By Kenneth J. Souza, Anchor Staff
FALMOUTH, Mass. — On July 20, Gregory S. Pinto will be installed as the newest grand knight of the Falmouth Knights of Columbus, Council No. 813.
By taking on this pivotal role, Pinto will not only be following in a time-honored tradition of a Catholic fraternal organization dating back to 1882, but he also will be following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, Robert Alfred Goffin, who served as the first grand knight for the Falmouth council when it was chartered on Sept. 6, 1903.
“I am looking forward to July 20, although the installation is just a ceremony,” Pinto recently told The Anchor. “It’s an important ceremony, but I’ve already started to take on the role (as grand-knight elect).”
In the weeks leading up to his formal installation on July 20, to be held at St. Joseph’s Church in Woods Hole immediately following the 10 a.m. Mass, Pinto has indeed taken over much of the responsibilities for leading the K of C council from current Grand Knight Edward F. Graham Jr., who will forever maintain the honorific title of past grand knight.
Although Council No. 813 is headquartered in Falmouth and it serves three parishes — St. Anthony’s in East Falmouth, St. Patrick’s in Falmouth, and St. Elizabeth Seton in North Falmouth — it actually can trace its roots back to Woods Hole.
“Our council started at St. Joseph’s Church,” Pinto said. “On our charter it says the council was chartered in Woods Hole, county of Barnstable in Massachusetts. And our first grand knight, my great-grandfather, grew up in Woods Hole. My grandmother grew up in Woods Hole. My mother grew up in Woods Hole. I grew up in East Falmouth, but my family is from Woods Hole.”
Little did he know back in 2007 when he was first asked to join the Knights of Columbus that Pinto would soon be filling the shoes of his great-grandfather as the council’s grand knight.
“The grand knight at the time was Norman Drouin, and I knew him from St. Anthony’s Parish in East Falmouth,” Pinto said. “He came up to me after Mass one day and asked if I’d ever heard of the Knights of Columbus and if I ever considered joining.”
It wasn’t long after being recruited that Pinto was soon tapped to serve as the council’s treasurer, given his affinity for numbers and the fact that he was an accounting major in college.
“I took on the treasurer’s role in that first year and it sort of snowballed from there,” Pinto said. “I started asking a lot of questions. One of the questions I asked was: ‘What’s the Robert Goffin Association?’ I was told the council itself could not hold any real property, and so they had to set up a building corporation to hold the property and it was named the Robert Goffin Corporation. I asked why they picked Robert Goffin and they told me he was the (council’s) first grand knight.”
Admitting he was being coy about the whole thing, Pinto said he inquired at the next meeting if anyone had a photograph of Robert Goffin.
“They said they didn’t think any pictures existed,” Pinto said. “So the next meeting I came in and brought a photo of Robert Goffin to them. They asked: ‘Where did you get that?’ I told them: ‘From my mother; he’s her grandfather.’”
It soon dawned on his brother knights that Pinto had a direct relation to their founding grand knight.
“I knew he had been in the council and I knew he was the first grand knight, because my mother and aunts had told me about him,” Pinto said.
Although he’s served in various roles since joining the K of C in 2007, it wasn’t until he agreed to take on the position of deputy grand knight a couple of years ago that Pinto gave any serious consideration to possibly taking on the title that his great-grandfather once held.
“The deputy grand knight they had at the time had taken on a second job … and they wanted me to take the position,” Pinto said. “At that point I became the deputy grand knight — that was about a year-and-a-half ago — I was appointed to fill out his term and then last year I was elected for another one-year term.”
With the exception of the trustees and the financial secretary, all of whom serve three-year terms, Pinto said most officers are installed for one-year terms, although “it’s generally accepted that you’ll serve two or three years.”
“It takes a year to learn the job and at that point they don’t want to let you go,” he added. “I’ve been asked if I would serve at least two years, and I agreed.”
At the same time he was elected to another one-year term as deputy grand knight, Pinto was also asked to serve as a district warden for the K of C.
“You have all the local councils in the towns and parishes, and they answer to the state council, and the state council answers to the supreme council, which is based in Connecticut,” Pinto explained. “Within the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, as it’s called, there are different districts. I think there are about 56, maybe a little bit more. Every district has a district deputy. You go from the state deputy and state board down to the district level, then down to the councils.”
According to Father Timothy Goldrick, pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth and chaplain-elect for Council No. 813, every parish he has served has had an active K of C council.
“I find the men of the Knights to be extremely supportive of the life and ministry of priests and seminarians,” Father Goldrick said. “The Knights are willing and able to share their time and talent with the faith community on all levels. I’m proud to be called a brother Knight.”
Noting that the K of C is much more than “a generic men’s club or good-time social club,” Father Goldrick said the organization was founded on the Christian precepts of spirituality and morality.
“They are strong supporters of the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church,” he said. “They are fine Catholic gentlemen.”
Although there are about 135 members on the council’s membership roster, Pinto said there are maybe about 30 who remain active and show up on a regular basis.
“But we can work with 20 to 30 and we can build on that,” he said. “I’ve gotten a couple of guys that I know to join, now the trick is to get them to become more active.”
While they still use their longtime facility located at 279 Brick Kiln Road in Falmouth for meetings and events, Pinto said they sold the building a couple of years ago and maintain deeded rights to the space, which has led to some misconceptions that the council is no longer active.
“It’s one of those situations where we’re very much in a rebuilding phase,” he said. “My goal as grand knight is to increase our activity every year. I hope we can recruit some new members and the trick now is to have something for them to do. There are all sorts of programs out there that the Knights of Columbus support. I have a little bit of a game plan, and now it’s time to sit down and present it to the members.”
One of Pinto’s first agenda items is to implement a business plan for the council.
“It may sound strange for a fraternal, charitable organization, but I think we need one,” he said. “Then we need to be able to get the word out that certain programs are available, and then we’ll go from there.”
Some of the K of C-supported programs that Pinto hopes to revitalize include things like an essay contest for the local schools, a soccer challenge, and a free-throw contest. He also hopes to reach out more to the greater community beyond the three parishes the council now serves.
“I don’t know if I’ll get to everything this year, but I’ll start with the small programs and take steps to get our name out there,” he said. “It’s all about public relations. Anywhere we go, we need to make sure we either have a sign with us that says Knights of Columbus, or wear something to identify us to make sure people know we still exist. We’ve got to get out and keep visible.”
Noting that it’s not a problem unique to the K of C, Pinto said many Church-related and charitable organizations have seen a downturn in membership and participation in recent years.
“Everyone is doing their own thing these days and people think if I can just email or text someone, I don’t need to see them,” Pinto said. “And then the people in my age group are busy raising families, often working one, two or three jobs to support them, so there’s not a lot of time to devote to other things. That’s life.”
Pinto said he hopes many of his family members and friends will attend the council’s 111th installation ceremony on July 20, during which he and 14 other officers will be installed for the 2014-2015 fraternal year.
“I would say that my mom had a smile from ear to ear when she found out I was going to become grand knight, but it might have wrapped around her head,” he said. “My mother is very proud. But my girlfriend is a little bit wary. She’s already seen some of the things I’ve had to do as deputy grand knight.”
“I am excited to have Greg Pinto serving as the grand knight of the Falmouth council,” Father Goldrick said. “He brings with him to the office both the enthusiasm of a young man and the deep community roots of an elder. It’s the best of both worlds.
“If I was asked to describe Greg in three words, those words would be ‘faith,’ ‘courage,’ and ‘enthusiasm.’ These are the three marks of a Catholic leader.”
For Pinto, taking on the role of grand knight is just another way for him to serve the council his great-grandfather helped found 111 years ago.
“Every problem that creeps up is mine; and every accolade that creeps up is the council’s — that the way I see it,” he said. “I don’t expect people to pat me on the back, because I’ve got all these other people to help out. All I’m doing is standing here steering the ship, but if the guys don’t go and put the sails up, we’ll just sit here in the water. But I’ll do my best to put a vision out there and say: ‘This is where we want to go.’”
For more information about the Knights of Columbus and local councils within the Fall River Diocese, visit www.massachusettsstatekofc.org.