Ashtabula Knights of Columbus celebrates anniversary, discusses restructuring as it looks to future

Catholic Charities receives funds at the Knights of Columbus Ashtabula merger ceremony
Catholic Charities of Ashtabula County was the recipient of a sizeable donation.

The Knights of Columbus Ashtabula Council 360 celebrated their 125th anniversary on August 27 in the Community Center of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Ashtabula. To mark the anniversary, Ashtabula Council 360 donated nearly $100,000 dollars to multiple organizations, including Our Lady of Peace Parish, Catholic Charities of Ashtabula County and St. Joseph’s Cemetery, among others.

“Over the years we’ve accumulated a large sum of money and we just felt it was the right time to disperse it amongst … Catholic organizations in our immediate area,” said Terence Guerriero, brandishing a fistful of official-looking envelopes from his jacket pocket—though he swore they were still empty. “I’m not positive, but I think we’re going to be doing a little restructuring, too, within the county, so this is just a good way to start new, we’ll start over again.”

The restructuring in question refers to the possibility that several of Ashtabula’s Knights of Columbus councils—Ashtabula, Jefferson, Geneva and the recently deactivated Conneaut council—may be merged in the coming months. Like others throughout the diocese and the nation, they are investigating regionalization—or the pooling of resources for a larger impact.

Opening soloist stands at the podium at the Knights of Columbus Ashtabula merger ceremony
The ceremony began with a performance from a local soloist.

Despite that possibility, Guerriero—a former Grand Knight and currently a senior trustee of the council—is committed to looking towards the horizon.  

“Our hopes for the future are to keep the membership up, continue to do good works for Ashtabula city and Ashtabula County, and, fifteen years from now, that the next group takes over and we leave them in the same position that we were left in—which was a pretty good one,” Guerriero said. “That’s my hope, that we can keep the ball rolling.”

While many of the members are concerned about the Council’s future, there was still clearly a lot of pride in what they have accomplished. The council has done great things for the community in its 125-year run, and in just this one night, it did more for their community than most individuals could ever hope to do. Rather than fixate on an uncertain future, the organizers chose to celebrate where they’ve been and what they hope to do in the future.

“The fact is, we’re all getting older,” said Paul Atzemis. Atzemis, a lifelong member of the Knights, and his wife Lois received an award at the event honoring the Catholic Family of the Year.

“There’s just not the young guys … coming to the meetings, so we’re trying to decide how we can be … of service to the churches of the area,” Atzemis continued. “The new old guys come up and we just don’t have the resolve that the old old guys did.”

Following dinner, Byron Landolfi—current Grand Knight and the event’s master of ceremonies—introduced several significant people attending the event, including Jeffrey Killiany, the State Deputy for the Ohio State Council, and Monsignor Robert Siffrin, who was attending on behalf of Bishop David J. Bonnar.

In his remarks, Killiany congratulated Ashtabula Council 360 on reaching such an incredible milestone, and said that the Ohio State Council would be discussing the potential of merging the Ashtabula councils in the coming months.

“As you go forward, just remember the words of Fred Rogers—those of you who remember Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. He said, ‘Just when you think you’re finished with something, it’s time to start something else.’ Hopefully, we’re [going to] start some good things here in Ashtabula in the next year.”

After Killiany’s comments, the event culminated in the charitable gifts from the council to various Catholic-affiliated organizations in Ashtabula.

Father Thomas is recognized at the Knights of Columbus Ashtabula merger ceremony
Father Raymond Thomas accepted a check on behalf of Our Lady of Peace Parish.

Jill Valentic, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Ashtabula County, accepted the gift on behalf of her organization, and praised Ashtabula Council 360 for their generosity.

“[Tonight] is a product of all of us being together as one in the Catholic Church,” Valentic said. “Donations of this nature help us give back to our community and [help] those that are most vulnerable in our community. That’s exactly what it’s going towards—basic needs. Because every day we meet with someone who might be hungry, that may need clothing, that may be homeless … this is the type of funding that’s going to help us help those individuals.”

Ashtabula Council 360 chose to celebrate their 125th anniversary not by glorifying themselves, but by giving back to those in need. It served as a reminder of the need for not only the Knights of Columbus, but for all members of the Catholic Church to always stay oriented towards God, to see the good and to live selflessly.

“There’s so much history here,” Byron Landolfi said. “So many brother knights have served our council. I’m glad we could recognize our oldest living brother knight … it was great to honor our Catholic family of the year … I’m so proud of our heritage.”

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