Knights Father Boehr Council donates $1 million to local parishes, charities


TIVERTON — Founded 130 years ago by the Venerable Father Michael McGivney at St. Mary’s Parish in New Haven, Connecticut, the Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization.
With 1.9 million members around the world, Knights express their deep commitment to the faith by upholding four key principles as pillars of their order: Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism.
The Knights’ local Father Boehr Council exemplified their charity in a very generous and significant way last week, donating more than $1 million to four local parishes and a dozen organizations.
“It’s amazing, I was almost moved to tears. They are so generous,” said Father Jay Finelli, pastor of Holy Ghost Parish, in Tiverton, his voice cracking as he expressed to Rhode Island Catholic his gratitude to the Knights after receiving a check for $127,500 in support of his parish.
“This is what the Knights are all about,” he added. “They’ve always supported the parishes; they’ve always supported the faith. They’re good Catholic men and we are grateful to them for their generosity and their love, it shows their love for the faith. This will help our parishes a lot.”
Father Finelli said that he and his brother priests will remember the knights in their prayers and in their Masses, that God will bless them abundantly in his goodness for the generosity they have shown.
Knight Raymond Brodeur, treasurer of the Father Boehr Council Charitable Foundation, said the foundation was formed following the sale of the council’s hall since 1964 two years ago to disperse most of the proceeds to local churches and charities.
“This is a very special night for the Knights of Columbus here at Father Boehr Council,” Brodeur said. “It’s a great honor to be able to do this for so many charities here, local and international.”
In total, the Father Boehr Council bestowed $1,020,000 in monetary gifts to the four parishes, as well as local agencies like Rhode Island-based Make a Wish Foundation, which received an award of $30,600; regional ones like the Carol Center for the Blind, in Newton, Massachusetts, which received $30,600, and Shriner’s Hospital for Children, which received $86,700; to Cross International, which received $25,500.
The beneficiaries, chosen by the foundation’s board of directors, where bestowed at a gathering on May 16 in St. Theresa Church Hall, where the Father Boehr Council is now headquartered.
The Mother of Life Pregnancy Center, a non-profit Providence agency committed to promoting life by providing free assistance to pregnant teens and women, received a check for $40,600.
“It means everything. It really is a beacon of hope for the young mothers that we support and give guidance to in their times of trouble. It’s just amazing, I can’t believe it,” Lise Doyle, the organization’s executive director.
Doyle said the money will be used to purchase additional supplies, such as diapers and clothes and formula, along with car seats and mattresses, for their boutique to help mothers and their babies for the first two years after the child is born. Father Phillip Dufour, pastor of St. Theresa and St. Christopher parishes in Tiverton, said that both of his congregations are blessed to each receive a check for $127,500 in unexpected financial support.
“It’s an immense blessing to be the recipient of this wonderful financial gift from the Father Boehr Knights of Columbus,” Father Dufour said. “There’s always things that need to be done in the parishes and we rely on the generosity of parishioners and organizations. It helps us to continue the good work that God calls us to do, not only for the Church but for the community as well.
Father Stephen Silipigni, pastor of St Catherine of Siena Parish in Little Compton, also received a check for $127,500 on behalf of his parish.
Knights State Deputy David Bebyn described the Father Boehr Knights’ generosity as “a blessing.”
“In hearing them describing their past history there’s heartache in having to sell of their old building, but all the time they had that building, all the charitable work and fundraising they’ve done, they were able to turn that sale of that building into an amazing demonstration of generosity,” Bebyn said.
“It’s an honor as part of the State Council to see one of our councils with that outpouring of generosity.”
Ernest Benoit, president of the Father Boehr Charitable Foundation, said closing and selling the hall was a good thing in more ways than one.
“Membership is decreasing and decreasing, the young generation isn’t as enthusiastic about joining organizations, the end result being that we came to a decision that we would have to do something and with COVID, which totally took us out of our home on Fish Road, so that’s when we decided to sell it. We moved to St. Theresa’s as a council, and we created the charitable fund,” Benoit said.
“Right off the bat, we agreed that half of our money was going to go to the churches because that’s what we’re about, supporting our churches. So that’s what we did.”
The Father Boehr Council was chartered in early 1959 in a small storefront on Main Road in Tiverton with about 85 men.
When the membership outgrew that location, a group of members pooled resources as a loan to the council to fund the downpayment of a new home, purchasing the Star Lighter Club on Fish Road, where the council would be able to run weekly bingos to support the council’s activities.
In ensuing years, the hall was enlarged to allow for larger activities for the robust membership. They held dinner dances and other activities mostly every week, and these were attended by the members and their families.
A gradual decline in membership began as family life changed with the times, until the hall was sold in 2022.
Joe Carrignan, the incoming state deputy for the Knights of Columbus, said the sale presented an amazing opportunity and example for the membership.
“We’ve never had one council be able to donate this much money to so many different organizations,” he said, noting it was “phenomenal” how the council donated more than $500,000 to the churches alone.
“They worked really hard, they got the team together and they made it happen. That’s what we do as Knights of Columbus, faith in action all the way.”