BISMARCK, ND — Day, after day, through all weather—including a late November and December onslaught of 55 inches of snow and frigid temperatures—at least two University of Mary Knights of Columbus Council members would brave their way outside on campus to the future site of the new Marian Grotto to say the rosary. Many University of Mary K of C members would say it was Mary herself, the university’s patroness, at work providing Her unwavering guidance and providential spirit for these students.

“It was in response to this that I coined the term the “Mailman’s Rosary,” said senior math major, Joe McDonald, former K of C Grand Knight, the very first at the University of Mary. “Most of the guys laughed at me at first and did not understand until I explained it. The mailman delivers in wind, rain, hail, sleet, snow, etc. And we were resolved to dedicate ourselves to saying the rosary at the future sight of the grotto, and now at the grotto, with the same devotion and dedication. The flip side of that is that we saw Mary as delivering our mail, or prayers, to Jesus.”

But the council’s exemplary achievements didn’t stop there where the statue of Mary would be adored by many. They also developed a Marian visitation program in which council members host a statue of Our Lady in their dorm rooms for a week. And beyond campus, they volunteered to paint a church on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, but soon realized the church needed much more and began to reinforce and repair walls, clean the inside and outside and provide general maintenance. Nearly 50 of the council’s members were among the 600 University of Mary students leading the March for Life last year in Washington, D.C.

In recognition of those and many more admirable accomplishments and service, University of Mary’s Knights of Columbus Council 16402 received this year’s Outstanding College Council Award from the national Knights of Columbus College Councils Program. With around 400 councils at colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines, the organization’s mission is to promote the moral, intellectual and spiritual development of the future leaders of civil society, the Order and the Church through witness to the Gospel and dedication to principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.

“Our Council hasn’t ever set out to receive awards or accolades, we simply respond to the needs of our university and greater community,” said Grand Knight Chris Riedman, a junior double majoring in philosophy and Catholic studies at the University of Mary. “We are so honored and humbled to have been recognized in such a tremendous way and I am so grateful to our Knights for responding with enthusiasm to the needs of others. We see the importance of building service and community through outreach. We also have our annual softball tournament scheduled for April. We look forward to responding to the needs of the community and spreading the love of Christ as we serve.”

“This award is a great honor, but the true reward comes in seeing lives transformed by Christ working through our brother Knights,” added McDonald. “Our motivation from the very first moment, and I pray that it remains so until the very last, is that the endeavor we have undertaken would lead to the salvation of just one soul. If just one person comes to the University of Mary and chooses a life of virtue over a life of sin through the direct or indirect influence of our council or its members, we will have achieved success.”

What’s most remarkable is that this University of Mary Knights of Columbus Council has nearly 100 members and earned this award after only one full year of existence.

“The Knights of Columbus focuses on the founding values of charity, unity and fraternity – and we implement those values to all that we do – recruiting included,” added Riedman. “A beautiful thing that I have seen that makes us unique is that we don’t do as many membership drives as other councils. Men seem to be drawn to what we do and what we are all about – I believe that our Council possesses a special charm that makes us stand out to men seeking to grow in their faith through service and make long lasting friendships founded in Christ.”

The University of Mary’s K of C Council formed out of the good, holy and dedicated men by the already present organizations such as the Knights of Virtue, St. Joseph’s Hall, FOCUS and others.

“The reason we were so successful in our first year is because we were standing on the shoulders of many great men who came before us at this university,” said McDonald. “I believe that the real accomplishment of last year was uniting so many of these men from drastically different backgrounds on campus around a common cause—their Catholic identity.”

So with that in mind, it’s no surprise these young men set out everyday to pray the rosary at the site of the Marian Grotto, or convince other council members that their work at the state’s second oldest church on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation wasn’t completed and would require trips back over the weekend to repair rotted and fallen walls. After all, it is what they were called to do as virtuous leaders.