This fall, Fort Wayne residents Gary Schleinkofer and his son, Alec, became fourth degree Knights of Columbus. Fourth degree is the highest achievable rank in the Knights.
With nearly 2 million members around the globe, the Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, focusing its time and resources on initiatives that align with its four founding principles, or ‘degrees’ — charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. Upon becoming a fourth degree Knight, members receive the ‘Sir Knight’ title and are eligible to wear the fourth order regalia while participating in patriotic and charitable duties.
Gary, a tax consultant born and raised in Fort Wayne, joined Knights of Columbus Council 451 at St. Charles Borromeo Parish at the invitation of a friend. He had been looking for the right volunteer opportunity where he could deepen his faith and give back to the community. In 2017 he was initiated as a first degree Knight, followed by the second degree. After becoming a member of the second order, Gary, along with his wife, Lisa, decided the Knights of Columbus could be something special to share with their autistic son, Alec.
Alec was 20 years old when he joined K of C in early 2018. After moving through the first and second degrees, he and his father advanced through the third and fourth degrees together.
As one of the youngest fourth degree Knights in the council, Alec hopes to encourage more young men to get involved in the organization.
“I’ve made friends I wouldn’t have met before,” Alec said. “It’s a way for me to get closer to my Church and Jesus. Before we start every meeting, we say the rosary. At the end, we pray for anyone who is sick or needs it.”
Council 451 hosts one of the largest Red Cross blood drives in Allen County each year. Member Knights also volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, host fish fries and pancake breakfasts at St. Charles and raise money for Gibault Children’s Services, a resource center for troubled youth in Terre Haute. They also contribute funds to purchase ultrasound machines for pro-life clinics, and Alec carried the Knights of Columbus flag in a March for Life rally in downtown Fort Wayne in 2019.
“I think there’s a misconception,” Gary said. “When I ask people to join, they say they don’t have the time. The beautiful thing is, it’s what you make it. You don’t have to volunteer for everything. There’s no requirement. Sign up for the things you can and give it the attention and time you have capacity for.”
Gary and Alec are grateful to be serving their community and building the domestic Church together.
“The father-son dynamic has been great,” Gary said. “It’s really special. To see how everyone at K of C has accepted him, accepted me — It’s a wonderful experience.”
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