100 years of helping others
The Chevaliers de Colomb (Knights of Columbus) Conseil 1919 d’Alexandria recently celebrated its centennial.
And while the Conseil has seen a number of demographic and organizational changes over the past century, one thing has remained constant.
“For 100 years, the Knights have been doing charitable deeds in the community,” Conseil president Jean Lecompte told The News, adding that a 23-item list of local endeavours included in a program for the November 3 centenary celebration event at Paroisse Sacré-Coeur “probably could have been longer” if space had permitted.
A small sample-size of the Conseil’s community contributions: distributing turkeys to local residents and families in need at Christmastime; fundraising for L'Hôpital Glengarry Memorial Hospital and the Cornwall Community Hospital; making donations to CHEO, the Children’s Treatment CentreCornwall, and St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank; and providing bursaries to worthy Le Relais students.
Mr. Lecompte , a Conseil 1919 member for almost 40 years, and its secretary, Archie Roussin, explained that an edict from the AlexandriaCornwall diocese in the early 1990s forced an organizational restructuring of the Conseil, creating two separate groups – Conseil 1919, affiliated with Sacré-Coeur church, and Alexandria Council 10640, of St. Finnan’s Cathedral, established in June 1991.
“I know that the Knights of Columbus started with the Scottish community because they came here to Glengarry first, and I’d say for half of the 100 years, it was run mostly by the Scottish,” said Mr. Lecompte.
“Then we, the French-Canadians joined in with them. But eventually, the bishop (Eugène LaRocque) had us separated because he asked that every parish have its own Knights of Columbus (council/conseil).”
Mr. Roussin, a member of Conseil 1919 for the past 53 years, recalled that it was an amicable split.
“They (the predominantly English-speaking Knights who later became Council 10640) did not leave because they wanted to,” he said. “It was kind of imposed by the Church. They left in good will.”
In that vein, Mr. Lecompte pointed out that the November 3 centennial commemoration, billed as a “célébration de 100 ans de service à l’église, la famille et la communauté” for Conseil 1919, also honoured the other town chapter.
“When we made plans to celebrate, we said that we had to include the Knights from St. Finnan’s too because, really, they were the first ones here,” he said.
The News’ archives bears witness to the Conseil’s predominantly Celtic roots.
A story on the front page of the Sept. 6, 1918 edition, chronicling the official “institution” of the-then Glengarry Council of the Knights of Columbus four days prior (Labour Day), states that the day’s program opened with a Solemn High Mass in St. Finnan’s Cathedral, “with Rev. J.J. Macdonell of Lancaster, as celebrant, Rev. J. A. Macdonell of Crysler, Deacon, Rev. A.L. Cameron, sub-deacon and Rev. A.L. Macdonald, Glen Robertson, Master of Ceremonies.”
It also noted that the “pulpit for the occasion, was occupied” by Rev. Father Holland of Massena Springs, N.Y.
However, by the time the Council celebrated its 60th anniversary in 1978, it had a much more prominent francophone presence.
The Council’s slate of officers, published in the Aug. 30, 1978 edition of The News, was overwhelmingly francophone, with Past Grand Knight Michael Gibbs Jr. the only English name among the dozen listed.
That year, the Alexandria council boasted 475 members.
Four decades later, those numbers have dropped by almost 75 per cent, to about 125, reflective of the times, according to Mr. Lecompte.
“Like with all organizations these days people are sort of becoming more passive. And the young people are not as interested as we were,” he explained.
Despite the decline in membership over the past 40 years, Conseil 1919 continues to be a strong contributor to the community’s social and spiritual fabric – as it has since its founding a century ago.
“It’s not every organization that can celebrate 100 years of helping others,” said Mr. Lecompte.
Conseil 1919 continues to contribute to the community