SAN DIEGO — At age 29, Mick Hammock is the young face of San Diego’s oldest Knights of Columbus council.
Hammock, who serves as Grand Knight of Council 1349, has brought the passion and perspective of a young adult to his leadership role.
His proud association with the Knights of Columbus and its values serves as a convincing rebuttal to anyone who might be tempted to write off the Catholic fraternal organization as some sort of old-timers’ club. And the number of younger men who have joined the council over the past year at his invitation testifies to the fact that they too see a place for themselves in the Knights of Columbus.
“I know for a fact it’s helped strengthen my faith,” Hammock said of his involvement with the Knights, and he has found it “unbelievably rewarding” to help fellow Knights deepen their own faith.
Council 1349, which was established in 1908 as the first in the region, represents six Central San Diego parishes — St. Didacus, St. John the Evangelist, St. Columba, The Immaculata, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Joseph Cathedral.
Tom Davis, president of the San Diego Diocese Chapter of the Knights of Columbus and a two-time past Grand Knight of Council 1349, recognized Hammock’s potential. He telephoned him one evening last year, asking him to consider becoming the next Grand Knight.
“I liked how Mick wears his Catholicism on his sleeve, how he’s a leader in our faith first,” said Davis, 53, who has been a Knight for 27 years.
Though Grand Knight wasn’t a job that Hammock had been angling for, he accepted the offer and began a one-year term last June. He is open to the idea of staying on for a second term.
Davis had some advice for Hammock before his taking over.
“I told him that the council is his – It’s not ‘owned’ by the old guard – and to plan programs and take this council where it needs to be today.”
Davis added, “It was wonderful for us to have a younger man in charge, one with new perspectives, with new ideas, and with friends who might do charity differently than we have in the past.”
For his part, Hammock has enjoyed collaborating with the more seasoned members of the council, whom he praises for their “wealth of experience” and “zeal … for serving others.”
But he shared his conviction that “the younger generation has something to bring, too.”
Hammock, who presides over the council’s weekly meetings, feels that his main contribution has been providing more opportunities for members to grow in their faith. This is an area of interest that he carried over from his previous assignment as Council 1349’s program director.
“I was really focused on the faith component,” he explained, because the council already had a demonstrated commitment to service projects.
Hammock has been leading the Knights’ weekly rosary before the Tuesday evening Mass at St. Didacus for about two years. Under his watch, Council 1349 also has hosted evenings of Eucharistic adoration; prayer vigils outside of Planned Parenthood abortion facilities; a year-long men’s spirituality series called “Into the Breach,” which began last October; and an opportunity for members to consecrate themselves to St. Joseph after about a month of spiritual preparation.
Thirty-eight-year-old James Palen, who was tapped by Hammock last July to serve as Council 1349’s program director, said there are plans to go even further. Discussions are under way to organize weekly rosaries at each of the council’s six parishes.
Hammock’s involvement with the Knights of Columbus dates back to 2009 when, as an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Notre Dame, he joined the council on campus. A graduate of St. James Academy in Solana Beach and St. Augustine High School, he saw the Knights as a vehicle for deepening his faith during his college years.
Though a dues-paying member, he wasn’t particularly active with the Knights while at Notre Dame. But, about three or four years ago, during a Knights of Columbus membership drive outside St. Didacus Church, he officially transferred to Council 1349. At that time, Hammock was transitioning out of Catholic young adult groups and “looking for the next step in my faith and service journey.”
The Knights of Columbus seemed like the perfect fit.
He joined the Knights, seeking “a group of likeminded men” with whom he could grow in his faith and give back to the community, he said, “and that’s what I’ve found.”
While Knights in general tend to skew older, with many members already married men with families, Davis said that almost all of those who have joined Council 1349 over the past year have been young adults.
“Just because many of us are Gen X or older doesn’t mean the Knights is only for those generations,” said Davis, who credits Hammock with “helping turn (around) that idea that we’re this old group that is irrelevant to a younger demographic. We are very relevant.”
Palen can attest to the ability of a young adult like Hammock, even before he became Grand Knight, to recruit fellow young adults.
Despite having been invited to join the Knights on several previous occasions by various older Catholics, he said, “It was really the twentysomething-year-old that ended up winning me over.”
Hammock is convinced that young men are needed “to come in and to take up the mantle of faith, and service, and fraternity” as Knights.
“Our Church needs strong male leadership right now,” he said, “and the Knights of Columbus (is) a great place to start.”
For more information about the Knights of Columbus in the Diocese of San Diego, visit https://www.sandiegoknightsofcolumbus.com.