They are known for hosting pancake breakfasts and for handing out Tootsie Rolls. Their sword-wielding attire is from an era not our own. Yes indeed, the Knights of Columbus are a group of men that are a bit counter cultural, and wouldn’t ya know it, that’s exactly what they strive to be.
The Knights of Columbus was founded by Father Michael J. McGivney in 1882 with a mission of charity. Established to meet the needs of immigrants, refugees, and families suffering from the death of a breadwinner, the Knights began as a small service organization and has grown into a worldwide financial and charitable organization. Thousands of parishes across the country and around the world have local Knights’ councils. These local councils, made up of the men of the parish, strive to promote charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism. All the while, they passionately defend the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The council in nearby Baraboo, WI, #746, is as exemplary as they come. In fact, simply put, without the local group, there wouldn’t be a Camp Gray.
It was Monsignor Gray that dreamed of a youth camp way back in the early 1950s. It was the local Knights of Columbus that turned his dream into a reality. After Monsignor Gray purchased the land for Camp Gray, he grew ill, and decided to return to his homeland of Ireland to regain his health. While back on his family farm in County Longford, Monsignor Gray would pray for his new camp while celebrating mass each day in the living room of the farmhouse. Before his death, he suffered a great deal, but he would offer his sufferings for his new youth camp.
Across the pond, receiving the graces from those prayers, were the good people of Baraboo, many of them a part of council #746. In those early days, the Knights built many of Camp’s cabins. Some of those early cabins remain. Never lacking in ingenuity, the Knights built those early cabins with lumber stripped from old ammunition crates used during World War II. After Monsignor died, they felt it was only fitting that they name his camp, Gray.
Since that time, their service and support has been unwavering and constant. To list all of the ways they’ve supported Camp Gray over the years would run the ink on this computer dry.
For many, many years, council #746 owned a home near downtown Baraboo that had been transformed into their K of C Hall. The main floor held their monthly meetings, and the basement is where the men would gather in fraternity.
For several reasons, including the growing cost of upkeep and taxes, the Knights recently decided to sell the Hall. Henceforth, they will hold their monthly meetings at Camp Gray in Karsten Hall. With the proceeds of the sale of the home, they donated $60,000 to Camp Gray with an additional $15,000 set aside for improvements, and they gave another $75,000 to the local parish, St. Joseph in Baraboo.
We’re living in trying times, friends. What the world needs now, as it always has, is strong men. We need men of faith that are virtuous husbands and fathers. We need men of faith that are virtuous priests.
On this perilous journey, men need each other for support.
We thank the Knights of Columbus for their many years of support of Camp Gray, and for their example of fellowship, charity, and devotion. These men are striving to build a bridge back to faith. They may seem counter cultural, but our culture today is in shambles.
Perhaps we should all be a bit more counter cultural. Not just for old men; young men, too: Join your local Knights today!
*The included pictures; 1) (above) two local Knights – Steve Hause, #746 Grand Knight, on the left, and Paul Quigley, the District Deputy, on the right, presenting to Jeff Hoeben their donation check; 2) a piece of ammunition crate that was used to build a Camp Gray building; 3) a plaque outside of Camp’s dining hall recognizing the people of Baraboo, including Knights #746, for their instrumental role in building Camp Gray; 4) a Wisconsin State Journal article from 1968 expressing the importance that volunteers have played in establishing Camp Gray.