When it came to organizing the Ladies of the Knights of Columbus, Mary Ann Hascher wanted to keep it simple. “No dues, no minutes,” she said. “We just try to be there for people who need us when they need us.”
As a support to the St. Damien Council of the Knights of Columbus, the Ladies help with major events like the popular spaghetti dinner and the annual honoring of the police, among other functions. The group also donates to the St. Vincent DePaul Society. Yet it is at the members’ monthly luncheons where the spirit of the organization takes shape. Every second Thursday of the month from September to May, the thirty-member group meets at area restaurants to socialize and strengthen bonds. “We have grown into a family,” Mary Ann said. “We look forward to seeing each other. No one likes to miss.” The human connections extend beyond the meetings. “Everyone knows when there is an illness or when someone needs extra help,” Mary Ann explained.
The monthly luncheons also provide an opportunity for the group “to present ourselves as Catholic women in the world,” according to Mary Ann. The meetings include a public recitation of grace as well as a Hail Mary for those who have asked for help. Mary Ann realizes that many people are reluctant to display their faith in places like restaurants, but, with public prayer, “you never know who it might reach and how it might reach them.” As for her part, Mary Ann takes considerable care in locating restaurants that meet the needs of the membership. Safety, accessibility, affordability, an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere and, of course, good food are all a must.
Mary Ann handles her leadership responsibilities despite being blind. Born with retinitis pigmentosa, Mary Ann began to lose her vision at the age of 45 and has been without any sight for the past decade. She maintains her independence in the Ocean City home that has been in her family since 1957, a home she redesigned and remodeled with her late husband, David, a fourth degree Knight who died in 2011. Mary Ann keeps up her lifelong love of reading with the help of the National Library Service for the Blind and uses several handy assistive devices. She is also grateful for the attention she receives from her three daughters.
Although it was not always apparent to her, Mary Ann knows that her lifelong interest in the health and well-being of others is a vocation from God. Before she knew how to read, she was fascinated by a medical book that she found in her father’s library. She went on to a career as a registered nurse, working in critical care units, emergency rooms, and operating rooms, eventually serving as head nurse at the Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital. Of her nursing career she said: “It was just a very special gift to be able to help other people and do God’s will in that regard.” Today she continues to stay current by reading medical and health newsletters, and she is a source of health information and advice for her friends. One of her daughters and one of her six grandchildren followed her into medical professions. Mary Ann credits her early formation to her excellent Catholic school education at a time when nuns still taught in the classrooms. Yet it was only through the wisdom and deepening faith of later life that Mary Ann could fully grasp the meaning of her vocation. “I thought I became a nurse because I wanted to,” she said. “It takes a while to sink into your brain that none of this would have happened if it weren’t for God.”
Mary Ann works to make the Ladies of the Knights of Columbus a hospitable and inclusive organization. She invites all women of the parish to consider joining. It is not necessary to have a family member in the Knights in order to be a member. “All you have to do is call,” Mary Ann said.