By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Last month, a group of 24 women from St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa officially became the first Columbiettes auxiliary in Iowa. The international Catholic women’s auxiliary is affiliated with and supportive of the Knights of Columbus (KofC).
The initiation ceremony was “a big reminder of how many Catholic women want to make a difference in our church and our community,” said Julie Yachera, a parishioner who spearheaded the effort to form a Columbiettes auxiliary in Oskaloosa.
Yachera, whose husband is a KofC, began researching Catholic women’s organizations a little over a year ago, as the Oskaloosa parish did not have a women’s service organization. “I saw what they (KofC) were doing in the community and I wondered if there was a similar women’s group. I looked online and found the Columbiettes.” She contacted the Columbiettes Supreme Council to find out what it would take to start — at least 20 members and the support of the parish’s KofC council.
Knights of Columbus Marian Council 4108 in Oskaloosa was quick to support the formation of a Columbiettes auxiliary. Grand Knight Steven Phillips said he views the Columbiettes as an organization of Catholic women who support the Catholic Church and its teachings. “I see the Columbiettes strengthening St. Mary’s, Oskaloosa and the surrounding communities.”
Gauging interest among parish women took a bit more time in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As word got out, excitement grew, especially after parishioner Cindy Abrahamson began sending out invitation emails and helped to promote the organization at Mass. “I thought it sounded like a great idea and I offered to help,” she explained.
Abrahamson’s messages during Masses “did a lot for recruiting. I think the biggest thing is that there were a lot of people looking for a women’s organization,” Yachera said. “Plus, there are a lot of women who would have liked to get into the Knights of Columbus but can’t” because it is an organization for men.
Supporters of the auxiliary achieved the 20-member requirement in early 2021 and KofC Council 4108 voted to approve affiliation with the Columbiettes at its April meeting. The auxiliary became official during the July 21 initiation at the parish, with local KofCs and members of the Columbiettes Supreme Council there to help celebrate. Yachera said she was “humbled to realize that I was the one to start it, but that didn’t matter because the ceremony wasn’t about me. It was about a group of 24 women that were more than willing to make a difference.”
Mary Jane Sullivan will serve as the auxiliary’s first president. She said she joined the Columbiettes “because it is a group that will help me grow spiritually as well as give me the opportunity to help others in my parish and my community. It is a great opportunity for the women of our parish and a fantastic opportunity for us to partner with our Knights of Columbus council on many fronts. We are excited to begin on this journey.”
Though the Columbiette organization has been around since the 1930s, it is not the only female auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus. Ladies Auxiliaries are more common in Iowa and usually require members to be closely related to a KofC, though this isn’t always the case. Columbiettes auxiliaries are open to women 18 years of age or older who are in good standing with the Catholic Church. About 270 Columbiettes auxiliaries exist, primarily in Florida and the northeast.