Five generations of Knights

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In December, three young men became the fifth generation of the Hassan family to become full members of the Knights of Columbus. Patrick, 17, William, 18, and Matt, 21, raised their hands to take the third-degree oath at the Father Herman J. Veger Council in Warrenton as their Knight father, Matthew David, and their Knight grandfather, William Edward, looked on.

When Father Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Conn., in 1882, it was a different world for Catholics. Poor Catholic immigrants often were excluded from labor unions which limited job opportunities. They also had little access to financial help for their families. If the father died on the job, it could be disastrous for a family.

In addition to providing insurance for the bread-winner, the Knights were an important source of fraternal and social opportunities for isolated communities of Irish, Italian and Polish immigrants.

The Knights of Columbus still provide those services to 1.9 million brother Knights and their families, and have given hundreds of millions of dollars to charity and volunteered millions of hours of time. They are pro-life and pro-Catholic education.

The Hassan family has been active in the Knights for more than 100 years, and can trace their lineage back to the early days of the Knights.

Edward Daniel Hassan (1888-1973) was the first documented Hassan to join the Knights. He joined the Msgr. James J. Chittick Council in Hyde Park, Mass., in 1911. At the time of his death he was an honorary life member of the Mattapan Council in West Roxbury, Mass.

Edward Daniel joined because the Knights offered the financial and social support the family.

In 1929, Edward Daniel's son, William Joseph (1911-79), joined the Mattapan Council. He moved to Virginia with the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II and joined the Edward Douglass White Council in Arlington and became an honorary life member.

William Joseph's son, William Edward, joined the Father Robert E. Nudd Council in Chantilly in 1979, and is an honorary life member of the council. He passed the family tradition of Knighthood to his son Matthew David, who passed it on to his sons.

William Edward, 69, said that his reason for joining the Knights differed from that of his ancestors.

"The Knights are an important and powerful voice of the things I believe in," he said, citing pro-life issues and patriotism.

Matthew David, 46, had similar reasons for joining, including the importance of service and working with a group of like-minded Catholic men.

"It was a big part of my life," he said.

Matthew's wife, MaryAnn Catherine, passed away from cancer in January. Matthew said that the presence and support of the Knights have helped him and his family in the grieving process.

Matthew's sons felt the pull of family tradition in their call to the Knights.

Patrick, a senior at Seton School in Manassas, said "I saw it as a way to serve my faith. It felt natural."

All of the Hassan Knights, except for Matthew's three sons, have served as Grand Knights and state district directors. He hopes his sons can keep that part of the tradition going, too.

The members are proud of their five-generation Knight family.

"It's wonderful to have the family commitment to the Catholic faith and to what the Knights stand for," said Father Herman J. Veger Grand Knight Joe Tullington.

The lineage may date back to an earlier generation. Matthew David is trying to verify records for William Joseph Hassan, who was born in 1854, 28 years before Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016