The coronavirus pandemic may have delayed the centennial celebration of the Manresa Knights of Columbus Council 2147 on Staten Island, but it did not deter its mission.
Robert Dugan, who became grand knight July 1, said the Manresa council has been “a beacon in the community” for over 100 years and exemplifies “the principles of charity, unity and fraternity” handed down by the Knights’ national founder, Blessed Michael McGivney.
He cited the numerous food and clothing drives the council has conducted and how it “rallied to help the members of the community significantly affected” by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The council ardently advocates for life, from contacting elected officials to praying for the unborn outside hospitals as well as participating in the annual Polar Plunge on Staten Island that benefits Special Olympics.
In early 1920, a group of men headed by Joseph Boylan sought to establish a Knights of Columbus council in the central and south shore of Staten Island. They canvassed the area between Concord and Great Kills and successfully gathered 88 men; their names appear on the charter that hangs in the council chamber at 185 Cedar Grove Ave. in Cedar Grove Beach.
According to a history of the council, the name Manresa was selected because of Mount Manresa Jesuit Retreat House on Staten Island.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Manresa Council was known as “the Council with Pep” and its slogan appeared in advertisements and posters.
The Columbiettes, a ladies auxiliary, was formed in the 1950s. It remains a vital force, promoting good and charitable works in support of the council.
The Msgr. McGowan Scholarship Program, which dates to the 1960s, provides a grant toward a Catholic high school education to a boy or a girl of a member in good standing.
A catastrophic fire destroyed the council’s building in 1975; it was rebuilt and reopened the following year. The building would suffer another major setback from an electrical fire in 2001. And in 2012, after the council building was ravaged by 14 feet of water from Superstorm Sandy, members cleaned the building, got the bathrooms up and running for people and emergency workers, cooked food for those in need from the parking lot and distributed supplies and helped wherever else possible.
In the 1980s, the council took on a project at Our Lady of Lourdes Church on Staten Island which began as a relatively minor job of fixing two broken roof rafters, then turned into scraping and repainting the exterior of the church and expanded to the rebuilding of the altar area, painting the interior and carpeting the aisles. It took 50 members more than 2,000 hours. For the efforts, the council would go on to win first place in the International Church Award at the Knights’ Supreme Convention in 1988.
Retired Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara offered Mass for the centennial celebration June 19 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church on Staten Island. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration was delayed by a year and a month.
“It was a tremendous event for a council that has done so much for the community,” Dugan told CNY in a phone interview July 9.
Dugan commended his predecessor as grand knight, James DeFrancesco, for keeping the council as active as possible amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“He held this council together during Covid,” Dugan said, “during a time when it was really dark.”
Dugan, citing the homily at the centennial Mass, said, “Bishop O’Hara pointed out that this council survived two fires, a major flood and now a pandemic, and is still going strong.”