While the Knights of Columbus in Chelsea might have vacated their building in Chelsea Square, members this week said they have not folded and continue to actively meet and help the church community in Chelsea.
Member Frank Pegnato – a Chelsea native and long-time Knight – said the organization is still active, despite much discussion lately about the Christopher Columbus Statue and the Chelsea Knights being defunct.
It’s not so, said Pegnato.
“The Knights of Columbus has not folded,” he said. “Unfortunately there was an issue with taxes and we found out we owed a lot of taxes we didn’t know about. We ended up finding out though that the City had overcharged us $80,000 and got that money back from the City. However, because of that, we ended up selling our building across the street from the statue. That said, we still meet one time a month at the Chelsea Yacht Club. We’re still very active giving money to the churches in the community.”
The organization started in Chelsea in 1898 and was founded to help the Catholic church community in the city. Pegnato said just recently Our Lady of Grace was being threatened with closure if they didn’t rebuild a critical retaining wall. The Knights were able to provide $110,000 to replace the wall and keep the church open.
The statue of Christopher Columbus has come under fire recently in Chelsea Square – across the street from where the Knights building used to be. Several City Councilors asked that the statue be removed and a tribute to the indigenous people that once populated Chelsea be erected in that location. That request has been sent to a Committee on Conference for further discussion.
The statue in Chelsea was put up not to honor Columbus, but to designate the Knights of Columbus location. It was funded by more than a half-dozen organizations in the City in the 1930s, and out of a response, the Knights said, to defend those without a voice in those times. The Knights were founded in America to help people without a voice who were being persecuted in the early 1900s, many of them being Italian immigrants or Roman Catholics suspected of espionage, treason or anarchist beliefs.
Statues of Columbus were put up all over America to denote the presence of a club in that town. The one in Chelsea was put up after significant fund-raising to denote the Knights location across the street.
Still today, Pegnato said they may no longer have a building, but they certainly have a presence – unlike what many have recently said in the statue debate.
“The Knights of Columbus is still active and still very much alive in Chelsea,” he said. “We don’t have a building now, so we’re not as visible as we were, but we’re still active and our meetings are held every month – like they have been for more than 130 years in Chelsea.”