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Great balls of fire

This Thursday, March 29, the Knights of Columbus will mark its 125th anniversary.

Locally, the world's largest lay Catholic organization is represented by Holy Rosary Council 3166, which is made up of five area parishes: Holy Rosary, Detroit Lakes; Assumption, Callaway; St. Francis Xavier, Lake Park; St. Mary's of the Lakes, Pelican Lake; and St. Andrews, Hawley. It also boasts a current membership of 331 members -- nearly five times the number that were enrolled when the organization was founded in June 1948.

"Frazee (Sacred Heart) used to be a part of us too, but they started their own (council) five years ago, and they're doing really well," Renney noted.

Currently, Hawley is working toward establishing its own council as well, he added.

Since 1948, the Holy Rosary Council has been raising funds for local charitable endeavors including the Becker County DAC, Camp Courage and more, through its monthly pancake breakfasts.

"We do a lot of giving to charities, and raise money for it with a pancake breakfast on the first Sunday of every month," said Bob Renney, who has served as Grand Knight of the Holy Rosary Knights of Columbus for the past two years. "At our last meeting of the year, we give away four education scholarships of $100 each, to children of council members."

This past year alone, the council raised $24,388 for local charities, and contributed 3,550 hours of volunteer service to its member communities.

The council also hosts dinners for Mother's Day and Columbus Day; an annual visit by the José Cole Circus; and sponsors an annual Tootsie Roll drive that raises funds for local programs that benefit the physically and mentally challenged.

In fact, the Holy Rosary council was instrumental in organizing the first Tootsie Roll drive in Minnesota, Renney noted. In addition, the Knights sponsored a "Right to Life" monument that stands outside the Holy Rosary Church Parish Center in Detroit Lakes.

The local council tries to adhere to the three founding principles of the Knights of Columbus: Charity, unity, and fraternity, Renney said.

Toward that end, the members have begun holding their monthly meetings not only at its headquarters in Detroit Lakes, but in the council's other home parishes -- Lake Park, Callaway and Hawley, he added.

"We have a pretty good meal before each meeting, hosted by the guys from the local church," Renney said.

A used van was recently purchased to help local members who are unable to drive attend Saturday night mass at Holy Rosary, Renney added. The council also helps provide financial support to students at the Catholic seminary in Crookston, and sponsors an annual free throw contest for local youth, who have the opportunity to advance to regional and state competitions, also sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

The international Knights of Columbus organization was established in 1882 by Father Michael J. McGivney and a few of his parishioners, in the basement of St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Conn. From those humble beginnings, it has grown to boast an international membership of more than 1.7 million.

Next year, the Holy Rosary Council of the Knights of Columbus will celebrate a milestone of its own -- its 60th anniversary.

Plans for the celebration are currently in the planning stages, Renney noted.

For more information about the Knights of Columbus and its charitable endeavors worldwide, visit the Web site online at

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454