Established in South Australia in 1922, the Order is an organisation of Catholic laymen who operate with the support of the Australian Bishops. Members are guided by their Catholic faith and the ‘cardinal and chivalrous virtues’ of prudence, faith, justice, fortitude and temperance in their charitable works.
At its peak, the KSC had up to 2500 members in the State but like most service and community organisations, numbers have dwindled in recent times to just under 400.
State chairman Ian Fleetwood said the Order is looking for more members to ensure the “good works of the Knights continues”.
“Fifty years ago it was a common thing to join and a large number of our members have been members since they were in their twenties and thirties,” he said.
“Just like other service clubs we are struggling to find new members and part of that may be because a lot of people in the Catholic community don’t know what the Knights do.”
Long-serving member and a former State chairman Michael Boyle said when he joined in 1971 the work of the Knights was shrouded in secrecy.
“You weren’t allowed to talk about what happened at meetings – or even tell others that you were a member.”
However, things have changed a lot over the past four decades and the good works undertaken by members in the 17 branches scattered throughout the State are very much in the public domain.
“Most of the branches help with the maintenance and care of their local church and church grounds and they all do some sort of fundraising to help those in need in the community,” Ian explained.
“Every branch has different priorities but overall South Australia raises about $75,000 each year. Most of this is donated to Vinnies but there are also other beneficiaries,” Ian said.
Fundraising is diverse – ranging from bingo nights to sausage sizzles and bottle collections – and donations go to supporting anything from palliative care, to nursing homes and education. Each year the Knights present the John Brewer Scholarship to two students demonstrating commitment to faith, education and community. Worth $1500 each, the scholarships assist the students with fees and educational expenses during Year 12.
One of the Knights’ largest fundraising efforts led to the establishment of Southern Cross Care in 1968. From humble beginnings, there are now 53 sites operating cross South Australia and Northern Territory.
While fundraising is an important part of what the Knights do, so too is nurturing the Catholic faith of members. Each monthly meeting includes a formation program which underlies the mission of the Order.
As Michael stressed, there are no age restrictions for those wanting to join, just a desire to serve the Church and those in need.
“All they need is a willingness – be willing to get in and do something to help others. If you’ve got that, then this is the place for you!”
For more information about the Knights of the Southern Cross go to www.kscsa.org.au or contact 8371 3301.