Knights of Columbus to be Crowned in Annual Celebration of the Spirit of Catholic Philanthropy

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In 2010 the Knights of Columbus contributed more than $150 million to charitable causes and provided more than 69 million volunteer hours to philanthropic initiatives. Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) celebrates its 24th annual Mardi Gras Ball, March 5, 2011 at 6:00 p.m., held at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif. The black tie fundraiser is the largest Catholic fundraiser of its kind in Orange County

Catholic Charities of Orange County (CCOC) celebrates its 24th annual Mardi Gras Ball, March 5, 2011 at 6:00 p.m., held at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif. The black tie fundraiser is the largest Catholic fundraiser of its kind in Orange County, drawing more than 500 distinguished guests and raising more than $350,000 last year. The Most Rev. Tod D. Brown, Bishop of Orange, will honor the spirit of philanthropy and reflect on the bountiful contributions Catholic Charities has made over the past 34 years. This year’s event takes on even more significance as the county continues to reel from the dual effects of a protracted recession and the disintegration of the government sponsored social safety net. In the face of this crisis CCOC has increased its food assistance and other services to the poor, serving more than 150,000 people in 2010.

The Orange County Knights of Columbus will be recognized by Bishop Brown for their many selfless acts of charity and their 32 years of support for Camp Re-Creation, a weeklong residential summer camp for adults with developmental disabilities. The Knights have contributed more than $3 million to CCOC in support of those with special needs over the past three decades. Representatives of the Knights will be ceremonially crowned as Kings of the 2011 Mardi Gras Ball.

“The Mardi Gras Ball allows our Diocese to celebrate Catholic Charities as an organization and reflect on their good works throughout Orange County. This annual event helps to reinforce the Catholic Church’s charitable mission, allowing Catholic Charities to robustly respond to a more than 40% increase in requests for basic assistance needs in Orange County as a result of the economic crisis. Catholic Charities has resolutely responded to this increased demand as they have to so many other crises in the past,” said Bishop Brown.

The annual Catholic Charities Mardi Gras event takes place just before the liturgical season of Lent, as does the famous Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans, Brazil and many other places around the world. Mardi Gras is a celebration of surplus. The celebration arrived in North America with the LeMoyne brothers, Iberville and Bienville, in the late 17th century, when King Louis XIV sent them to defend France's claim on the territory of Louisiana on March 3, 1699. They made camp just south of New Orleans, named the spot Point du Mardi Gras and partook in a spontaneous party that is often referred to as North America's first Mardi Gras.

The Knights of Columbus were founded by Father Michael J. McGivney, assistant pastor of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut in 1882. McGivney founded this fraternal organization to offer a financial safety net to members and their families. The Knights of Columbus have grown from several members in one council to more than 14,000 councils and 1.8 million members throughout the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Guatemala, Guam and Saipan. The Order has helped families obtain economic security and stability through its life insurance, annuity and long-term care programs, and has contributed time and energy worldwide to service in communities. In 2010 the Knights of Columbus contributed more than $150 million to charitable causes and contributed more than 69 million volunteer hours to philanthropic initiatives.

Locally, the Orange County chapter of the Knights was founded with support from Bishop William R Johnson, the first Bishop of Orange, in 1979. There are currently 7,000 Knights of Columbus in the Diocese of Orange, comprising 44 parish based Councils. The Knights offer financial and volunteer support to many ministries and assistance programs throughout Orange County. Of note are their more than 32 years of financial support for Camp Re-Creation and three other camps for those with special needs held throughout the year. This important camp experience offers those with disabilities, volunteers and care-givers a wonderful week to build relationships, foster self-esteem growth, and share their spirituality and compassion with others. The goals of this enriching summer camp are multifaceted. The camp provides an environment where adults with disabilities can participate in activities which will enhance their skills, independence, confidence and self-esteem. It provides a small relief for those family members and care-takers that devote their lives to caring for their loved-ones, all while offering volunteer youth an opportunity to participate in an educational experience that will strengthen their understanding of diversity and help them to develop leadership skills.

“We are blessed as a Catholic community to benefit from the dedication and care offered by this benevolent organization. Its members have demonstrated their commitment to caring for the poor and vulnerable within Orange County. Their commitment to the mission of Jesus Christ is truly an inspiration to us all and I am pleased to recognize their contribution to our Diocese,” concluded Bishop Brown.

About Catholic Charities:

Catholic Charities of Orange County, Inc. is a non-profit organization that makes available a broad base of services to all Orange County residents regardless of religious, ethnic, racial and social backgrounds. Catholic Charities works with individuals to define, design and implement family-friendly programs that promote economic opportunity, educational achievement, family enrichment, and community health. (http://www.ccoc.org)

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Ryan Lilyengren
Diocese of Orange
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