Following the 128th Supreme Convention opening Mass, Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington blesses a plaque commemorating the Knights of Columbus Incarnation Dome in the National Shrine.
The Knights of Columbus has supported prominent institutions of the Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., for more than 100 years. In addition to ongoing financial assistance for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, the Order maintains strong relationships with The Catholic University of America (CUA) and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. When thousands of Knights and their families gathered for the Supreme Convention’s opening Mass Aug. 3 at the basilica, which is located adjacent to the CUA campus, evidence of the Order’s support was all around them.
In its first national initiative, the Order donated more than $55,000 to CUA in 1904 to establish a chair of American History, and soon after donated $25,000 for general support of the university. Ten years later, the Knights established a $500,000 endowment to provide for fellowships and operating costs.
In 1965, the Order established the Pro Deo and Pro Patria Scholarship Program to assist Knights and their family members attending CUA. The Knights later created the $2 million Bicentennial of the U.S. Hierarchy Fund in 1989. Proceeds from this fund helped to finance the construction of the Columbus School of Law building.
Most recently, the Knights funded the renovation of a 35,000-square-foot academic building at the university. Renamed in honor of the Order’s founder, McGivney Hall was dedicated in September 2008. Today, it houses the classrooms and faculty offices of the North American campus of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, which the Knights established in 1988. The Order also maintains a fellowship program endowment and provides regular support for the Institute’s operation.
The Knights of Columbus has likewise shared a close relationship with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. A Fourth Degree honor guard was present at the cornerstone-laying ceremony, presided over by Cardinal James Gibbons in 1920. When construction of the basilica was finally completed in 1959, the Knights provided $1 million to erect the campanile, known as the “Knights’ Tower.” Five years later, the Order donated a carillon of 64 bells.
Many other instances of support followed. In 1979, the Knights established a $1 million endowment in honor of Past Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart to promote Marian devotion and to preserve and maintain the Shrine. In 1989, the Knights’ Tower was rededicated after the Order funded the restoration of the existing bells and the installation of several new ones. Since that time, the K of C has also regularly funded television broadcasts of special liturgies and other Shrine events.
A stained-glass window of Father Michael J. McGivney located in the Crypt Church sacristy, as well as the Shrine’s Our Lady of Africa Chapel, which was funded in part by the Knights, were both dedicated in 1998.
Since 1982, local Knights have formally coordinated and staffed the Shrine’s usher ministry, and the basilica serves as a place of pilgrimage for members throughout America. More than 12,000 Knights and family members attended the K of C Jubilee Year Pilgrimage at the Shrine on April 1, 2000. Two years later, the Shrine hosted the first K of C Eucharistic Congress.
And thanks to a $1 million donation, the Knights of Columbus Incarnation Dome was constructed and dedicated in 2007.
Ultimately, the Order’s support of the Catholic institutions in Washington demonstrates its solidarity with the Church throughout the nation. It is this solidarity that has characterized the Knights of Columbus since its founding and will continue to do so in the future.