.
But COVID-19 will not stop the Knights’ works of mercy, which are foundational for the Knights of Columbus. Anthony said that Knights all over the world engage in physical labor to help their fellow Catholics and townspeople.
“It’s ridiculous how much we get done,” Anthony said. “In my hometown alone we (the Knights) built additions to our church ourselves because they’re craftsmen. … Every council everywhere is constantly giving to their town.”
For anyone interested in joining the Knights of Columbus, Anthony can be reached at “[email protected].” A person can also go to the website “kofc.join” where he can fill out an entry request. The council to list is #9804. Promotional code “McGivney2020” can grant access to a membership discount.
Anthony noted how American society is becoming more and more intolerant toward Catholics, exemplified by the attack on Christopher Columbus himself, the Knights’ namesake. Anthony said this is why the strong Catholic identity of the Knights of Columbus is especially needed now.
“There’s two ways the Church has always weathered (persecution): by hiding until it goes away or by changing the world,” Anthony said. “I personally vote for the latter.”