In a Thanksgiving tradition that pre-dates all of the parades, local Knights of Columbus gathered with family and friends to celebrate their annual Mass for living and deceased members of the organization. It took place on Thanksgiving Day eve at Immaculate Conception Church in Jim Thorpe.
As Pastor of the Church and Chaplain of Damien Council, Father James J. Ward celebrated the Mass. It was co-sponsored by Damien Council # 598, Third Degree, and Monsignor Agnello J. Angelini Assembly # 971, Fourth Degree, of the Knights of Columbus.
Under the guidance of Father Michael J. McGivney, the Knights of Columbus was founded on March 29, 1882 at Saint Mary's Church in New Haven, Connecticut.
His idea quickly grew into an organization of Catholic men and their families dedicated to promoting the precepts of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism – all built on a strong foundation of faith. Father McGivney's founding vision of the Order also included a life insurance program to provide for the widows and orphans of deceased members.
Today, with more than 1.8 million members in over 14,000 councils, the Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic family fraternal service organization.
Locally, the Knights of Columbus officially chartered on August 18, 1901 when 47 men gathered in the basement of Immaculate Conception Church in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania – today, of course, the town of Jim Thorpe. The tradition of the annual Mass for living and deceased members of the organization at Thanksgiving began shortly after the council was established.
Under the direction of Father James C. McConnon, these Knights decided to honor Father Damien de Veuster by naming the local council after him. Known as "Apostle of the Lepers," Father Damien is remembered for his selfless and courageous efforts to care for the nearly 1,000 lepers abandoned on Molokai Island in Hawaii.
Father Damien himself died of leprosy (also known as Hansen's Disease) in 1889. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Rome on June 4, 1995 and was canonized a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009.
Of the more than 14,000 councils of the Knights of Columbus, Damien Council is the 598th formed by the organization. It serves the church, public, families, and youth through its various programs in Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Nesquehoning and the surrounding communities.
For more information about Damien Council # 598, contact Grand Knight Francis C. O'Donnell at (570) 325-2485.