June 19, 2003
By Blessed Sacrament staff/ SUN contributing writers
Area Knights of Columbus celebrate 50 years of service

The men of Knights of Columbus Council 3717 keep a high profile throughout North Syracuse. Some weekends they are busy barbecuing chickens outside of their council home on East Taft Road for one of their many fundraisers. Its Assembly Color Corps is also recognizable in the city, serving as an honor guard at religious ceremonies and community events. Active in church and community, the council has a rich history of dedicated service. The Knights of Columbus, the largest lay organization in the Catholic Church, was founded in 1882 by a 29-year-old parish priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, in the basement of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn. Father McGivney believed that the Knights, devoted to the principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism, would be a way to strengthen men’s faith and help provide financial assistance to struggling families.

Seven decades later, in 1953, the men of North Syracuse formed their own council, Council 3717. Similar to its national roots, the local council gathered for meetings in the basement at St. Rose of Lima Church in North Syracuse. Initially a group of 10 men, the council grew by leaps and bounds. In the early 1960s in order to accommodate increased membership, the council built its present home, said John Palumbo, who belongs to Council 3717. Here, for the past 42 years, the men of Council 3717 have faithfully met each month to discuss charitable acts and upcoming events –– united by a bond of friendship and comraderie. “The Knights are really a great group of guys,” said Palumbo. “We are a group of men who want to do good in our church and community.” This year marks the 50th anniversary of Council 3717. Several events are planned to celebrate the milestone during the month of July, topped off by a Grand Banquet on July 19 beginning at 6 p.m. at the council hall.

As Council 3717 has grown over the years, so has its benevolence to dozens of individuals and groups who are assisted by their charity. Throughout the year, the men host numerous events that raise money for things such as Catholic school scholarships and financial support of diocesan seminarians. Monday night bingo, a long-time staple event of the council, has provided substantial revenue for charities and for operating the hall. According to Carlton Thomas, of Council 3717, bingo has proved to be a fun way to raise money for good causes. “Not only do the people have a great time, but the money that we raise through bingo is very important,” stated Thomas. The council also graciously allows its hall to be used by a respite group. Each Thursday, elderly and individuals afflicted with debilitating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s Disease come to the hall and meet with volunteers who spend time with them. “The people that come really have a nice time. They play cards and games together. But we get something out of it as well,” said Bill Hodinger, Council 3717 member.

Known as the strong right hand of the church, the Knights of Columbus spread the Gospel values. Council 3717 attends the national pro-life march in January in Washington, D.C. and distributes pro-life pamphlets at the New York State Fair. And once again this summer, the council will take up its annual canister collection for right to life. The men stand outside local churches before and after Mass, shaking the tin cans, explained Palumbo. “Some people can’t make up their minds whether they want to give or not, so we give them time to think about it and then we go back outside after Mass. Most people, if they did not give on their way in, will give on their way out. The people have been very generous,” said Palumbo, adding that donations go to the New York State Right to Life Committee.

Some of the 350 men who make up Council 3717 are in their “golden years” –– that time after retirement where they might be expected to simply sit around and enjoy the fruits of their labor. And some are fathers who are working full-time jobs and raising families. “The comraderie and friendship between us grows year after year through the things that we do,” added member Donald Smith. Council 3717’s current membership is a little less than half of what they had in their heyday when it had over 600 members, noted Hodinger. But many organizations are in the same boat of dwindling membership, he pointed out, due to hectic schedules and busy family life. The council encourages men to join them and women to consider joining the Columbiettes –– Council 3717’s sister organization. “It is our hope that more people will get involved. The more people we have to help, the more we can do for others,” said Hodinger. Council 3717 invites the public to all the events for its 50th anniversary celebration. For information on the banquet (reservations required) or other activities, please contact the council at (315) 458-0938.

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