Annual Report of the Supreme Knight
Baltimore, Maryland • August 7, 2018
My brother Knights, it was the summer of 1873 and a young man was at a crossroads. With his father’s blessing, he had left home for school some months before filled with hopes and dreams. But now his father was dead, and he was back at home. He had no money for tuition. He had a mother and younger brothers and sisters to support. His only option was to find a job.
But the Holy Spirit intervened. Powerful people became aware of the young man’s plight. They saw in him character. They saw in him a deep faith. And most of all, they saw in him promise — the promise of a man on a mission.
So, they arranged for a scholarship, a concept little known at the time. And on Sept. 14, 1873, Michael McGivney of Waterbury, Conn., entered St. Mary’s Seminary, just a few miles from here.
Four years later, he was ordained by Baltimore’s Archbishop James Gibbons in the Cathedral of the Assumption.
Father McGivney had arrived in that rare 19th-century American city — a city where Catholicism was accepted, even popular. In fact, it was the birthplace of the Catholic Church in the United States. It was America’s first diocese and the home of our first American bishop, John Carroll, whose family lived at the intersection of faith and liberty in the new nation.
The bishop’s cousin, Charles Carroll, was the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence, and he became one of our nation’s first senators. Bishop Carroll’s brother, Daniel, signed both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.
So at a time when Catholics in the colonies were ostracized or outright attacked, the Carroll brothers and their cousin stood firm in their faith. They believed that religious freedom for all was the bedrock of freedom in the New World.
More than a century later, another man came to Baltimore and addressed the world from that cathedral of baseball — Orioles Park at Camden Yards.
St. John Paul II had lived through his own period of deep religious persecution. He saw that freedom and democracy cannot, in his words, “be sustained without a shared commitment to certain moral truths about the human person and human community.”
“The basic question before a democratic society,” he told us, is “how ought we to live together.”
But there was more.
Freedom and democracy are not ends in themselves. And they are not guaranteed. They demand vigilance and an eye to higher things.
St. John Paul II proclaimed, “Catholics of America! Always be guided by the truth — by the truth about God who created and redeemed us, and by the truth about the human person, made in the image and likeness of God.”
And then he challenged us to “always be convincing witnesses to the truth.”
A century earlier, a young priest from Waterbury had sought to do just that with a new initiative — an initiative that would change the history of Catholicism in North America. In the aftermath of a bitter civil war, he proposed that we should live as brothers, in charity and in unity. And following in the footsteps of the Carrolls, we should be patriots.
In their own ways, St. John Paul II and Father McGivney understood a simple truth: People protect what they value.
If we value only self-interest, we will get discord and division. But if we value charity — if we value unity and fraternity — we will build a society where the common good is protected. And if we value these things, then we will protect the freedom that makes them possible.
Our nation’s founders sought to protect freedom of religion as the first freedom in our Bill of Rights. They knew the foundation of freedom is respect for the dignity of conscience. They knew that only by safeguarding conscience can we hope to achieve America’s promise of E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one.”
The Catholicism first nourished here in Baltimore contributed to the American experience through other commitments as well — commitments that could be summarized in this simple, but powerful Gospel insight: The person in need whom we encounter is not a stranger but a brother or a sister.
Catholics coming to America were not looking to build a nation of strangers; they wanted to build a fraternal society of brothers and sisters.
Michael McGivney was 21 years old when he entered St. Mary’s. Because others cared about him and because of their charity, he stayed for four years. He studied hard and was ordained in 1877, at the Cathedral of the Assumption.
We are told by the authors of Parish Priest that Father McGivney “emerged from school with … an ability to see situations from a host of perspectives. In the tragic early death of his father, Mc- Givney walked for a terrible summer in the uncertain steps of the poor and troubled people he so boldly sought to assist through his vocation. Bereft even temporarily of the security and order that previously marked his life, he was tempered for the work before him.”
Knights of Charity
NOW, BEFORE talking about the work before us, it’s important to reflect on what we have accomplished these past 12 months. It’s safe to say that we’ve never had a fraternal year quite like this one.
I’m proud to say that our charitable contributions surged to more than $185 million. That’s an increase from last year’s record of $177 million. And it is one of the largest year-to-year increases in our history. Let me commend and thank every jurisdiction that helped us achieve this goal.
The Order also donated more than 75.6 million volunteer hours, an increase of more than 500,000.
The cumulative numbers are impressive. But, more impressive is the fact that these works are done by individual Knights in their local communities — works done by men who are true Knights of Charity: men who are everyday heroes.
Pope Francis has called charity “the heart of the Church,” and “the soul of its mission.”
At no time was this embodied more than in the weeks just after we met last year in St. Louis for our Supreme Convention. The hurricanes with their crippling floods first hit Houston. When hurricane season was over, huge areas of Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico had been destroyed.
It was a time of devastation, but it was also a time of heroes.
Let me remind you of Army 1st Lt. Jacob Cortez, who was at home in Houston watching the news with his wife and newborn child. In the words of this brother Knight, “We realized the storms were rising extremely quickly. So at that point everything changed.” He put on his military uniform and a life vest, got his father, Paul, and together they set off down the street in a kayak.
“It was much like Afghanistan,” he said. “You could feel a sense of danger in the air.”
As the current raged around them, they ignored their own safety and rescued their neighbors. All in all, they saved more than two dozen people — bringing them to the safety of a local shelter.
In Jacob’s words: “The Knights of Columbus have always been about helping families who can’t help themselves, and I think that was something paramount we did during the rescue. The news will fade away, but the Knights will not. We’ll be here for the community.”
Last October, I was honored to present our Caritas Medal to Paul and Jacob Cortez, both members of Santa Francesca Cabrini Council 15321 in Houston, in recognition of their bravery and service.
By then, Hurricane Maria had laid waste to Puerto Rico. Countless homes and businesses were destroyed. The island’s power grid was crippled. Tens of thousands of people were without food and water.
And in stepped José Lebron, one of our general agents and member of San Francisco de Asis Council 15849 in Las Piedras. He organized a convoy of 10 pickup trucks to distribute food, water and power generators. Over the next months, José was one of the island’s volunteer leaders in helping people throughout Puerto Rico.
I am proud to say that Knights and their families responded to the challenge of supporting hurricane victims. We raised an astounding $4.2 million for disaster relief last year. And of that, $1.6 million was spent in Puerto Rico. Another $1.6 million was spent in Texas and nearly $900,000 in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Several months ago, I visited Puerto Rico, where it was my pleasure to meet with Archbishop Roberto González of San Juan, who has been such a true leader of his flock in providing relief to people on the island.
At one stop, I visited an orphanage and a school for girls that had taken a direct hit. As the storm ripped the roof off their building, the sister in charge huddled with the girls in the school library to protect them.
Now, five months later, the roof was not repaired and the girls in the orphanage were still in temporary homes.
When I gave that heroic sister a check for $50,000 from the Knights of Columbus to make the needed repairs, she broke into tears.
We will continue to set new records for charity. But you know it is not about numbers; it’s about the lives that we change.
We show that we care and that the poor and the marginalized and the broken are not forgotten. Through our time and money, we change lives in ways that only we can — because we make a fraternal difference. We treat them like a brother or a sister.
Culture of Life
AS KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS and Knights of Charity, we also defend life from conception to natural death.
One way we do so is by showing mothers and fathers the beauty of the life they have helped create. Last year, we set a goal of saving one million lives by using ultrasound technology to help mothers choose life over abortion.
I’m pleased to announce that we have already placed more than 950 ultrasound machines and that we will meet our goal of 1,000 later this year.
But even when we reach our goal, our work will continue because what greater legacy can a council leave than to save the life of a child?
And this program will save one million lives.
We will also remain at the forefront of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., working in close partnership with March for Life President Jeanne Mancini. And we will continue to support pro-life marches from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Canada, Mexico and the Philippines. I am grateful to my brother Knights who work so hard to make these marches possible.
Our annual Marist poll, a unique survey that asks Americans to consider abortion beyond political labels, confirms that millions of Americans agree with us. For a decade, the poll has consistently found that a majority of Americans consider abortion “morally wrong,” and more than three quarters of them want substantial legal limits to abortion.
In his most recent apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis writes, “Our defense of the innocent unborn needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred.”
No organization knows this better than the Knights of Columbus. We have been “clear, firm and passionate” in our defense of the dignity of every human life.
And we will continue to be.
Throughout the world the leading causes of death are disease and poverty — but not in the United States. Here, the leading cause of death is abortion.
Since 1973 abortion has caused the deaths of more than 60 million children.
My brother Knights, the evidence is overwhelming.
Today we ask, “Do you not have eyes that see, and ears that hear?”
I will repeat what I have said before from this podium — I do not see how it is possible to build a culture of life in America as long as our elected officials harden their hearts to the cries of unborn children.
I urge every member of the Knights of Columbus and all Catholics to join the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a nationwide Novena for the Legal Protection of Human Life. ...
Recently, Pope Francis described abortion as “the murder of children.” Then he said, “Last century, the whole world was scandalized by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves.”
Strong words from a strong pope. Some may be shocked by their forcefulness. But as we hear in the Gospel, “What did you come into the wilderness to see? A reed bending in the wind?”
I say to you now: You will not see a reed bending here. And let no one think that our defense of life is a narrow, religious cause.
As St. John Paul II wrote in Evangelium Vitae, “The issue of life and its defense and promotion is not a concern of Christians alone. … The value at stake is one which every human being can grasp by the light of reason; thus it necessarily concerns everyone…. To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good.”
On this issue we will not yield. We will never give in. The Knights of Columbus will never abandon the field.
Aiding Persecuted Christians
NOR WILL WE abandon our brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith.
Another way we live our mission of charity is our work in the Middle East.
The simple, hard truth is that Christians are on the verge of extinction in the Middle East. We must not allow this to happen.
Since 2014, we have committed more than $20 million to aid Christians and those of other religions in their care. This money has provided food, shelter and clothing to our neighbors who lost everything in Iraq and Syria because they refused to give up their love of Christ. And I’m honored today to recognize Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart, our brother Knight who joins us from Aleppo, Syria. Many of you have seen the photos of Aleppo on the news, a city shattered by the war in Syria. But that has not stopped Archbishop Jeanbart from serving his people and providing global leadership on this issue.
Last year, I reported to you on the Iraqi town of Karamles. It had been a Christian town for centuries before ISIS overran it, drove out its inhabitants, destroyed their homes, and desecrated their churches.
When Karamles was recaptured from ISIS, the Christians were ready to return. But their town was in ruins. Who would help them rebuild? You met that challenge. Today, with $2 million from the Knights of Columbus the town is being rebuilt, and Christian families are returning home.
Our efforts have provided more than financial aid. We worked closely with then-Secretary of State John Kerry to ensure that Christians and other religious minorities were recognized as victims of genocide.
And now we are working with Vice President Mike Pence to ensure that these same minorities are included in U.S. and U.N. assistance in Iraq.
When the conflict between Kurdistan and the government of Iraq threatened an ancient Christian town that had just been rebuilt, we alerted the State Department and the White House. We worked with them to help de-escalate tensions and avoid a bloody conflict that could have ended the Christian presence in Iraq.
Archbishop Bashar Warda, the courageous archbishop of Erbil, pays a great compliment to all of us when he says that without the support of the Knights of Columbus, Christianity might have died in Iraq.
My brother Knights, think about that. Because of our commitment, Christianity lives in his country. Because of our commitment, churches, schools and homes are open. Because of our commitment, life goes on for our brothers and sisters.
But our work is not over. It is not time to turn away. We must continue.
In recent years, the Knights of Columbus has been assisting in the construction of McGivney House, a 140- unit apartment building that will provide housing for both Syriac and Chaldean Christian families. The building is nearing completion, but more needs to be done.
Last year, as I mentioned, you responded to the challenge and raised $2 million for Karamles. This year I’m asking you to raise $1 million to finish the Mc- Givney House project and provide a place for these Christians to live.
And I would encourage our councils to follow the lead of Supreme Director Mike Conrad and St. John the Baptist Council 10305 in Fort Calhoun, Neb. They raised $163,000 for the families of Karamles.
Our work in Iraq has brought a message of solidarity and of hope — no Christian community is an island. Every Christian is “a piece of the continent.” Every Christian is a member of the Body of Christ.
No Christian has been abandoned by the Lord. And no Christian should be abandoned by us.
Today I am proud to announce that this year’s Pilgrim Icon program will help us focus the eyes of our Church on the sacrifice of so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Their suffering continues. And our work must continue.
Our Pilgrim Icon was especially commissioned for our program. Created by the Italian iconographer Fabrizio Diomedi, it is titled Our Lady, Help of Persecuted Christians.
With this icon we make these words of St. John Paul II our own: “The precious heritage which these courageous witnesses have passed down to us is a patrimony shared by all the Churches.
“May the memory of these brothers and sisters … grow still stronger! Let it be passed on from generation to generation, so that from it there may blossom a profound Christian renewal!”
To focus the attention of our nation on the plight of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, this fall we will begin a national awareness campaign.
My brothers, we will do everything we can to ensure they are not forgotten.
Patriotism and the Armed Forces
ONCE AGAIN, the experience of our wounded veterans and military personnel on the annual Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage was unforgettable.
Under the leadership of Archbishop Timothy Broglio and Col. Chuck Gallina, and accompanied by Medal of Honor recipient Capt. Mike Rose, a past grand knight, we brought more than 200 pilgrims to Lourdes.
Our group joined 14,000 soldiers from more than 50 countries for the 60th International Military Pilgrimage to Our Lady’s Shrine.
On the day of our first Mass, Past Grand Knight and retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Paul McQuigg served as our lector. That would not have been remarkable except for the fact that Paul McQuigg has endured 54 operations to his face and mouth to repair combat wounds suffered in Iraq.
I also met a mother and a daughter. The daughter had received a severe head wound in Afghanistan. Her recovery continues, and remains very difficult. Neither one of them is a Catholic.
But I’ll never forget what the mother told me. She said that being in Lourdes had changed their lives, and that they would never forget their experience. It was easy at times, she said, to believe the world had forgotten them. But then the Knights of Columbus called.
Soon after our return, I received an email from a married couple who had joined us. Both had served in combat in Iraq. They had filed for divorce shortly before they had joined our pilgrimage.
Their moving account of spiritual healing concluded with these words: “The celebration of the rosary and the candlelight procession filled me with peace and hope for my family’s future and the families of all the wounded warriors. The most amazing experience was being part of all the nations praying for world peace.”
And peace has also come to their marriage — they have turned away from divorce.
Col. Gallina, Capt. Rose, Sgt. Mc- Quigg: to you and to the millions of heroes like you, we say, “Thank you for your service.”
We are also proud of our partnership with the Archdiocese for the Military Services and our support for the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program. This program educates future military chaplains, and thanks to the continued generosity of the Fourth Degree, we will continue our annual grants of $200,000 for two more years. That raises our total contribution to $2 million — double our initial goal.
The Patriotic Degree
The Fourth Degree added 17,426 members last year, bringing total membership to 364,131. In addition, 41 assemblies were added for a total of 3,453.
Supporting Our Military
The Knights of Columbus is one of the Veterans Affairs’ largest volunteer partners. Led by the Fourth Degree, Knights donated nearly 67,000 hours of service at more than 100 VA medical centers.
For this and other efforts on behalf of the U.S. armed forces, including the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program, Archbishop Timothy Broglio honored the supreme knight and the Knights of Columbus with the Medal of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, Nov. 18, 2017.
Ongoing Charity and Support
AT HOME, we continue our work to promote charity, unity and a greater sense of brotherhood.
During the past fraternal year, we distributed more than 105,000 new coats to children.
We provided nearly 4 million pounds of food and nearly $2 million through our Food for Families program.
We donated 7,649 wheelchairs through our partnership with the Global Wheelchair Mission.
And 3,122 councils donated more than $3.8 million to 6,348 seminarians and postulants through our Refund Support Vocations Program.
We also added 2,000 college Knights and 11 new college councils, including one at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. And collectively, our college Knights donated $281,000 and 411,000 hours to charity.
In a private audience last fall, I presented Pope Francis with $1.6 million in earnings from the Knights of Columbus Vicarius Christi Fund. Since the fund’s inception in 1981, more than $59 million has been donated for the personal charities of the Holy Father.
And in June, Pope Francis became the beneficiary of the Knights of Columbus life insurance program when I presented him a check for more than $110,000 on behalf of a deceased priest who made the Holy Father the beneficiary of his insurance and annuity policies.
Knowing we can’t rely on the mainstream media alone to tell the Catholic story, we continued to support a variety of Catholic media. One example is our funding for EWTN’s Washington-based News Nightly program.
We are also proud to support the Salt and Light Catholic Television Network in Canada, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in July under the leadership of Father Thomas Rosica. I’m especially pleased to note that Salt and Light’s new state-of-the-art studio in Toronto is named after Father Mc- Givney and is a tribute to the friendship and collaboration between the Knights and Salt and Light.
And knowing the importance of communications in a crisis, we donated $78,000 to Católica Radio at the Catholic University of Puerto Rico and $50,000 to Teleoro Channel 13 of the Archdiocese of San Juan.
This year also marked the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics — and the 50th anniversary of our partnership with this extraordinary organization.
Our councils donated nearly $6 million to Special Olympics and other programs for persons with intellectual disabilities. In addition, 76,000 Knights gave more than 350,000 hours of their time at more than 12,500 events.
Last October, I joined Chairman Tim Shriver in Rome for the Special Olympics Unified Football Tournament held at our Knights of Columbus soccer fields overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica.
No organization in the world has done more to promote respect and inclusion for those with mental disabilities than Special Olympics. And the Knights of Columbus is proud to have supported this effort from the very beginning.
On this occasion, I think back to some time I spent with Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver at the Special Olympics in Dublin in 2003. I remember Sargent, himself a brother Knight, saying that the Knights “have always seen the beauty of the human heart.”
But those of us who have participated in Special Olympics know that it is the courage, joy and dignity of the Special Olympics athletes themselves which enables us to see the beauty of the human heart.
Our work to promote respect and inclusion continues on many fronts. We support our bishops’ efforts against racism, and I am honored to serve as a consultant to the bishops’ new Committee Against Racism.
During the past fraternal year, we made special efforts to promote Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy of nonviolence in the pursuit of racial justice. More than 60 years ago, Rev. King told us that the only way “to cut off the chain of hate” was “by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.”
And in that same spirit, we recall the work of Baltimore’s St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Our tradition of American parochial schools can be traced directly to her.
After anti-Catholic prejudice blocked her plans to open a Catholic school in New York City, she came to Baltimore — providing a free education for poor girls.
She later moved her school to nearby Emmitsburg. And there she also founded the Sisters of Charity, who continue to serve the poor in the United States and Canada.
Today, I am proud to announce that the Knights of Columbus has joined with our supreme chaplain, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, to ensure that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s legacy continues.
We are contributing $1 million to the completion of a regional community school that will make available to innercity children a quality, state-of-the-art Catholic education.
This school will be the first opened by the archdiocese in half a century.
NOW, I’D LIKE to turn our attention inward. Once again, the growth of our life insurance program was impressive.
When I was elected supreme knight, I said that we have a moral obligation to offer membership in the Knights of Columbus to every eligible Catholic man. And today, I tell you we have a similar obligation to offer our greatest fraternal benefit — Knights of Columbus Insurance — to every eligible Catholic man.
Our assets under management are more than $24 billion. Our surplus is up by $188 million to more than $2.1 billion. We are ranked among the Fortune 1,000 list of America’s largest companies.
And just recently, Standard & Poor’s listed the Knights of Columbus as one of the six strongest life insurance companies in North America — putting us at the very top of the industry.
Father McGivney knew from personal experience how uncertain a family’s life can be.
If we are to be faithful to the vision of Father McGivney, then we all have the responsibility to ensure that every brother Knight can secure the financial future of his family.
Our mission is to help every brother Knight be a responsible steward, so if the unexpected happens, his home is secure, his wife is protected, and his children have a promising future.
I’m especially proud of our recognition by the Ethisphere Institute as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2018. The Knights of Columbus has received that distinction for five straight years, and is one of just three insurance companies so honored.
Pope Francis has challenged Catholics to take up what he calls “an ethics of fraternity.” This is also the vision of Father McGivney. And this is what we have been doing for more than 135 years.
We should remember that in Father McGivney’s day there were already insurance companies in Connecticut. He could have referred his parishioners to one of these companies. But he did not. Father McGivney wanted something different. He wanted something new. He wanted something distinctly Catholic.
Father McGivney wanted a new Catholic fraternity that would transform the practical men of his day into a committed brotherhood of men capable of helping each other.
That is what he founded, and that is what we remain today.
At the Knights of Columbus, we have developed a strong, successful business model based upon “an ethics of fraternity.” It is what we mean when we say “insurance by brother Knights for brother Knights.”
This same ethic applies to Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors. Established just three years ago, Asset Advisors is now a go-to advisor for more than 200 dioceses, religious orders and other organizations, offering them a way to invest consistent with our shared respect for life, human dignity, family and religious freedom.
Around the world, we have had another stellar year of service — and of growth. In Asia, europe and latin America, brother Knights are building for the future.
Just before our meeting today, our board of directors designated South Korea as our newest territory. And I am proud to announce that Bishop Francis Xavier Yu, a Fourth degree Knight, has agreed to serve as our first territorial chaplain, and Father Gerard hammond, our most recent Gaudium et Spes Award recipient, will serve as our associate territorial chaplain. I will soon appoint the first territorial deputy.
The new territory will include the three military councils on U.S. bases in South Korea, as well as the four South Korean councils that have been chartered since 2015.
With this development, we will enhance our ability to bring the Knights of Columbus way of charity and unity to the Korean peninsula.
I am also proud to report that the board has designated Ukraine — with 25 councils and more than 1,000 Knights — as our newest state council. This comes two years after it became a territory under the leadership of the first Territorial Deputy Bogdan Kovaliv.
I’d also like to recognize his Beatitude, the Major Archbishop of Kyivhalyč, and the Archbishop of Lviv.
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk and Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki, thank you for being here today.
We are one with you in praying for a peace in your country that respects the territorial sovereignty of your nation.
In Poland, brother Knights helped collect more than 830,000 signatures to petition the parliament to amend the country’s abortion laws to provide greater legal protection to unborn children. In March, Poland’s President Andrzej duda met with a delegation of Polish Knights to thank them for their disaster relief efforts.
Mexican Knights put their faith in action last September after back-to-back earthquakes battered Mexico with a death toll of more than 300.
The Supreme Council sent $100,000 that was distributed among the dioceses of Mexico City, Puebla and Cuernavaca. And our councils in Mexico South and Mexico Central set up collection centers for food, water, medicine and clothing. They also delivered supplies to the Diocese of Cuernavaca, one of the most damaged areas.
In Canada, our brother Knights continue to answer the call of our first principle — charity. There are many examples. Consider Father Bonner Council 7599 in edmonton, which has raised more than $140,000 in support of the parish and community since 2014. During that same time the council has also contributed nearly 1,800 volunteer hours and $12,000 to Habitat for Humanity.
Then there was St. Mark’s Council 8870 in Calgary where brother Knights renovated the church, saving the parish $150,000.
We continue to grow in France, where we partnered with the Archdiocese of Paris to commemorate the centennial of the First World War, with a stunning light show projected on the façade of notre-dame Cathedral, titled “Queen of Hearts.”
Recently, our brother Knights in France mobilized to honor Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, a gendarme and Catholic hero who sacrificed his life to save another during a terrorist attack. with the diocese of the French Armed Forces, they helped organize a Memorial Mass in Paris and printed thousands of prayer cards.
We continue to experience tremendous growth in the Philippines, and there are countless examples of the great work our brother Knights do there.
But today, I want to announce a special initiative for the Philippines.
Catholics in the Philippines are preparing to celebrate 500 years of Christianity in their country in 2021. I have appointed our Supreme director from the Philippines, Judge Jose reyes, to be my special representative and to lead a special initiative to rally our brother Knights in this upcoming celebration.
This year we will participate in an effort to bring Jesus into every Catholic home through our initiative of building the domestic church, in which we ask every council to take up our Consecration to the Holy Family program.
We are so pleased that Cardinal Orlando Quevedo is here with us today from the Philippines. Your eminence, please bring home to your brother bishops our commitment to support this historic event.
ONCE AGAIN this year, the Knights of Columbus set a record for membership with a total 1,967,585 members.
I’m also proud to say that the state of the Fourth Degree is strong and getting stronger. Membership grew to 364,131, an increase of more than 17,000.
So yes, my brother Knights, I’m proud to say that the state of our Order is good! Which is precisely why we must turn our attention to what’s ahead.
We should address the future needs of our beloved Order now from a position of strength.
Our future success is not automatic, and our continued growth is not guaranteed. We must step up now to bring younger men into the Order. We must reach out to where they are — not to where we think they should be.
Our mission continues to involve their families; to account for their spiritual well-being; and to provide leadership opportunities for their service. This is what Father McGivney did using the means and tools of his day. And this is what we will do using the tools of our day.
It is time to think in new ways for a new generation.
Our program, “Surge with Service,” was begun in 1971. John McDevitt was our supreme knight and Pope Francis had been a priest for only two years.
“Surge with Service” has served its purpose well. But it is time for a new approach.
Last month, at the start of our fraternal year, we launched a new program model called “Faith in Action.” The name encompasses what it means to be a Knight of Columbus and a true Knight of Charity.
FAITH IN ACTION RECOMMENDED PROGRAMS
It’s our way of proclaiming that in today’s world there are men who put their faith into action — men who bring value to our communities and hope to our nations.
You will learn more about this program model from your state leaders.
But simply put, Faith in Action will encourage councils to engage in new activities to promote faith, family, life and community.
Our Faith in Action program rests on the solid foundation of our “Building the Domestic Church” initiative.
As Pope Francis reminds us in Amoris Laetitia, “A family’s living space could turn into a domestic church.”
This is the heart of our domestic church program. Put simply, it is the idea that the Catholic family has the same mission as the Church — to pray together, and to build up each other in the faith; to be a place of mercy, reconciliation and love; and to take up Christ’s mission of charity.
The Knights of Columbus Online Membership program is already proving to be a valuable recruiting tool for councils. Future Knights need only visit kofc.org/join to enroll in our digital program, which sets them on the path to becoming engaged in K of C spiritual and council life. As shared by State Deputy Steve Kehoe of Virginia, whose territory served as a test market for Online Membership: “This program is only going to strengthen and grow the Order. Knights are a vital part of our parishes and communities, and these additional members will help us to continue Father McGivney’s dream.” Nearly a quarter of the men who join the Order through the Online Membership program later joined a local council within weeks of signing up online, and many more express interest in doing so.
I BEGAN MY REMARKS with Michael McGivney entering St. Mary’s Seminary. We all know what happened next. He came back to Connecticut where he served his people tirelessly and founded the Order we all love.
But now I’d like to introduce you to someone else.
In 2009, Zachary Crowley left home for the University of Maryland with dreams of becoming a doctor. He became active in the college Knights council there. In the process, he returned to the Catholic faith.
He told us: “The Knights’ role in my reversion was really showing me the fraternal side of Catholicism. And charity was a way of engaging the faith on the ground level.”
By the time he graduated, he had dropped plans for medical school. Instead, he entered St. Mary’s Seminary.
Virtually every day, he walks past a bust of Father McGivney. It’s a reminder, he says, that “The man who founded this incredible organization did the same things in the same seminary that I am in.”
The biggest thing with the Knights, he says, is that “we are all about charity.”
Father McGivney and Zachery Crowley form part of a continuum that is our history and our future. They embody the idea of a man on a mission — a mission to which all of us, as Knights of Columbus, have been called.
Finally, as many of you know, the Knights of Columbus has had a long connection with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. We provided the financial resources to build the Knights’ Tower nearly 70 years ago and, more recently, the Knights of Columbus Incarnation Dome.
Earlier this fraternal year, the great Trinity Dome of the Basilica was completed — another project made possible by our financial support. Before its solemn dedication, the rector of the basilica, Msgr. Walter Rossi, invited a delegation to the very top of the 26,000 square foot dome. Artisans had placed there 15 million pieces of Venetian glass that make up the mosaic.
As Msgr. Rossi pointed out where the words “Please pray for the Knights of Columbus” had been added to the dome mosaic, I thought how wonderfully appropriate to place the Knights of Columbus under the protection of Our Lady in the house for her that we have helped to build, and surrounded by the saints that did so much to bring the Gospel to our continent.
Standing there at the highest point of this magnificent basilica honoring Our Lady, I thought of another, much smaller, beautiful church named for her where a group of committed men had met in the basement.
Those men would not build a church, but they would build a magnificent organization — an organization that brings Christ’s charity to millions around the world.
Christ lives in the history of each of our nations. He has changed their history. And we believe that the future of each of our nations is directed toward him.
Because of what you have accomplished, the Knights of Columbus now lives in their history as well.
Today, let us resolve that as Knights of Charity, Knights of Unity, Knights of Fraternity, we will continue to change lives — and that by doing so we will continue to change history.
My brother Knights, let us so conduct ourselves that some day a future supreme knight will look out from the great dome of Mary’s basilica to see an entire continent embracing a new culture of life under the protection of Mary and surrounded by saints.