A simple cross set in a circle of blue, complemented by rays of light leading to three stars. That is the emblem of the Columbiettes, an organization of Catholic women with the purpose to promote the welfare of its members spiritually, socially, and charitably. The cross within the circle represents the Catholic belief of Christ’s love, alive and ever present in the world. The rays illustrate service to God through the mediums of faith, hope and charity, depicted by the stars.
This charitable and spiritual organization, an auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus, can trace its history to a very interesting origin. In 1939, the chaplain of the New York chapter of the Knights of Columbus, Monsignor J. Francis McIntyre witnessed great numbers of women coming out of a communist rally at Madison Square Garden. He sensed the desire and dedication of these women to fight for certain causes. He also recognized the value and strength of women in groups. In March of that year, under the direction of the New York Chapter Knights of Columbus, the first Columbiettes took form. Today they are an organization established in the United States and Canada.
The Columbiettes website states its mission is to “instill a steadfast conviction relating to the proper place and function of Catholic women in safeguarding the religious, civil and economic rights of all Catholics.” (www.columbiettes.com.) A Columbiettes Auxiliary exists with the consent and approval of the Knights of Columbus Council, with which it is affiliated. The Columbiettes proudly see themselves as a group that engages and promotes the feminine spirit, putting forth all that is positive and nurturing.
They are dedicated to emulating their three patronesses. First, they are ever mindful of honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Catholic foundation of purity and motherhood. They embrace the qualities of Saint Theresa, the “Little Flower” who served God by welcoming the opportunity to make sacrifices. And they strive to imitate St. Joan of Arc, who was always willing to give unselfishly to those who defended a righteous cause.
The San Marco Knights of Columbus Council #6344 is very proud and thankful for their Columbiettes Auxiliary, founded in 2008.Coastal Breeze News spoke with Grand Knight John Caltabiano. When asked to describe the relationship between the Knights of Columbus and the Columbiettes, Caltabiano said, “We could not survive without them.” Throughout the year, the Columbiettes assist the Knights of Columbus at their fundraising events, such as their spaghetti and fish fry dinners, bingo, and monthly socials. Internationally, the Knights of Columbus are partnered with the Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, and the Global Wheelchair Mission. Locally, the San Marco Knights raise funds for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, local food banks and pantries, and local pregnancy centers. Caltabiano said that the San Marco Columbiettes spring into action with an immediate response whenever they are called upon for their assistance.
Caltabiano recognizes the time and energy that the Columbiettes expend setting up the monthly socials. At one such event he decided to help the Columbiettes out by setting up the centerpieces on all the tables. However, when the Columbiettes arrived for duty, they exclaimed, “Who did this?” and proceeded to change the centerpieces. Apparently, Caltabiano had chosen the incorrect centerpieces for the particular season. He learned very quickly that the Columbiettes know how to add just the right feminine touch to all that they do.
The San Marco Columbiettes also sponsor their own fundraisers. At these events, the Knights of Columbus get a chance to reverse roles and assist the Columbiettes. The “Treasures in the Trunk” events have become well known celebrations on the island. The San Marco Parish Hall parking lot becomes a market of new, used and antique items sold from the trunks of cars and tables. Sellers pay $10 for a parking spot and an additional $10 if they rent a table. A bake sale and refreshments add to the experience. This coming year events are scheduled for November 12, 2016 and again on February 25, 2017. Another fundraiser, the Winter Wonderland Dinner Dance is scheduled for January 21, 2017. All proceeds from these events benefit the Catholic Faith Appeal, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the San Marco Youth Ministry and other charitable causes.
The Columbiettes work throughout the year to donate meals at Thanksgiving andtoys and gift cards at Christmas for those in need. They support Right to Life and our Veterans. They can be seen marching side-by-side with the Knights of Columbus at the Christmas Island Style and St. Patrick’s Day parades.
On April 29, the 2016-2017 officers of the Columbiettes were installed at a Mass in the chapel of San Marco Church, followed by a luncheon at the Hideaway Beach Club. The officers are Barbara DeRosa, immediate past president; Mary Cay Moll, president; Anne Batte, vice president; Cindy Imm, secretary; Betty Fusco, financial secretary; Alice Rizzo, treasurer; and Kathy Cataldi, sentinel. Father Tim Navin, pastor of San Marco Catholic Church was presented with a medal and the honor of Chaplain for the Columbiettes. At the luncheon, the Columbiettes presented Father Tim with $9,000 from their fundraising activities, for the Catholic Faith Appeal. They also honored Maria Granda, their outgoing treasurer, with a gift for her years of service.
One of the greatest gifts of being a journalist is the opportunity to listen to the words of others with total and complete focus on their ideas and feelings. In doing so, we obtain a glimpse into the very core of other individuals. I was fortunate to share some fascinating conversations with several of the Columbiettes at their luncheon. Many have led very interesting lives blessed with the opportunity to travel the globe. They told stories of visiting Europe, Asia, and even Cuba. They mentioned the amazing sights that there were to see, but they mainly spoke of the people from these foreign lands, many who live in poverty. The Columbiettes spoke with profound insight, compassion, appreciation and respect for all of humanity. I was touched by the genuine spirit of the Columbiettes; the spirit of faith, hope and charity.
Since their inception, the San Marco Columbiettes have grown to 72 members with more scheduled to join in the fall. All San Marco Catholic parish women are invited to join. If you are interested in being a part of this extraordinary group, please call President Mary Cay Moll at 239-394-1016 or 773-763-7275 to begin the application process. For more information about the San Marco Columbiettes, please visit www.sanmarcochurch.com or www.marcoknights.com.