A first in Michigan, Columbiettes serve alongside Knights of Columbus at St. Patrick

Members of the St. Patrick Columbiettes, the first women's auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus in the state of Michigan, volunteer during a fish fry Feb. 24 at St. Patrick Parish in White Lake. Left to right are Maggie Brady, Jeanie Kindermann, Leanne Tarasiewicz, Miki Keller and Pat Chamberlain. (Photos by Michael Stechschulte | Detroit Catholic)

Inspired to do more for her parish, White Lake parishioner helps start first K of C women's auxiliary in Michigan's history

WHITE LAKE — When, in 2017, Miki Keller and her family moved from Goodrich and joined St. Patrick Parish in White Lake, Keller was eager to meet the women of her new parish home.

Keller looked forward to helping at parish events and activities, especially those sponsored by the parish's Knights of Columbus Council #13319.

“It was great to get to know so many women from the parish as we volunteered together at the Knights’ Lenten fish fries and other occasions," Keller said. "My husband is a Knight, and the husbands of many of these new friends also are Knights."

Soon, however, Keller began to wonder whether there was something more official the women could do to help. The council’s grand knight did some research and learned that there was, indeed, an auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus for women — the Columbiettes — though one had never been established in the state of Michigan.

The Columbiettes trace their history to 1939, when Msgr. J. Francis McIntyre — later Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles — conceived of the idea while serving as chaplain of the Knights of Columbus in New York. Inspired by a rally of enthusiastic women at Madison Square Garden, Msgr. McIntyre spearheaded a plan to involve women in the Knights through an auxiliary, called the Columbiettes. Today, chapters exist throughout the United States and Canada.

Judy Whitlock, left, and Karen Politowicz serve dessert during St. Patrick Parish's fish fry on Feb. 24. The parish's Columbiettes auxiliary serves alongside its Knights of Columbus council and provides support, activities and volunteer opportunities for women of the parish and beyond.
Judy Whitlock, left, and Karen Politowicz serve dessert during St. Patrick Parish's fish fry on Feb. 24. The parish's Columbiettes auxiliary serves alongside its Knights of Columbus council and provides support, activities and volunteer opportunities for women of the parish and beyond.

Not one to sit on the sidelines, Keller decided to take it upon herself to get the ball rolling. “(I remember thinking), 'There’s never been a Columbiettes auxiliary in Michigan?'” Keller said. “Well, I can do this."

“I don’t know exactly what I was thinking,” Keller laughed. “No one really knew me (at St. Patrick), yet. And, in order to get started, the first thing needed was to get 20 women to join.”

Pretty quickly, though, enough women did join. And on Aug. 7, 2021, the St. Patrick Columbiettes was formed, becoming the 21st auxiliary in the country and the first in Michigan. More than a year later, the St. Patrick Columbiettes had more than 70 members attend its January meeting.

“We are our own entity,” Keller explained. “Though we are named ‘St. Patrick Columbiettes,’ we do not belong to the parish. We can accept members from all over Michigan.”

The Columbiettes have been active in supporting their community’s causes.

“In addition to helping the Knights, we are a huge part of the fish fries on our own with pizza sales there," Keller said. "We also have a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for Right to Life, and we reach out into our community by volunteering our time and donating items to DRAW (Disaster Relief at Work).”

The St. Patrick Columbiettes also hosted a May crowning and a “Treasures in the Trunk” sale, which will be repeated this year, along with a living rosary last year, Keller said.

“We are so fortunate to have a Catholic school here,” Keller said. “The children love our events and sometimes, when a family attends one, it renews faith that may have been waning or may motivate a lapsed parent or grandparent to begin attending church again."

The mission of the Columbiettes is similar to that of the Knights, to address the needs of the Church and their communities through charity, fellowship and spiritual care. All of the individual auxiliaries are dedicated to promoting the spiritual, social, and charitable welfare of their members and the communities in which they reside. Another purpose is to instill a steadfast conviction relating to the function of Catholic women in safeguarding the religious, civil, and economic rights of all Catholics.

Columbiettes Jill Koterba, left, and Jennifer Fitzgerald work the ticket booth during St. Patrick's fish fry on Feb. 24.
Columbiettes Jill Koterba, left, and Jennifer Fitzgerald work the ticket booth during St. Patrick's fish fry on Feb. 24.

“In other words,” Keller said, “we support the Church and our nation as we do God’s work, promoting God’s love for all.”

The Columbiettes have three patronesses: the Blessed Mother, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Joan of Arc.

The Columbiettes emulate Mary in her purity and as a mother, in the knowledge that she is the foundation of all true motherhood; they honor the zeal of St. Therese as she looked for opportunities to make sacrifices; and they follow the lead of St. Joan of Arc, who was always ready to unselfishly give her aid to those defending a worthy cause.

Keller hopes enough women will become interested in the work of the Columbiettes that more auxiliaries can be formed around the state.

“There is a Supreme Council of Columbiettes, with many members of the council being from New York. They offer help and guidance and are always available to support us," Keller said. "And there is also a territory director/liaison who is always there for us if we need her. Ours is Linda Ziegler of Delaware.”

Ziegler and other Supreme Council members attended the Aug. 7, 2021, installation ceremony at St. Patrick.

“We truly hope that more parishes will want to initiate their own Columbiettes auxiliaries, and we are willing to help them," Keller said.

“I cannot begin to explain the wonderful feeling that grows from working together," she continued. "It’s always been great to know people at church, to greet them … but now, with the Columbiettes, we women of all ages have truly come to know, love and support each other. So, you’re not just saying ‘hello’ to a fellow parishioner; you’re greeting a real friend that you truly care about and work with, side by side.”

For more information about the St. Patrick Columbiettes, email [email protected] or visit www.columbiettes.com.



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