History of Council 313

 

Trinity Council 313, Knights of Columbus was founded in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on February 6, 1898.  This was only sixteen years after the founding of the original council of the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, by Father Michael J. McGivney in 1882 and two years after the Knights expanded outside the state of Connecticut.  In Bethlehem, as in New Haven, the Irish ethnic group felt a need for a Catholic organization dedicated to brotherhood and charity. Trinity Council was one of the earliest councils in Pennsylvania and its history centered on the south side of the City.  Its original home was the Brinker Building (Temperance Hall) on East 3rd Street, and meetings were held there semi-monthly.

 

James M. Degnan, owner of a general store at Broadway and Third Street, was elected as its first Grand Knight.  It was this same James M. Degnan who also founded the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce in this growing city near the turn of the century.  Meetings in those early years were by the light of kerosene lamps and gaslight, and council members went to meetings on foot, by horseback, by horse and buggy, or by the “new-fangled” contraption called the electric streetcar.

 

The City of Bethlehem at that time was quite different than it is now.  The traditionally Moravian background of the City had been “invaded” in the previous generation by people of various ethnic backgrounds because of the advent of the Bethlehem Iron Works (later known as Bethlehem Steel Company).  The ironworks were built on the south side of the Lehigh River.  The farmlands of the south side quickly settled into homes and stores of a booming iron town.  It was in the atmosphere of “growing pains” of the developing city that the Knights of Columbus was started in Bethlehem.  There were no cars or trucks and electricity was finally coming of age as a method of lighting (mainly street lights) and for trolley cars.

 

From the time of its inception Trinity Council benefited its members and their families.  The Spanish-American War was in progress, and the soldiers who fought the battles had the comfort in knowing that their families would be helped at home by a “family” of friends.   Life insurance was a benefit offered to the Knights.  The Spanish-American War apparently spurred the membership and Council growth at that time.

 

Trinity Council grew so quickly that it soon became necessary to acquire larger meeting quarters … and the O’Reilly Building, located at the southeast corner of 3rd and New Streets, became its new home.  The O’Reilly Clothing Store was on the first floor and Council meetings were on the second floor.  For more than twenty-five years the council prospered at the O’Reilly location.

 

The First World War changed the activity emphasis of the council, as many members and members’ sons went into the Armed Services.  Insurance policies, available to members in the service, became an important help to those unfortunate families whose loved ones bravely died.  Meanwhile, the “Liberty Bond” drive was a big activity for members at home.  Council members cooperated with the local industry and the Council undertook a separate war fund campaign.  The fund executive committee included such notables a Charles H. Schwab and Eugene G. Grace.

 

Provisions for new and larger meeting quarters again became apparent in the mid-twenties and Jim McIntyre (G.K. 1926) led a group of members to find a new home.  Finally chosen, was the former Northampton Club at 214-216 West 4th Street, then owned by the Kappa Sigma Fraternity of Lehigh University.  The Council moved to its new quarters in 1928, and remained at that location for about thirty years.  This building contained the Council’s meeting room, bowling alleys, social room, library, and billiard room.  When repeal of the Temperance Amendment occurred in the thirties, a bar and grille was added to the site.  It was at this 4th Street location that the Knights of Columbus State Convention was held in 1940.  This was the first time a Knights of Columbus State Convention was held in the area.

 

The conventioneers were hosted by Deputy G.K. Harry F. McGlade and they swelled the hotels of the Bethlehem, Allentown and Easton areas.  The events of the convention no only included the normal business program, but also religious services at the local Catholic Church of the Holy Infancy, special Communion Breakfasts, luncheons and sightseeing tours of Bethlehem and of the Moravian facilities.  No other Knights of Columbus State Convention was held in the area except for one in 1970 when the Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton and Emmaus Councils jointly hosted a convention at the George Washington Motor Lodge in Allentown.  Trinity Council, which was headed by Grand Knight Jack Cauley, was active in the planning and arrangements for the occasion.

 

After the 1940 State Convention, World War II began.  Again the emphasis of council activities became one of national patriotism.  The Christmas participation during the war years was of “cash” Christmas presents to members in the Armed Forces.  Our archives include many letters from the Council members in the service; the letters indicate how grateful they were for gifts, messages and general news about the Council activities.  The emphasis during and after the war years was that Bethlehem was the Christmas City.

 

During the fifties, portions of the south side, of which the council home was part, became designated for redevelopment.  Again, the Council had to look for a new home.  Temporary quarters were found on the north side, at the corner of First Avenue and Broad Street.  In this building, which housed the Bethlehem Trust Company in the early 1900s, and the Christian Scientist Church of Bethlehem through the early 1950s, Trinity Council 313 temporarily met while it looked for permanent quarters.

 

In 1961, Trinity Council purchased a building (a clothing store) at 21-23 East Third Street.  After making some improvements, the Council moved into its new South Side quarters in 1962.  The following history depicts some Council activities that our long-time Brothers will recognize.

 

During the years 1970-1977, Trinity Council and Holy Cross Council members and wives enjoyed fellowship with the Masons in the annual Mason-Knights banquet.  In the years 1979-1983 Trinity Council and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon held a joint meeting annually.

 

In 1974, the Council initiated a Golden Age Lounge for Senior Citizens.  The program was initiated by P.G.K. Charles Dick, P.G.K. and was a favorite pastime for many senior citizens.  John Yanushka was responsible for the program from 1977 through 1988.  Also, the Council provided equipment and support when Chaplain Rev. Bob Cofenas initiated the Dial-a-Meditation program for shut-ins and others.

 

In 1976, the Knights of Columbus held a Bicentennial celebration to recognize that the U.S.A. was founded 200 years ago in an atmosphere of respect for God.  The event was spearheaded by Trinity Council, although the Mass and festivities at Allentown College involved 11 Councils and 2 Fourth Degree Assemblies.  The 11 concelebrants of the Mass included the Very Rev. J Stuart Dooling, Chaplain Rev. Peter Bonardi and Rev. William Carter.

 

For almost 20 years, many Brothers of Trinity Council have participated in the program supporting the Association of Retarded Citizens of Pennsylvania.  Over the last fifteen years, Council members have successfully solicited over $35,000 for the Special Olympics of Bethlehem program.  Council also helped at the “Christmas City/Special Olympics 500” mini-car races on June 14, 1998.

 

Trinity Council continues to hold its traditional Children’s Christmas Party.  Since 1952, our party has included a gift from Santa, a show and refreshments.  Since 1973 the Council has held a Communion Breakfast, generally on Trinity Sunday, at which the high school graduating sons and daughters of Council members receive a U.S. Savings Bond.  The State Council has a generous college Scholarship program . . . Council winners include Eric Tich (1977), Ann Marie Indelicato (1992), and Mary Beth Indelicato (1994).  Also Many Council members’ sons and daughters have been beneficiaries of the State Educational Loan Foundation program.

 

Since 1985, Trinity Council has conducted a Free Throw competition for girls and boys, ages 10 through 14.  Some winners have progressed as far as the Districts, Regional and even to the State Council finals at State College.

 

Our traditional Memorial Mass is conducted every November to honor all deceased Brothers of Trinity Council and their family members.  For many years, Trinity Brothers have participated in the sale of Chance-of-a-Lifetime (COAL) books, which support the College Scholarship program.  Major Council winners have included, John Yanushka (automobile) and Bill Connell Jr. (trip to Ireland).

 

Trinity Council continues to celebrate Columbus Day and St. Patrick’s Day, generally with a dinner and sometimes a dance.  An annual Christmas dinner is held at a local club for Brothers and their wives.  The Council has sponsored a popular “Keep Christ in Christmas” billboard at various locations in the Lehigh Valley.  We fondly recall past participation in New York show trips, the Bernie Gallagher Golf Tournament, Christmas City Fair, CYO Trophy program, etc.  Current activities include staunch support of the Pro-Life movement, Marian Hour of Prayer, assistance at Church carnivals, the Church Round Table and participation in the Refund Support Vocation (RSVP) which provides financial help to seminarians.  Other annual activities include the Council family picnic and Yankees bus trip.

 

Many Trinity Council members and their families continue to benefit from the Knights of Columbus Insurance program that now has more than $45 billion of insurance in force.  It consistently earns the highest rating of Standard & Poors and A.M. Best Co.

 

During the last 35 years, the following have held Pennsylvania State Council positions:  John Clark, District Deputy 1970-72 (deceased); Joseph t. Petrilla, District Deputy 1972-76; J. Stanley Tich, District Deputy 1979-83; Daniel Artim, District Deputy 1991-1992; N.E. ARC coordinator 1997-98; Leonard Verrastro, District Deputy 1994-98 and our current District Deputy, Edward Nickles 2003-present.

 

The home, which served us well, was ultimately sold in 1997.  When the paneling in our old meeting room was removed, the following inscription was found: “Work done by Bill Macario, Warden Fran Haymaker, Grand Knight Paul DiBartolo-1964.  As conceived by P.G.K. Dave Petrilla, a farewell party was held at the Third Street home on February 8, 1997.  It began well as Mass celebrated by Rev. William Dermont.  A turnout of 130 adults and 30 children enjoyed a fine buffet dinner.  Subsequently, Brother Knights purchase chairs and tables.  Our framed photos of some Bethlehem Churches were given to the respective Churches.  The remaining Council items were sold at a public auction and property settlement date was March 31, 1997.

 

From 1997 to 2015 our meeting place was at Monocacy Manor at Saint Francis Center for Renewal in Bethlehem, PA  18017.  During our time there we held our monthly meetings and annual Past Grand Knights Dinner and Christmas Mass and Celebration. In addition to PA KofC officials attending our Christmas celebrations we always had a great turn out of Sisters of St. Francis joining us for Mass and Dinner.  No one who attended dinner can forget Sister Anita, who led us in Christmas carols while playing the accordion.  During our time at Monocacy Manor we kept up our charitable works, helping the Sisters and continuing our work for the Special Olympics and ARC. We also fundraised over $15,000 to purchase an ultrasound machine for use in a Lehigh Valley Ob/Gyn office. This provided any pregnant mother visiting the office to have an ultra-sound done and also see a picture of her baby.  We raised an additional $5,000 for Mary’s Shelter and $7,000 for Father Jim Kahakulya to purchase a car to transport seminarians in Nairobi-Keyna.  We started our Trinity Council 313 Scholarship program to provide a $500 scholarship to an eighth-grader in each of the parishes we serve going on to a Catholic High School.

 

From 2015 to 2019 Trinity Council 313 met at The Valley of the Good St. Anne Shrine at 175 Nazareth Pike, Bethlehem, PA 18020.  During our time there we have helped to make improvements in the property by working with the Little Helpers of the Good St. Anne to refurbish the meeting room, grotto, and statues.  

 

March 2019, Trinity Council 313 Bethlehem passed a resolution to move their meeting location to Notre Dame of Bethlehem Church, located at 1861 Catasauqua Road, Bethlehem, PA. 18018. We meet in the Convent Building located on the Parish property on the 3rd Thursday of every month. So come join us as we continue the long traditions of Trinity Council 313.  We always need new Brothers to carry on the tradition and help in supporting our charitable and community programs. Trinity Council 313 in the Lehigh Valley…122 years and counting!

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