Knights of Peter Claver

Who are those folks in the fez hats and golden sashes?

          They represent an important American Catholic tradition, with an SFDS difference.

          The Knights of Peter Claver were founded in Mobile, Alabama, in 1909, in an age of strict segregation. The fraternal organization was named after the Jesuit saint who ministered to African slaves in Colombia in the 16th century, and initially provided fellowship and spiritual direction for African American Catholics.

          Paul Harvey recalls November 3, 1990,  when “eight laymen and two clerics from St. Francis de Sales Parish were initiated…One cleric was the Pastor, Rev, John Kilgallon; the other was…Brother Brendan Garwood… The laymen were John Carrigan, David Collins, Paul Harvey, William Mellette, Lonnie Perry, Larry Riley, Ogden Wing and Edmund Wells. These men represented one of the first integrated councils in the city.  John Carrigan — Grand Knight of the new Council #315 — was the first white Grand Knight in the City of Philadelphia. In December 1990 Paul Harvey was elected the first white President of the Central Committee of Philadelphia, the representative and guiding body of all Councils of the Knights of Peter Claver and Courts of the Ladies of Peter Claver in the city.

          During the early years the Knights sponsored weekly donuts after both the 10AM and noon Masses… Later this parish community also supported the monthly breakfasts that became a staple of Knightly community-building. When the De Sales Night Dinner Dances restarted, then-Grand Knight Bill Mellette, a professional chef, organized a catering committee made up almost exclusively of Knights that provided tasty fare for many years at less than commercial prices.

          A proud moment for the Knights came when parishioner and Knight James Kettor asked for help reuniting his large family of eight children, left behind in Liberia. Then-Grand Knight Paul Harvey, helped by SFDS parishioners; Religious of the Assumption Sister Frances Joseph; and Sue Small from Villanova University… raised over $10,000 dollars in multiple fund raisers that brought the family together at a New York airport and drove them back to West Philadelphia. The Kettors remain members of the parish to this day even though they no longer reside within parish boundaries.

            Now, twenty five years after that 1990 initiation Deputy Grand Knight Paul Harvey and Financial Secretary Edmund Wells received their 25 year pins from the Knights of Peter Claver in November 2015 at the closing Mass of the 125th Anniversary of St Francis de Sales Parish.


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