St. Mary-Oak Ridge Knights council celebrates 75th anniversary

By Bill Brewer

When the Father McRedmond Council of the Knights of Columbus was founded 75 years ago, a number of historic events framed the beginning of this faith-based Oak Ridge service organization.

It was 1948, and the nation of Israel was created. Subsequently five Arab nations attacked the country.

Communists seized control in Czechoslovakia.

The Berlin airlift began and continued for over a year.

Harry Truman ended racial segregation in the military.

The 33 1/3 LP record was created.

A postage stamp cost 3 cents.

And Council 3175 was established on Oct. 24, 1948, in Oak Ridge on the heels of World War II’s Manhattan Project.

The more things change, the more some stay the same.

Fast-forward to 2023 and this Knights council at St. Mary Church in Oak Ridge continues serving its community and Oak Ridge at large in bigger and better ways.

Current members of Council 3175 wanted to commemorate the diamond jubilee year and recognize past Knights who volunteered through the years to make it a success.

John Hough, past Grand Knight of Council 3175, helped lead a two-year effort to organize a celebration, which included a Mass, prayer service, and a dinner and dance.

“We put aside some money and decided to make it a parish-wide celebration,” Mr. Hough said. “We had a prayer service on the day of the actual anniversary, which was Oct. 24.”

As part of that service, led by St. Mary Deacon John DeClue, six Knights received their first, second, and third degrees. Three of the Knights attend St. Mary and three attend Blessed Sacrament Church in Harriman.

Then on Oct. 28, St. Mary pastor Father Ray Powell celebrated a Mass that marked the anniversary. The Mass was followed by the dinner and dance in the St. Mary family life center, with entertainment provided by the Mount LeConte Jug Band, which is led by a former St. Mary parishioner who also attended St. Mary School. More than 100 people attended the festivity.

Mr. Hough noted that while the anniversary celebration was for the entire parish, it was especially for those Knights who have served the parish since 1948.

“We shared a lot of artifacts with those in attendance. We showed the council charter that was issued by the Knights of Columbus in 1948 from New Haven, Conn. We also had a list of original members, including the founding pastor of the council, Father Francis McRedmond. We had a memorial plaque with a list of deceased Knights and a list of all of our council Grand Knights,” Mr. Hough said. “Everybody had a good time.”

Joining Father Powell and associate pastor Father Neil Blatchford at the anniversary celebration were St. Mary Deacons Dave Duhamel, Agustin Ortega, and John DeClue.

Mr. Hough proudly pointed out that also in attendance were 12 former Council 3175 Grand Knights.

And the dad of former Grand Knight Leonard Abbatiello, who is Anthony Abbatiello, was a founding member of the Father McRedmond Council. “Leonard was 9 years old when the council was founded,” Mr. Hough said.

“This celebration was really about honoring them,” Mr. Hough said, referring to the list of Knights who have served Council 3175.

Mr. Hough, who has been a member of St. Mary Parish and Council 3175 for 15 years, served as the master of ceremonies for the anniversary celebration and worked with current Grand Knight Tom Slankas and a committee of Knights to put on the event. He believes it’s vital for a Knights council to actively serve a parish community, its priests, and its ministries.

“The key thing is you need to be engaging and supportive to the pastor and community. You have to be a place where we can be close to our brother Knights and to our Lord,” he said.

Mr. Hough believes Council 3175 will mark another 75 years in 2098 as it closes in on the 100th anniversary in 2048. “We have a good group of young Knights who are the right age to move forward. I’m confident we’ve set the right foundation for them,” he said.

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