Brandon Reid works a full-time job as a mechanic in Abbotsford. He and his wife, Sarah, also work a second part-time janitorial job to make ends meet. When they’re not working, the Reids have their hands full raising their 2-year old son, Preston, and infant daughter, Gwen.
But thanks to the Order’s new online membership initiative, Brandon, 32, still found time to become a Knight.
“The online program was convenient,” he said. “In fact, when I was putting in my application to be a member, I had my baby daughter in my arms with a bottle, and I was punching in information on the smartphone with the other hand.”
Just weeks after signing up online in early April, Brandon took his First Degree ceremony and joined Archbishop Johnson Council 6767 in Abbotsford.
The online membership initiative is perfectly suited to accommodate busy young Catholic men like Brandon Reid. By updating the Form 100 for the digital age, as well as by providing at-a-glance information on the Order’s mission and other spiritual resources, it is bringing a new generation of Catholic men to the Knights of Columbus.
THE UPSIDE OF ONLINE
The Florida state membership director for the Knights, Ron Kosey, 69, remembers what it was like to be young and sympathizes with Brandon Reid and others like him. “When I first joined the Knights,” he said, “it was difficult to spend time doing anything but working, trying to raise a family, and going to school at night and on weekends.”
Considering this past year’s results from the pilot program for the online membership initiative, Kosey calls the experience a success.
“We’ve had more than 200 new members join online around the state since October, when the program was introduced here,” he said, adding that the large majority of them have expressed interest in joining local councils. More than 25 percent have already done so.
Membership in Florida, which consists of 85 K of C districts, increased last year despite the fact that many Knights were focused on cleanup projects after Hurricane Irma hit last September, with little time left for recruitment.
“That many districts can become a little unwieldy to handle all at once,” said Kosey. “Thanks to online membership, despite these obstacles, men were still finding time to join the Knights.”
Nonetheless, some K of C members have doubted the merits of the initiative.
“Many people were skeptical about the online program when we first introduced it,” Kosey explained. “‘If you can join online, what’s the point of having councils?’ they asked.”
While online membership might suggest a less personal touch in recruiting efforts, Kosey says that’s not the case. Rather, it works hand-in-hand with traditional meet-and-greet events.
“In my home council, at a recent benefits night, we handed out cards with information about the online program,” he said. “Two guys I gave cards to became online members, and now one’s a Third Degree and the other is preparing to get his Third. Both are insurance members, and both active in the council.”
Online membership has the virtue of always working with the councils, Kosey said — even when everyone else has gone to sleep.
“This online program is recruiting 24/7,” he said. “As we get these cards out, people look at them and take their time to consider joining — but they do join. One of our members joined at 3:44 in the morning! You don’t have to be following these guys around — they join on their own terms.”
THE FUTURE IS NOW
Ian Davis, who lives in Baltimore, joined the Knights of Columbus last summer through the pilot program after it was launched in Maryland. Part of the rising generation of Maryland Knights, Davis, 40, said he had long heard about the good work of the Knights and tried to find out more five years ago.
“I never had any personal interaction with the Knights,” he said. “So to find out more about them, I did what any person my age would generally do — I went online.”
Last year, with the introduction of the online membership initiative and prompted by the interest expressed by Davis and a group of fellow Catholic men in the Baltimore area, the Maryland State Council called a meeting to reactivate St. Elizabeth of Hungary Council 13073, which had been suspended since 2010.
Young men from the three parishes that the council serves — St. Elizabeth, St. Casimir and St. Brigid, all in Baltimore — showed up for the meeting. According to Davis, each of them preferred the keyboard to the ballpoint.
“At the meeting, State had laptops set up,” he said. “They gave us a choice between filling out forms or going online. Every one of the new members walked up to the computer and applied online.”
Since then, Davis has become grand knight of Council 13073 and recruited eight more men for the council through the online initiative, which has in turn encouraged greater activity.
“We’re a small council, but we’ve met our recruitment goals,” he said. “The online membership keeps the members active. We regularly have 60, 70, even 100 percent attendance for social and charitable events and some of the degree ceremonies.”
Because the online program can find potential members who are hiding in plain sight, Davis said, fraternity in the council has also grown stronger.
“I met men in our council who are not even 10 blocks away but attend other parishes,” he said. “I would never had met these other men had we not had the online membership program to draw them to the council.”
Davis and Kosey agree that the online membership initiative also gives high definition to the Knights’ Catholic identity.
“Most of what the Knights have to say is out there on the website regarding the Order’s Catholic identity — its charity, unity and fraternity,” Davis said. “Men who look at these things and make their decision often have a deep faith to begin with, and they’re looking to expand that faith and find men who share that faith.”
“If I ask a potential member if he’s a practical Catholic,” said Kosey, “maybe he doesn’t know what that means. If he goes to our website to become a member, and reads through the material there, he’ll absolutely understand.”
As for Brandon Reid, he learned what it meant to be a practical Catholic when he was preparing to marry one.
“I came to the faith three years ago,” he said. “Sarah was a cradle Catholic; but I had never set foot into a church until I met her. After losing our first son, who was born premature at 22 months, I saw her strength — and realized there had to be more to being Catholic. The faith also gives me a place, a sense of being a part of the community.”
Becoming a Knight, Brandon said, was a natural next step in his journey of faith. The Knights of Columbus is helping to protect his family, and it’s helping him share that same life of faith with other Catholic men.
“We found out about the insurance that the Knights offer, which we thought was a good thing because my wife is prone to having babies early. We almost lost our second child the same way,” he said. “But I also signed up because I’m attracted to the Knights and what they can do for our community.”
This article appeared in the August 2018 issue of Columbia magazine and is reprinted with permission of the Knights of Columbus, New Haven, Conn.