Our Brother, Bruce Faulkner, has spent a good amount of time in El Paso with his ill mother. While there, he came across a very interesting article about the Knights of Columbus origins in Texas, including the first Council in El Paso – shortly before our very own Great Council 799 was formed.
Please keep Bruce and his mother in your prayers. Below is an except of the article. The full article can be read here:
Texas Knights of Columbus Began in El Paso
By Karima Garcia, Ernest Mijares, Vanessa Torres and Kazstelia Vasquez
…While most Americans know the Pledge of Allegiance , many know nothing about the Knights of Columbus. This is a Catholic fraternal organization that has helped the nation for 120 years. The knights protect Catholic heritage and culture while serving their community through various programs. Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson heads the organization today, but Father Michael J. McGivney founded the society.
Father McGivney was born in the industrial slums of Waterbury, Connecticut, on August 12, 1852, to an Irish immigrant family. He attended St. Hyacinthe College in Quebec, Canada, for four years and was later ordained in Baltimore’s historic Cathedral of the Assumption by Archbishop James Gibbons on December 22, 1877.
In 1881, he discussed his dream of a fraternal benefit society with a group of laymen from St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut. The group would assist widows and orphans of deceased members and boost a sense of pride among its members to counter the anti-Catholic climate of 19th Century America. Nativist sentiment — associated with anti-Catholic prejudice and preferential treatment for those born in America — experienced a revival in the 1880s, in response to new waves of immigration from European Catholic countries. This prejudice was involved in several anti-Catholic riots in the late19th century, including the Philadelphia nativist riots.
Father McGivney wrote a letter to the priests of the Diocese of Hartford, Connecticut, explaining the society’s goals. The first was to dissuade Catholics from joining secret societies by offering them more advantages. The second, in his own words, was to “aid each other in time of sickness; to provide for decent burial; and to render pecuniary assistance to families of deceased members.”
Father McGivney named his organization after Christopher Columbus, who brought Christianity to the New World. The term “Knights” emphasized the members’ service to God and country like knights centuries before. On March 29, 1882, the Connecticut Legislature recognized the Knights of Columbus as a legal corporation.
Father McGivney worked for the organization until his death. Always frail, he caught pneumonia in January 1890. Doctors attempted many treatments, but on August 14, 1890, he died at the young age of 38, beloved by thousands of people as both a parish priest and the founder of the largest society of Catholic men in the world. He was buried in Waterbury, Conn.
The first Knights of Columbus council in Texas was established in El Paso in 1902. Michael Burke, a member from Indiana, who was in El Paso to build the electric streetcar line , began discussing the organization with local businessmen, James Clifford and E. V. Berrien. After numerous preliminary meetings, the El Paso Council No. 638 of the Knights of Columbus was established on April 12, 1902. D. P. Beckham served as the first Grand Knight. The Denver and Albuquerque councils assisted in the ceremonies at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church , 118 N. Campbell St.
This first Texas council embarked on a train trip throughout Texas in 1903, organizing councils in Dallas, Fort Worth, Galveston and San Antonio. They organized a council in Houston in 1905. The El Pasoans also helped organize other councils in the Southwest.
A 1966 El Paso Times article describes a commemorative tablet, presented by the State National Bank, that was dedicated during the annual convention of the Texas Knights of Columbus. The inscription describes the founding meeting in 1902. The tablet was installed on the front wall of the Immaculate Conception Church.
After Pancho Villa’s raid on Columbus, New Mexico, in 1916, …
Reprinted with the permission of Borderlands, student research and writing project of El Paso Community College, Northwest Campus, El Paso, TX., Ruth Vise, faculty editor and advisor. All rights reserved.