Patuxent Council #2203
Since 1920
Serving St. Mary of the Mills
and our Community

Patuxent Council 2203 – 100 Years of Faith, Fraternity, and
Service to St. Mary of the Mills and the Greater Laurel Area
A Council History Prepared By Jimmy Williams, PGK, PFN November 13th, 2021

In 1920, Fr. Joseph A. Myer, Pastor of St. Mary of the Mills, invited a group of Catholic men to the rectory for the purpose of planning a men’s organization for the parish. Attendees decided to form a Knights of Columbus Council. The Council was named Patuxent after the river that flows near St. Mary’s. The Supreme Council granted the Charter for Patuxent Council 2203, the 20th Knights of Columbus Council to be chartered in Maryland, on November 28, 1920. Brother John F. Curtin was elected Charter Grand Knight. Fr. Myer continued to provide leadership and spiritual guidance to the Council until his death in October 1943.

From its inception, Patuxent Council has diligently served St. Mary of the Mills and the Greater Laurel Area with a variety of religious, charitable, civic, educational, and family activities. In all its undertakings, it has faithfully adhered to the Knights of Columbus guiding principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism.

Patuxent Council has never wavered in its support of St. Mary of the Mills. In 1936, amid the Great Depression, the Council paid tuition to keep three students enrolled in St. Mary’s School. By the mid-1940s, Patuxent instituted First Friday Communion Breakfasts for students, which became a long-running Council program. In 1947, the Council helped organize three major events, an oyster roast, a supper and bazaar, and a dance at the Laurel Armory, to raise a combined $10,000 (the equivalent of more than $120,000 in 2021) for the construction of the current St. Mary’s School building, dedicated in 1952.

In 1945, Patuxent gifted a 33-piece silver set worth $101.35 (more than $1,500 in 2021) to the rectory. In the late 1950s, the Council contributed to the “New Church” addition to St. Mary’s Church, dedicated June 14, 1959, by Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle and St. Mary’s Pastor Fr. Hugh Breen. The Council donated a stained-glass window depicting Christ the King to the new church.

More recently, the Council has for many years staffed the concessions stand at the annual Parish Christmas Bazaar, donating all profits to the parish. The Council has provided sponsorship and volunteers, including TIPS-certified bartenders, for major parish events, such as the 2018 Gala celebrating the 175th anniversary of St. Mary’s Church and the 125th anniversary of St. Mary’s School, and the new St. Mary’s School Bull Roast. The Council also donates a significant portion of the proceeds from its annual Lenten Fish Fries to the parish.

Patuxent is particularly proud of its support for its country and the armed services during World War II. Many Council members, including two Past Grand Knights, served during the war, as did many sons and daughters of Brother Knights. On the home front, Patuxent was a leader in providing entertainment and support for members of the armed forces, hosting numerous dances and other events for military and civilian personnel who passed through Fort George G. Meade.

In the beginning, Patuxent was associated with two parishes in Laurel and Jessup. As the Laurel area grew, the Council likewise expanded. In 1963, residents of Maryland City formed a new parish called Resurrection of Our Lord. During construction of the parish church in 1969 and 1970, Patuxent donated funds towards the construction of the Memorial Chapel. Following its opening in 1967, the Council donated a tabernacle to St. Nicholas Church and in subsequent years contributed additional funds for a baptismal font and sanctuary furnishings.

In the 1950s, the Council purchased and renovated a building, now recognizable as the old Perone Performance Products Co. building on Route 1 South in Howard County, for use as a Council home. In the early 1970s, Patuxent outgrew this building and began to meet at St. Mildred’s, then in use as the St. Mary’s parish hall. The move was mutually beneficial: the Knights provided funds and labor for renovations and leased the lower level. Patuxent undertook a second renovation from 1991 to 1994 and contributed funds to pave the parking lot.

The Council continued to use St. Mildred’s until Fall 2009, when it vacated the building to make way for demolition and the construction of the Msgr. Robert Keesler Parish Center. The Council and its members look back fondly on the many Council events and programs conducted at St. Mildred’s over the years, such as Halloween and Christmas Parties, Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinners, Open Houses, Grand Knight Appreciations, SHARE Food Distributions, and many more too numerous to list.

In June 2012, Patuxent donated $80,000 from its Building Fund toward the construction of the Keesler Center. Many Brother Knights and families also made individual contributions. Some Brother Knights gave of their talents to support the project in ways such as electrical consulting and architectural and design work. The Keesler Center was formally dedicated in September 2015. The Council has a permanent office in the building and meets in the Kutzera Room, named for Past Grand Knight and St. Mary’s Facilities Manager Don Kutzera.

Patuxent’s Knights have always been incredibly active in parish and community service. From the “5 Points Program” framework in the early years, to “Surge…With Service” in the latter half of the 20th Century and into the 21st Century, to the current “Faith In Action” framework implemented in 2018, the Council has strived to run relevant, effective programs in the service of St. Mary’s and its parishioners, as well as the community at large. In recognition of its programming successes, Patuxent routinely earns the coveted Columbian Award recognizing excellence in Council programming and has earned a reputation for conducting some of the best programs in the State of Maryland.

In the area of Faith Activities, the Council promotes religious vocations and annually contributes funds to at least two Seminarians to assist with expenses as they work toward the priesthood. The Council recently revived its Men’s Retreats, conducting an annual Lenten Retreat since 2019, annually participates in the Icon Program, which features St. Joseph in 2021-2022, sponsors an annual Vocations Roundtable for the Parish Youth Group, and prays the Rosary frequently. Many Brother Knights serve as ushers, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, and in numerous other liturgical ministries at St. Mary of the Mills.

Recent years have brought a renewed focus on Family-oriented programming as the Council seeks to have Brother Knights and their families take an active part in Council life, as well as to support families in the parish and the larger community. The Council annually sponsors a Consecration to the Holy Family on the Feast of the Holy Family. Youth of the parish annually compete in the Keep Christ in Christmas Poster Contest, which now routinely draws more than 60 entrants. The Council selects Families of the Month and a Family of the Year. Another significant Family program is Food for Families, through which Brother Knights pick up food items at two local grocery stores on a weekly basis for donation to local food pantries.

In the area of Community Activities, Patuxent continues its strong track record of community support. Many members and their families volunteer their time in support FISH of Laurel/Elizabeth House and Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services (LARS). In collaboration with the Laurel Police Department, LARS, and local schools, the Council annually distributes Coats for Kids to children in need of a new, warm winter coat. The Council collects and distributes wheelchairs to those in need and contributes funds for the purchase of new wheelchairs through the Global Wheelchair Mission. Parish youth compete annually in the Basketball Free Throw Championship. Each year, Patuxent presents awards to outstanding graduates of St. Mary’s School and Laurel and Pallotti High Schools. The Council annually honors community leaders, including a Law Enforcement Officer, Catholic School Teacher, CCD Teacher, Firefighter, EMT, Citizen, and Healthcare Worker of the Year, through the Community Awards Program. Since 2017, the Council has participated in the Box of Joy Program, packing and collecting shoebox-sized Christmas presents for children in developing countries.

Patuxent Council and its members remain incredibly active in the support and defense of Life in all its stages. In 1987, Brother Knights assisted in the establishment of a Memorial to the Unborn, believed to be the first memorial of its kind in the country, in the St. Mary of the Mills cemetery. In 1993, Patuxent held a rededication ceremony for the memorial. In 2018, 25 years after its first rededication ceremony, the Council cleaned and rededicated the memorial again and now assists in its regular maintenance. The Council conducts Novenas for Life and Brother Knights regularly participate in the National and Maryland Marches for Life. The Council provides annual financial support to the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Program, which assists in the placement of new ultrasound machines at pregnancy centers, as well as to organizations such as Gabriel Network and Mary’s Home. Annually since 2016, the Council has hosted a Silver Rose Prayer Service. Beginning in 2019, the Council revived its annual blood drive. The Council uses proceeds from its annual Tootsie Roll Drive to support organizations which serve the intellectually disabled, including programs through the Catholic Coalition for Special Education and Special Olympics of Maryland.

Over the last 25 years, Patuxent Council has established two signature programs of which it is particularly proud. The first is its SHARE Food Distribution Program. Established in 1996, the Council’s SHARE Program has grown to distribute an average of 15 tons of food worth more than $40,000 annually to individuals and families facing food insecurity, as well as to the food pantries at LARS and Elizabeth House. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, SHARE has taken on an even greater importance for our community. In November 2020, the Council surpassed an estimated 750,000 pounds of food distributed over the lifetime of the program. In March 2021, Patuxent surpassed an estimated $1 million of food distributed.

The second signature program is the Council’s University of Maryland Football and Basketball Concessions Fundraising Program. Since the mid-1990s, Patuxent has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of its charitable activities and programs. It is not an exaggeration to say, without the UMD Concessions Program, many of the Council’s charitable endeavors over the past 20+ years would not have been possible. This fundraising program currently nets more than $20,000 annually, which is split between Patuxent Council and numerous organizations that partner with Patuxent to staff the stands, including other local Knights of Columbus Councils; local Boy Scout, Girl Scout, and American Heritage Girls Troops; the St. Mary’s Youth Group; and more.

Brother Knights, wives, family members, and friends have forged many close friendships by participating in various fraternal and social activities sponsored by the Council. Events enjoyed over the years have included bowling, softball, golf, baseball games, theater outings, the annual Maryland State Council Columbus Day Gala, family trivia nights, Christmas parties, and more.

Patuxent Council has earned a strong reputation for developing successful fraternal leaders. As of 2021, 10 members of Patuxent Council have held the post of District Deputy, eight of these in the past 27 years. At the Fourth Degree level, more than 25 percent of the 61 Faithful Navigators of Curley Assembly 383 have come from Patuxent. Sir Knight Phillip L. Nelson served two terms as Master of the Archdiocese of Washington Fourth Degree from 1992 to 1996. Many members have been active in State Council leadership roles for many years, serving in support of several State Deputies in capacities too numerous to create an exhaustive list. Such involvement has been repeatedly recognized by State Council leadership in recent years, which is a credit to the men of our Council as we embrace new talent and new ideas to help develop the fraternal leaders of tomorrow.

Members of Patuxent Council have also been integral to the growth of the Order, particularly right here in Laurel. In the latter part of the 20th Century, the Knights of Columbus began to shift its focus from regional Councils to parish-based Councils. Members of Patuxent Council helped to institute Deacon John Lynn Council 11619, officially chartered June 26, 1995, at St. Nicholas. Eleven years to the day later, on June 26, 2006, Resurrection of Our Lord Council 14099 was chartered at Resurrection of Our Lord. At both Deacon Lynn and Resurrection, many of the Charter Members were former members of Patuxent Council. Those former members of Patuxent Council helped these Councils establish themselves and grow to directly support their parishes. Following the establishment of Councils 11619 and 14099, Patuxent Council became the Council specifically associated with St. Mary of the Mills.

Many of Patuxent Council’s achievements over the years would not have been possible without the support of the wives and girlfriends of our Brother Knights. While the Council’s Ladies Auxiliary is no longer active, the Ladies of Patuxent Council still actively participate in many programs and events. Additionally, over the last several years, Patuxent Council has conducted several joint programs and events with the St. Mary of the Mills Ladies of Charity, of which many Ladies of Patuxent Council are members. These joint events have proven quite successful, including a 2019 Christian Refugee Relief Dinner that raised $1,000 and was recognized by the Supreme Council as the best Life Program in Maryland for the period March 2019-February 2020.

The Council’s accomplishments over the years could not have come about without the support of many Brother Knights. Credit must be given to those who faithfully serve as officers and chairmen, leading the Council as it conducts numerous events and programs every year. Not to be overlooked are the members who are always available to perform the many time-consuming and thankless tasks. Every Brother Knight and family member of the Patuxent Council family should take pride in the successes of the Council as we come together to celebrate our Centennial and look with hope toward the next 100 years.