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Annual Report of the Supreme Knight

10/1/2016

134TH SUPREME CONVENTION | TORONTO

Pope Francis greets Supreme Knight Carl Anderson during the 28th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, held June 17 in Rome. Supreme Knight Anderson has served on the Pontifical Council for the Laity since 2002, having first been appointed by Pope John Paul II. His terms of appointment were renewed by Pope Benedict XVI, and in 2014 Pope Francis appointed him to an additional term. During the meeting, Supreme Knight Anderson and the other council members discussed the history and accomplishments of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the mission for the new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. Photo: L'Osservatore Romano

Here in Ontario, as throughout our continent, the land was baptized through the sacrifice of missionaries.

Their sacrifice brought the light of faith to a continent. They came despite knowing well the dangers, never counting the cost.

Some came to Canada once; others risked coming back again. They were men like Jesuit Father Jean de Brébeuf, who in 1649 was tortured and killed less than two hours north of where we meet today. Together with his companions, he endured one of the most horrific martyrdoms ever recorded in the history of Christianity.

Following his capture, and throughout his ordeal, de Brébeuf suffered fearlessly. In the face of terrible torment, he continued to be a missionary focused on the needs of others. He showed throughout his final hours concern for his confrère and his Huron brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as for the souls of his torturers.1

Jean de Brébeuf endured the hardships of a new world not to gain great wealth or power, nor to find something great. He came to Canada to share something great. He came to share his friendship with Jesus Christ with those he hoped would one day be his friends – if not in this life, then in the next.

He was a man for others. He came to serve. He learned the Huron-Wyandot language, wrote a dictionary, translated the catechism and composed the first Canadian Christmas carol – The Huron Carol, written in their own language.

Early missionaries to this continent, including Canada’s first bishop, St. François de Laval, came to share their greatest gift, the light of faith. These missionaries considered sharing that gift of faith to be worth any sacrifice – even the sacrifice of their own lives.

More than 200 years later, another man of God came to Canada.

Like the missionaries before him, he knew that his vocation likely meant an early death, during an era when the average Connecticut priest died unusually young.2 But he was determined. He traveled to Montreal to begin studies for the priesthood, and once ordained, he worked tirelessly to spread the light of faith – not to the native people of New France, but to the immigrant families of New England.

He lived his short life heroically. He made an incredible impact. And because of the heroic virtue of that young priest, we are here today.

In founding the Knights of Columbus, Father Michael J. McGivney established a brotherhood of men who would help bring the light of faith to their families and their communities through their prayer and their charity.

As we meet in Canada, we recall that this country was the first to which the Knights of Columbus expanded, just 15 years after its founding in New Haven.

Canada has been key to both our Order’s expansion and our faithful witness. Toronto itself was the site of St. John Paul II’s final World Youth Day in 2002, of which the Knights of Columbus was a major sponsor.

Like Father McGivney and the Canadian missionaries before him, our love of neighbor witnesses to a faith built on love – not just of our neighbor, but of those who say they are our enemies.

This is the faith that lights our path. It is our moral direction.

My brother Knights, all of us are called to a vocation – and as Knights of Columbus, as men dedicated to charity, unity and fraternity, that vocation is to love God through service to our neighbor.

There are many organizations of Catholic men, but no other strengthens the faith of its members while also doing so much good for its neighbors.

As brothers of and for the faith, the good we do can truly be a “charity that evangelizes.”

Here in Canada, a land that has been home to Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, a land where the light of faith has shone brightly, we recall words from the 49th chapter of Isaiah: “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.”

We also remember the words of Pope Francis. He has called Catholics to a new sense of missionary discipleship and fraternal brotherhood; he has urged Catholics to go out to the peripheries; and he has placed much confidence in the Knights of Columbus.

And so, I am pleased to announce the theme of our 134th Supreme Convention: “A Light to the Nations.”

 


Knights of Charity

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson joins Connecticut Knights, firefighters and police from New Haven to give out new winter coats to children at John S. Martinez Magnet School.

My brother Knights, over the past year, because of your charity, our light has shone brightly. We have brought that light to the ends of the earth. In a world that has forgotten that love is the vocation of every person, we bear witness to that vocation – not just with words, but with actions.

Pope Francis has said, “To love God and neighbor is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete. It means seeing in every person the face of the Lord to be served, to serve him concretely.”3

My brother Knights, we continue to be a stellar example of just such concrete service to our neighbor. For the 17th consecutive year, we set a record for charitable giving. In 2015, Knights donated more than $175 million – an increase of more than $1.5 million over our 2014 total.

Texas led all jurisdictions with $10,410,786 donated, while California came in second with $6,995,340. They were followed by Florida, Québec, Illinois, Michigan, Ontario, New York, Missouri and New Jersey.

Our volunteer hours added up to a record 73.5 million service hours.

Brother Knights in Luzon North led the way with a total of 5,450,612 hours. Texas followed with 5,256,395 hours. Rounding out the top 10 were Illinois, Florida, California, Luzon South, Ontario, Michigan, Visayas and Pennsylvania.

On average, each brother Knight dedicated an entire workweek of volunteer service.

Independent Sector, a network for nonprofit foundations, listed the value of a 2015 volunteer hour as $23.56. Using that figure, the time we donated to charity last year was worth more than $1.7 billon.

In the past decade, we have donated 700,765,880 hours. The value of that service totals more than $15 billon in today’s dollars.

One of our signature programs is Coats for Kids. Last year, a total of 80,592 new winter coats were distributed to children in need by 1,637 councils. Since 2009, when the program began, 310,100 coats have been given out by 5,900 councils.

Our supreme chaplain, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, took part in an inner-city coat distribution, where he helped give out 1,000 coats in West Baltimore to children at St. Edward Parish.

Another way in which our coats initiative is growing is through partnerships with local police and firefighters. For example, Knights in the Omaha area partnered with the North Omaha Police Precinct. They gave officers 600 coats to distribute to children in need.

In New Haven, I joined Connecticut Knights, police and firefighters in giving out new winter coats to children at John S. Martinez Magnet School.

Knights have a long history of finding great partners in charity.

This year, we again teamed up with professional athletes. Prior to the Super Bowl last February, Knights from Council 12683 in San Francisco, Calif., distributed coats at an inner-city Catholic school. They were joined by Football Hall of Famers Anthony Muñoz and Dave Casper; Oakland Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio and his wife, Linda; and current NFL players and their coaches. More than 270 students at Our Lady of the Visitacion School received new coats with the help of Catholic Athletes for Christ, the Raiders Foundation, the Jack Del Rio Foundation and the Muñoz Foundation.

Like Coats for Kids, our Food for Families program continues to expand. Last year, Knights collected more than 11.4 million pounds of food and $7.2 million in donations for soup kitchens and other food programs.

In Vancouver, British Columbia, Knights gathered food and donations to support the Friends in Need Thanksgiving food drive. Knights then delivered the items to the food bank and assisted with distribution.

In Southville Subdivision, Luzon South, Council 13553 provides food and multivitamins to elementary school students to ensure that children of poor families get balanced, nourishing meals.

Our councils also help give shelter, particularly by supporting Habitat for Humanity. Last year alone, Knights donated $667,063 and 1,149,903 volunteer hours.

For the third year, the Supreme Council donated $75,000 to New Haven Habitat for Humanity, and Knights helped build a new home in our founding city.

Members of Council 12240 in Davie, Fla., helped build a six-unit complex for Habitat for Humanity.

We have also brought mobility to thousands through our seven-year involvement with the Global Wheelchair Mission.

Last year, we distributed 8,062 wheelchairs in countries such as Chile, Mexico, Poland, the Philippines, Ukraine and Vietnam. Since 2002, we have given the gift of mobility to more than 57,000 people.

Knights in Ukraine raised money locally and throughout North America to buy medicine and equipment for hospitals, including a children’s hospital in Lviv. They also purchased and distributed 1,500 wheelchairs through the Knights’partnership with the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation.

And charitable foundation Caritas Ukraine recently launched a new wheelchair project with help from British Columbia Knights and the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation.

In February, Dorian and I joined our fellow supreme directors and their wives for a wheelchair distribution outside the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. That occasion marked a major milestone in our charitable giving: 50,000 wheelchairs distributed through our partnership with the Global Wheelchair Mission.

In other charitable initiatives, Knights gave $3.8 million to assist the elderly, $3 million to assist hospitals and health care facilities, and $7.2 million to community projects.

In addition, we gave more than $4.48 million to help people with physical disabilities.

We also continue our support of those with intellectual disabilities.

Since the first World Games in 1968, Special Olympics has been able to count on the Knights of Columbus.

Last summer, we provided $1.4 million for the Special Olympics World Games. We helped make the games a great success by covering food, transportation and other costs for every American and Canadian athlete while they were in Los Angeles.

Along with our financial sponsorship, more than 1,000 brother Knights and their families volunteered at the games. For our support, the Knights of Columbus was honored as a “Founding Champion of the World Games.”

Our relationship with Special Olympics remains strong. Last year, our councils donated $14,064,254 to Special Olympics and other programs for people with intellectual disabilities. Along with this financial support, 79,078 Knights volunteered 979,715 hours of service at 22,948 Special Olympics events.

Again this year, the Indiana State Council – together with Catholic Athletes for Christ and Special Olympics Indiana – sponsored a mini combine and football clinic to give Special Olympics athletes the opportunity to experience a training day with NFL professionals similar to those run for players by the NFL.

Also in Indiana, college Knights from Notre Dame Council 1477 continue to support Corvilla, an organization that provides housing and services for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. The Notre Dame Knights provide financial support from their football steak sales and volunteer at the facility throughout the year.

Knights helped to raise $100,000 for Special Olympics by participating in the second annual Plane Pull for Special Olympics Iowa.

And in Rome, we hosted a unique Special Olympics event at one of our athletic fields as part of Special Olympics European Football Week. The tournament, co-sponsored by the Knights and the Italian Football Association, included teams from Italy, France, Lithuania, Poland and Hungary.

Knights also organize blood drives throughout the year. Since sponsoring the first U.S. national blood drive in 1938, we have continued as leaders in this important work. Last year alone, Knights enlisted the support of 392,944 blood donors.

In New Hampshire, Knights partnered with the New England Red Cross as part of a two-year initiative to double the blood collected. They are also raising funds to purchase a mobile collection vehicle.

Through charitable acts like these, our members serve as excellent examples to society, illustrating how Catholics serve others through charitable action and works of mercy. By setting this example, our members not only inspire their fellow brothers but also become role models for young people to learn how Catholic men should live out their faith.

Our witness to youth does not stop there. Our brother Knights work directly with young people on various programs to help them grow in their faith, extend their knowledge and develop their athletic skills.

Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, stands with supplies provided by the Knights of Columbus for more than 13,500 displaced families from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. The donations were part of the ongoing efforts by the Knights to aid refugee Christian families and other persecuted religious communities in the Middle East.

During the past year, 154,187 young people participated in 3,761 Knights of Columbus Free Throw Competitions. In addition, the Order’s Soccer Challenge saw 19,457 participants in 1,413 events.

In the Philippines, Council 6591 in Cotabato City, Mindanao, offered medical care clinics for children, especially those in poor neighborhoods. In Lakewood, Colo., Council 9597 donated tablet computers to Our Lady of Fatima School to allow students access to dozens of learning applications.

And through our Catholic Information Service, we provide materials for young people and other interested persons who want to learn more about our Catholic faith. These catechetical materials are now available in English, French and Spanish, and accessible online to every Catholic worldwide. They are also an important part of our new Building the Domestic Church initiative.

This year we’ve continued our partnership with Praesidium Inc. This organization provides our members with the most up-to-date resources available to ensure safe environments for our children. Through this partnership, Knights involved in youth programs have access to online training, background screening and reporting services.

We also supported important educational projects. During the last academic year, the Supreme Council funded 651 college scholarships worth more than $1.9 million.

And local councils and assemblies provided $7.1 million in other scholarships and an additional $1.6 million for athletic programs.

In all, last year, councils and assemblies contributed nearly $19.1 million to youth programs.

Thirty years ago, St. John Paul II founded World Youth Day. This year, World Youth Day was held in his hometown of Kraków.

As at previous World Youth Days, the Knights took an active role. In support of the young pilgrims, we hosted the Mercy Centre, the premier location for English-speaking pilgrims from around the world.

More than 100,000 pilgrims benefited from the programs at our site, which was run by Polish Knights and a team from the Supreme Council office, in partnership with the Sisters of Life, the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, and the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C.

Also partnering with us were Salt + Light Television, Holy Cross Family Ministries, the Dominican Liturgical Institute, the National Conference of Religious Vocations Directors and the National Council of Diocesan Vocations Directors. The Mercy Centre also hosted the bishops’conferences of the United States, Canada and Australia.

At World Youth Day, we helped to build a brighter future for our Church.

But there are other Christians who some say should have no future – those Christians in the Middle East who have been targeted for genocide.

In Iraq, Syria and neighboring countries, Christians and other religious minorities are facing extinction. With many receiving no support from their governments or from the United Nations, they have had to rely on their fellow Christians. And they have been able to rely on the Knights of Columbus.

Since 2014, we have raised more than $11 million for Christian refugees, and that money has been a lifeline.

We provided more than $800,000 to help feed 13,500 families in Erbil, Iraq. And we are continuing to support medical clinics and long-term infrastructure projects, including the 120 apartment units being built to provide permanent housing.

Additionally, we provided financial support to all of the Syriac Catholic priests who were exiled from Mosul after it fell to ISIS in 2014. We also supported catechetical classes for Syriac and Chaldean Catholics.

In Syria, we have assisted the besieged Christians of Aleppo who are determined to remain in the land where St. Paul was baptized. And we are determined to help them.

We also helped those who had to flee to other countries. In Jordan, we partnered with Catholic Relief Services to support educational initiatives for refugees, and in Lebanon we also supported a variety of programs.

These efforts depend upon the active involvement of brother Knights. Some have donated directly to our Christian Refugee Relief Fund, while others have responded by participation in the Solidarity Cross program, through which councils have sold more than 82,000 olivewood crosses made by Christians in the Holy Land and donated the proceeds.

Council 2473 in Arlington, Va., sold 620 crosses and collected $12,453 for refugees. The first cross the council sold was to Bishop Paul Loverde.

In El Cajon, Calif., Council 10981 at the Chaldean Cathedral raised and donated more than $600,000 in support of Christian refugees.

Council 9544 in Ottawa, Ontario, worked with their parish to welcome and support two Christian refugee families from Syria. THe council is now raising funds to sponsor additional families as well.

We continue to assist young people in Uganda and Kenya by working with the Apostles of Jesus to provide care, shelter and education for AIDS orphans – many of whom have tested positive for HIV.

And we continue humanitarian aid in Africa through our partnership with charity:water. We are building 20 new clean water wells that will save lives and improve the health of thousands of people. Ten of these wells will be built in Ethiopia and directly impact the lives of more than 2,000 people. It is one concrete way we work to apply the principles of our Holy Father’s call in the encyclical Laudato Si’.

Our charitable works are a light to the nations. They are a powerful witness to love of God and neighbor that reaches to every corner of our world.

 


Membership Growth

State Deputy Andrzej Anasiak and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson shake hands at the sixth Poland State Convention, which took place April 22-24 in Łomża, Poland. Located northeast of the capital city of Warsaw, Łomża was one of the original six cities in which Polish Knights of Columbus councils were established in 2006. Photo by Jacek Pisz

Our charity is motivated by faith. And our faith is a gift to be shared.

When we bring new men into the Order, we give them opportunities to become better Catholics. And we multiply the good works we can do.

I am pleased to report that our membership grew for the 44th consecutive year to a record high of 1,918,122 brother Knights. Soon, we will number more than 2 million men. Never before in the history of our Order have we had so many men doing so much good.

We also had the 79th year of local council growth. We added 246 new councils, for a total of 15,342 councils.

In Ukraine, we now have 566 members in 13 councils. Because of this, the Supreme Directors voted in April to establish Ukraine as our newest territory.

Impressive growth also continues in Poland.

In April, I attended the Polish state convention, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Knights of Columbus there. The convention Mass included our Act of Consecration to the Holy Family in the presence of the Order’s Holy Family traveling image.

In one decade, we have grown in Poland to nearly 90 local councils and nearly 4,400 members.

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of meeting Poland’s new president, Andrzej Duda, during his visit to Washington. At that time, he personally thanked me for the contribution Polish Knights have already made to their country. And I assured him that we have only just begun.

In neighboring Lithuania, the Order is also active and growing. At the Congress of Mercy in Vilnius, there was a procession led by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. It included an image of Divine Mercy carried by Lithuanian Knights of Columbus.

Our College Councils program continues to thrive. This year we added 25 new college councils – 12 in the United States and 13 in the Philippines. We now have 27,535 college Knights at 348 college councils. And during the last fraternal year, these college Knights donated $370,236 and 504,642 hours.

Purdue University Council 15144 in West Lafayette, Ind., hosted a basketball tournament to raise awareness and financial aid for Christian refugees in the Middle East.

Last October, we marked the 50th College Councils Conference with more than 200 college Knights from nearly 90 schools. Council 2782 at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign was named this year’s Outstanding College Council for its robust membership growth and programs that included seminarian dinners, support for Special Olympics, blood drives and aid to the homeless.

Every council should strive for just such excellence.

And many thousands do so through our Star Council program.

This year, 2,178 were Star Councils.

I want to thank every council that achieved this important status. Your good works shine as a bright light in your parish and community.

I encourage all councils – and especially every new council – to become a Star Council.

To help every council achieve excellence, we have recently initiated new fraternal training webinars. These webinars will help councils become more efficient and effective. They are archived online at kofc.org/webinar, and every council should use these important tools.

Father McGivney came of age in a country terribly wounded by civil war. He saw a people in desperate need of charity, unity and brotherly fraternity. He reached out to the Catholic men around him to bring a new organization to life – one that offered hope because Catholic men were determined to act on their principles.

My brother Knights, look around you. Do you see a world less in need of charity, less in need of unity, less in need of fraternity than in Father McGivney’s day?

Father McGivney reached out to the Catholic men of his day to make that day better.

And we must do the same.

We have always been an organization for men of every age. And we must continue to be an organization for men of every age. Whether they are college age or retirement age, there is a place for every Catholic man in the Knights of Columbus.

Every Catholic man who joins us can become stronger in his faith through our spiritual and charitable programs.

We can build a better world together, one council at a time. But to do that, we must reach out to more men and grow our ranks.

And for those young husbands and fathers who may think that membership takes time away from their families, I would ask them to remember that the Knights of Columbus is one of the most family-centered Catholic men’s organizations in the world.

 


Building the Domestic Church

In his recent apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis asks, “Who is making an effort to strengthen marriages, to help married couples overcome their problems, to assist them in the work of raising children and, in general, to encourage the stability of the marriage bond?”4

We answer: “The Knights of Columbus.”

Because the light of faith is first transmitted within the family and nurtured in the parish, we have started programs to strengthen both our families and our parishes. These programs give everyone, especially young fathers, the tools they need to bring their families closer together and closer to God. They are also concrete ways in which we can reach out and accompany wounded families.

At our last Supreme Convention, we launched the Holy Family Prayer Program, which features a beautiful image of the Holy Family. In every jurisdiction, Knights have brought this program into their parishes. To date, more than 1,310,000 participants have attended 6,859 prayer services through our Holy Family Prayer Program.

Our Building the Domestic Church: The Family Fully Alive program includes monthly themes, meditations, Scripture readings and activities for the whole family. It is a program for all families, but it is designed especially for young families. It can help families that need new ways to bring the light of the Gospel into their homes.

Our Consecration to the Holy Family will strengthen families spiritually by inviting Jesus, Mary and Joseph into their homes. Our supreme chaplain has written An Act of Consecration to the Holy Family, which I encourage every Knights of Columbus council and family to embrace. And I encourage our councils to make this prayer available at every parish.

Imagine millions of Catholic families consecrated to the Holy Family leading a new evangelization of family life!

Last November, we announced another new initiative: Building the Domestic Church While Strengthening Our Parish. It combines two great traditions of the Knights of Columbus: building up Catholic family life and strengthening parish life.

Our councils thrive within the parish, and every parish can be strengthened by the work of a Knights of Columbus council. Within the parish, we can be a leaven and a witness.

With our thousands of parish-based councils, it is time that the Knights of Columbus step up and be a dynamic engine within the parish that promotes Catholic family life and new charitable initiatives, and that calls Catholic men to greater spiritual formation and evangelical action.

And these programs will do one more thing: They will help make our parishes more family friendly, especially for young families. I ask each of you to take to heart our responsibility as leaders of the most important Catholic men’s organization in the world. What we do in our families and parishes will change the history of the Catholic Church in our communities and help to ensure its future.

The strong right arm of the Catholic Church must also be the strong right arm of the parish church.

Today, this is what it means to be a light to the nations.

When a bishop or pastor looks for a men’s organization to help him revitalize his parish, he should always look first to the Knights of Columbus, because we are men who witness to our faith and bring with us programs designed to strengthen our families and our parishes. We seek a new alignment between our councils and our parishes, one that will strengthen them both.

As we align councils more closely with our parishes, the board of directors has concluded that parishes are best suited to charter Boy Scout troops. Councils are strongly encouraged to continue their volunteer and financial support for Scout troops under the sponsorship of the parish and with the guidance of their pastors.

Councils with an active Columbian Squires circle should discuss with their pastors how Squires’activities can be better integrated into the parish’s youth ministry.

Active Squires circles will continue to be supported from the Supreme Council office and should continue helping to form young men in their faith and the principles of our Order. However, our primary focus should be on integration with our parishes and their youth programs. Thus, new circles should not be formed, and inactive circles should be disbanded.

Before the end of this summer, I would ask that every grand knight meet with his pastor to discuss how his council can better support parish-based activities – including youth ministry – and how our Domestic Church programs can be put at the service of every parish.

 


Patriotic Degree and the Armed Forces

Fourth Degree Master Dennis Stoddard (center), flanked by Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and Maj. Gen. Mike Regner, stands with American pilgrims in front of the Rosary Basilica in Lourdes, France, as part of the 2016 Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage, May 17-23. Photo by Frédéric Lacaze

The Knights of Columbus is a vital force not only in family life and our parishes, but also in our communities – through both our charity and our civic involvement.

The Fourth Degree – our Patriotic Degree – embodies the great love and respect Knights have for our home countries and for the brave men and women who defend them.

Last year, 6,157 Knights joined the Fourth Degree, bringing its membership to a record high of 353,334. We also added 78 new assemblies, for a total of 3,331 Fourth Degree units.

Led by our Sir Knights, the Knights of Columbus is one of the largest volunteer partners of the Department of Veterans Affairs. We provided more than 100,000 hours of service at 134 VA medical centers.

This service to our men and women in uniform has a proud history.

Beginning 100 years ago and continuing throughout World War I, we established facilities at bases in the United States and Europe to support our military forces.

From London and Paris to Siberia, we made an enormous difference. In more than 150 facilities that were the precursors to today’s USO centers, we provided support for troops during their training and deployment at the front.

For the many American soldiers who had never before met a Catholic, we showed the light of faith through our charity. And the needs we addressed were not only physical; we also helped provide Catholic chaplains. In fact, the last American serviceman killed in the First World War was a Knight of Columbus and a chaplain – 1st Lt. William F. Davitt.

Our work during World War I was ahead of its time in many ways. The Knights of Columbus did not draw the color line. We had racially integrated centers nearly five decades before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and three decades before the U.S. Army itself became racially integrated.

During the Second World War, Knights in Canada and the Philippines continued to run similar centers, while the USO took primary responsibility for American troops. On this occasion we remember the architect of the Canadian Army Hut program, Dr. Claude Brown. Dr. Brown served as supreme director from Ontario. He died 75 years ago following injuries sustained in a German air raid on London.

Today, our service continues as we assist our troops and veterans with new initiatives.

Six years ago we pledged $1 million to the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, to support the education of desperately needed new Catholic chaplains. We did not just meet that goal, we exceeded it. Led by the Fourth Degree, we have extended our commitment and will donate $1.4 million to the AMS Co-Sponsored Seminarian program.

Along with this support for our military chaplains, our Patriotic Degree also awarded $168,000 in educational support through 123 Pro Deo and Pro Patria scholarships.

We have also continued our partnership with the Gary Sinise Foundation, building custom smart homes for severely wounded U.S. veterans. Currently, a new smart home is being built for U.S. Army Captain Luis Avila and his wife, Claudia, both of whom attended our convention last year.

We continue our partnership with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, in sponsoring the Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage for active-duty American servicemen and veterans.

As in years past, this year’s Warriors to Lourdes program was held in conjunction with the annual International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes, which was attended by thousands of service members from around the world.

Each year, this pilgrimage offers our wounded heroes renewal, hope and healing.

 


Insurance

In founding the Knights of Columbus, Father McGivney sought to build a brotherhood of men dedicated to the work of charity and to the protection of their families – both spiritually and financially.

He knew how families had been wounded – especially by the financial consequences of their breadwinner’s death. Because of his strong pastoral compassion, Father McGivney was determined to find a concrete, practical response.

This year, we have seen Father McGivney’s legacy of shielding Catholic families from financial disaster reach new milestones as our insurance program achieved its 15th consecutive year of growth.

We set a record high of $8.4 billion in new sales.

This represents nearly 72,000 new life certificates, surpassing the closest fraternal benefit society by more than 25,000.

Our five-year sales growth of nearly 1.6 percent is better than that of the insurance industry as a whole.

Last year, our insurance in force grew by more than $4 billion.

And in the last 13 years, our insurance in force has more than doubled.

Today, we have more than 2 million certificates in force.

But our greatest achievement was reaching this milestone: We surpassed $100 billion of life insurance in force. This number is the total sum of the face amount of all of our active policies. One hundred billion dollars of life insurance in force means an unprecedented level of protection for our families.

We reached this milestone when Donovan Selensky of North Dakota, a member of Council 4136, purchased a life insurance policy for his 1-year-old son, Dyson. Donovan was continuing a tradition begun by his father. And field agent Wayne Cherney, who sold him the policy, was continuing a Knights of Columbus tradition begun by Father McGivney. Cherney, like Father McGivney, knew personally the need for insurance, having experienced the unexpected loss of his father and the ensuing hardships.

Every Knight who buys our top-rated insurance does so through an agent, and every one of our more than 1,500 agents is a brother Knight.

Our success is a testament to three things: the quality of our products, the trust our members have in the Knights of Columbus, and the dedicated brother Knights who serve as our agents.

We strive to have an insurance program that is different. We put people before profits. This is what we mean when we say “insurance by brother Knights for brother Knights.”

These words are not just a slogan, they are a promise. And it is a promise that makes the Knights of Columbus different.

The Knights of Columbus continues to earn A.M. Best’s highest rating of A++ (Superior). This rating is reserved only for a select number of companies that have “a superior ability to meet their ongoing insurance obligations.” And we continue to receive the highest rating available to a U.S.- based insurer from Standard and Poor’s.

We are also one of America’s largest companies, ranking number 925 on the 2016 Fortune 1000 list.

Brother Knights who use Knights of Columbus Insurance to protect their families keep their insurance in overwhelming numbers.

Our lapse rate of only 3.6 percent is one of the lowest in the industry and well below the industry average of 8.16 percent. That means that more than 96.4 percent of our insurance members keep their policies. This is the best evidence of customer satisfaction.

In many ways, our success continues to outpace the industry.

Our insurance premiums exceeded $1.17 billion. Our annuity deposits were more than $546 million. And we paid more than $282 million in dividends.

One of the best indications of financial strength is how much our assets exceed our liabilities. And by this measure, too, we are exceptionally strong. Our $1.8 billion surplus provides extraordinary protection.

Our record of success highlights another important truth. There is no need to compromise ethics to achieve success.

For the Knights of Columbus, it is our ethical commitment and our Catholic values that form the foundation for our success.

I am pleased to announce that this year the Knights of Columbus has been named a 2016 World’s Most Ethical Company® by the Ethisphere Institute. This year, the designation was awarded to 131 companies and organizations worldwide that foster a culture of ethics. We have earned this designation for the third consecutive year. You can be proud that the Knights of Columbus is recognized as a world leader in business ethics.

 


Investments

Supreme Treasurer Michael O’Connor and other Supreme Council headquarters staff accept the 2016 World’s Most Ethical Company® award on behalf of the Knights of Columbus. This is the third consecutive year the Knights of Columbus has been named a World’s Most Ethical Company® by the Ethisphere Institute.

The outstanding performance of our insurance agents was matched this year by the strong performance of our investment department.

During 2015, we invested more than $11 million each day.

Our new investments totaled $2.8 billion. And last year, we earned more than $940 million of investment income.

Despite difficult market conditions, we found ways to make sure that your money does well while also doing good. We only invest in ways consistent with our Catholic values.

Thanks to this strategy and our excellent investment team, despite the low interest-rate environment, we found quality and sustainable ways to maintain healthy yields.

For example, while the yield on 10-year treasury bonds averaged 2.1 percent last year, our new purchase rate was almost twice as high – 4 percent in the United States and 3.8 percent in total.

The success and expertise of our investment team, many of whom are long-term employees, led to our decision to launch Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors. This service offers faithbased investment solutions that are specifically designed to meet the investment needs of Catholic institutions. And it offers those institutions the same expertise and strategies that have proven so successful for the Knights of Columbus.

Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors is in its 17th month of operation and has 50 clients, including religious orders, dioceses, Catholic foundations, and state and local councils. All of these now benefit from investment strategies consistent with Catholic principles. We are already among the top 200 asset managers in the United States.

To the greatest extent possible, we want our investments to make a difference.

And there is no better investment than the Catholic Church – and one way we do this is through our ChurchLoan program, which enables churches and schools to finance construction projects at very competitive rates. At the end of 2015, our portfolio of ChurchLoan mortgages totaled approximately $100 million. This is money that works directly for the Church.

Prior to his election as pope, Pope Benedict XVI observed, “It is becoming an increasingly obvious fact ... that the development of economic systems which concentrate on the common good depends on a determinate ethical system, which in turn can be ... sustained only by strong religious convictions.”5

At the Knights of Columbus, we make these words a reality.

This is the reason we say we don’t run a business, we operate a Catholic enterprise!

 


Knights and the Church

Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori incenses the Luminous Mysteries Chapel altar during the dedication Mass on April 2. Concelebrants are (left to right) Bishop Jean Laffitte, secretary to the Pontifical Council for the Family; Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception; and Provost Father Antonio López, dean of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. Photo by Matthew Barrick

During his visit to the United States, Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress. The Holy Father said, “It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continues to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society.”6

For nearly 135 years, the Knights of Columbus has been just such “a voice of fraternity and love,” not only through our words but through our active witness.

Throughout the Holy Father’s visit, the Knights of Columbus showed solidarity with him. More than 1,000 Knights served as volunteers at papal events.

Knights provided an honor guard for the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

At that Mass, Pope Francis canonized Junípero Serra, the 18th-century Franciscan missionary to California. And at the Mass, we helped to honor this great missionary by distributing 30,000 copies of a booklet that included an address I had given in Rome on his significant contribution to the history of the United States.

During the papal events held at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Knights served as ushers.

And in Philadelphia, the Knights of Columbus emblem was seen everywhere, including on backpacks given to each participant at the World Meeting of Families.

The Knights of Columbus was a major financial sponsor of the closing papal Mass. We printed 350,000 copies of the Mass booklet and provided 350 volunteers.

The altar and liturgical settings for that Mass were designed by James Lenahan, a member of Council 2782 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Compositions which included original music by brother Knight Peter Latona of Council 433 were performed at the Philadelphia and D.C. papal Masses.

At the Festival of Families, Past Grand Knight Rudy Gonzales of Council 14622 in Lewiston, N.Y., and his family were among those who personally met the pope.

During the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis called for a new alliance between the Church and families. Today, with our Domestic Church initiative, no Catholic organization is better positioned than the Knights of Columbus to answer that call in thousands of parishes.

In December, Archbishop Lori and I had the honor of a private audience with Pope Francis. During our meeting, we presented him with a contribution of $1.6 million from the Order’s Vicarius Christi Fund. Since 1981, that fund has generated more than $56 million for the pope’s personal charities.

In February, Pope Francis visited Mexico. More than 200 Knights from Mexico Northwest served as volunteers at the papal events in Ciudad Juárez, while Knights from throughout Mexico South assisted with the pope’s open-air Mass there.

I joined the Mexican state deputies attending the Mass that Pope Francis celebrated at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Prior to the Mass, our documentaries on Our Lady of Guadalupe and Pope Francis were shown.

The Knights of Columbus Board of Directors’pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe coincided with the pope’s visit to Mexico. At that time, we renewed the consecration of the Knights of Columbus to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Our board’s pilgrimage concluded with a solemn Mass in the Metropolitan Cathedral, which was celebrated by Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico City. After the Mass, we presented the Order’s Caritas Award to the rector of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Msgr. Enrique Glennie Graue.

In January, the Philippines hosted the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu City. Hundreds of Knights served as delegates and were key figures in many of its activities. The Supreme Council was a major financial sponsor. We provided funding for the satellite uplink to broadcast its proceedings worldwide, as well as for the publication of a daily newspaper and other materials.

As we assisted the visits of Pope Francis to the United States, Mexico and Poland, we also paid tribute to the predecessor he canonized – St. John Paul II.

St. John Paul II’s impact on the Church, the world and the Knights of Columbus was profound.

Earlier this year, we assisted in the development and release of a new documentary, Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism. The film had its television premiere on WTTW in Chicago and was distributed nationally by PBS.

The Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C., a landmark initiative of the Knights of Columbus, is home to a world-class exhibit on the life of John Paul II, a saint who held fast to faith, hope and love through the darkest moments of the 20th century.

Last October, Pope John Paul II’s longtime personal secretary Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, now archbishop of Kraków, visited the shrine to dedicate the altar in the Redemptor Hominis Church. Serving as principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass was Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington.

The altar in the Luminous Mysteries Chapel was dedicated by Supreme Chaplain Archbishop Lori on April 2 – the Vigil of Divine Mercy and 11th anniversary of John Paul II’s death. This beautiful chapel is also home to a reliquary containing St. John Paul II’s blood. I ask every Knight to take the opportunity to visit the shrine and pray before this precious relic.

Both altars are the work of noted Italian sculptor Edoardo Ferrari. Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik designed the mosaics featured in both the shrine’s main church and reliquary chapel.

While we celebrate the life and legacy of this great saint, we also continue to pray for the canonization of our founder, the Venerable Father Michael McGivney.

His cause for canonization is active at the Vatican, and I ask all of you to continue praying for Father McGivney’s intercession and to report any possible miracles or favors received through his intercession to the Father McGivney Guild, at fathermcgivney.org.

As we pray for the canonization of our founder, we also continue to support the formation of his successors – the next generation of parish priests.

Our Father Michael J. McGivney and Bishop Thomas V. Daily Vocations Scholarship programs provided 144 scholarships to seminarians last year. Of the 50 new awardees, 26 are Knights. Each scholarship is for $2,500. Since these two scholarship programs began in 1992 and 1999, they have provided nearly $7 million to 1,196 seminarians.

Our Refund Support Vocations Program (RSVP) remains our flagship initiative in supporting vocations. Last year, 2,942 local units distributed nearly $3.7 million to 6,180 seminarians. Since 1981, RSVP has provided more than $67 million to 110,478 men and women pursuing religious vocations.

We continue our strong support of our Church and our parish priests. We donated nearly $48 million to the Church this past year, of which more than $19 million went to parish facilities, $6.6 million to Catholic schools, nearly $7 million to seminarians and nearly $2 million directly to seminaries.

We also continue our support of quality Catholic journalism. In March, we entered into a partnership with Crux, an important source of news on Catholic issues. Also, we have made a $750,000 donation to help build a new headquarters and studio for Canada’s Salt + Light Television. I would like to thank Salt + Light Television and its founder, Father Thomas Rosica, for their efforts in bringing quality Catholic broadcasting to Canada.

In addition, we continued our strong financial support of EWTN. Earlier this year, we were deeply saddened at the death of EWTN’s founder, Mother Angelica. I was honored to know and assist Mother Angelica during the early days of EWTN. She transformed the world of Catholic broadcasting and brought the light of the Gospel to generations of Catholics around the world. Truly, she was one of the great missionaries of the electronic age.

 


Culture of Life

Members of George Washington University Council 13242 in Washington, D.C., stand in front of the Supreme Court building during the March for Life Jan. 22. Photo by Spirit Juice Studios

The 49th chapter of Isaiah, from which this year’s convention theme is drawn, begins with these words: “Before birth the Lord called me, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.”

These words reveal to us a profound truth: The child in the womb is a real, living person. And this is the truth that our Ultrasound Initiative reveals to thousands of mothers.

The Spanish phrase that means to give birth is dar a luz – the literal translation of those words is “to give light” to the child.

Our Ultrasound Initiative gives an expectant mother a light that enables her to see the reality, and often the personality, of her child in the womb.

I am proud to announce that last month we donated our 700th ultrasound machine.

Jurisdictions leading in our Ultrasound Initiative are Florida, with 54 machines; Texas, with 47; California, with 46; Missouri, with 40; and Michigan, with 37.

Iowa has a statewide initiative involving ultrasound machines and new pregnancy centers, which they hope will reduce abortions in that state by 50 percent by 2020.

In Florida, Knights recently raised $75,000 for five ultrasound machines.

The British Columbia and New Brunswick state councils both raised matching funds for ultrasound machines. British Columbia Knights raised $21,500 for a machine in Abbotsford and New Brunswick Knights raised $20,000 for the women’s care center in Fredericton.

We continue our support and partnership in building a culture of life with the Sisters of Life at our retreat center, Villa Maria Guadalupe. We are especially encouraged by the success of their Visitation Mission in Toronto, and we celebrate with them this year on their 25th anniversary.

Today, an overwhelming majority of Americans support restrictions on abortion. They say abortion is morally wrong and that they are against taxpayer funding of abortion.

About 8 in 10 Americans would significantly limit abortion, according to a survey we commissioned from the Marist Poll last month.7 A majority would restrict it to only the rarest of circumstances. And almost 6 in 10 Canadians want substantial restrictions on abortion.8

By a wide margin, a majority of Americans say that professionals and organizations should not be forced to provide abortions when they have moral objections.

And strong majorities disagree with the reasoning of this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion. Seven out of 10 Americans think these doctors ought to be required to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. And almost 8 out of 10 want these clinics held to the same standards as other outpatient surgery centers.9

We continue to support the cause of life around the world, from Poland to the Philippines.

Knights and their families are among the most visible participants in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.; in marches in San Francisco and Los Angeles; in the March for Life in Ottawa; and in pro-life marches in the Philippines, Mexico and Poland.

Our pro-life witness is demonstrated in many ways.

Council 14721 in Juriquilla, Mexico Central, erected a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe holding a newborn child as a celebration of life. The council also financially supports the local pregnancy resource center there.

Through countless other programs like this one, we are changing hearts and minds.

We are making a difference.

Every time we save a life, we change the course of history.

This is why the Knights of Columbus will always be at the forefront of the pro-life cause – protecting life from its beginning to its natural end.

But sadly, abortion is not the only threat to innocent human life. Increasingly, the end of life is also under assault in Canada and the United States.

Besides being morally wrong, assisted suicide laws have been abused in many countries where they have been enacted. People understand this, and not surprisingly, strong majorities of Americans are deeply concerned about the consequences of laws that legalize assisted suicide.10 And by almost 2 to 1, Canadians think that doctors should not have to violate their conscience when it comes to referring someone for assisted suicide.11

My brother Knights, in 1882 widows and orphans were on the margins of society. Today, it is the unborn and those at the end of life who are at the periphery. That is why now, as throughout our history, the Knights of Columbus embraces those who are being ignored by society.

 


Faithful Citizenship

Becket Fund for Religious Liberty President William Mumma (left), Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and Supreme Advocate John Marrella join Sister Loraine Marie Maguire (center) and other members of the Little Sisters of the Poor following the March 23 oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on the case Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burrell. The Knights of Columbus filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of the religious order. Photo courtesy of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Being a light to the nations begins with being a light to our own nation.

We do this by being faithful Catholic citizens.

Canada has provided many outstanding examples of faithful citizenship. We think of the former prime minister of Canada, Louis St. Laurent; our former deputy supreme knight and Canada’s current ambassador to the Holy See, Dennis Savoie; and former lieutenant governor of New Brunswick and our current supreme director, Graydon Nicholas, who last month was awarded the Order of Canada.

Another excellent example of faithful citizenship is brother Knight Paul Comtois. He was the lieutenant governor of Québec, who passed to his eternal reward 50 years ago.

Comtois was such a devoted Catholic that he had a small chapel in his home and had repeatedly asked his archbishop if the Blessed Sacrament could be reserved there. Finally, the archbishop relented, but only under one condition: Comtois would personally be responsible for its care.

When his house caught fire one evening, Comtois brought his family out safely. He then went back into the burning building, but he did not come out a second time. When they turned over his charred body, the firefighters found, held safe against his chest, the pyx containing our eucharistic Lord.

Paul Comtois had kept his word.

In the United States, we too have powerful examples of faithful citizenship. Often, those examples come from women religious.

Nearly 100 years ago, the Ku Klux Klan succeeded in banning Catholic schools in the state of Oregon. Catholic sisters there exercised their faithful citizenship by appealing that law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Supported financially by the Knights of Columbus, their victory in the case of Pierce v. Society of Sisters ensured the right to Catholic education throughout the United States.

Today, we think of other sisters who have resisted not a state government, but the federal government. They were ordered to sign a form that would have triggered contraception, sterilization and abortifacient coverage in their employees’ health plan.

But the Little Sisters of the Poor stood firm and appealed their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Represented by lawyers from the Becket Fund and supported by the Knights of Columbus, these courageous sisters did not back down. We filed a brief with the Supreme Court on their behalf and helped fund the attorneys who defended them.

Today, the sisters are still helping the poor, the sick and the dying. They are still doing incredible work in their communities, and they are still doing all of this without violating their conscience.

While he was in Washington, Pope Francis visited the Little Sisters in a show of solidarity. Later, he wrote: “Precisely for the sake of this dignity of conscience, the Church strongly rejects the forced State intervention in favor of contraception, sterilization and even abortion.”12

And we could apply here the words of Shakespeare, from the play Henry V: There are other gentlemen who, when the courage of the Little Sisters is remembered, will “hold their manhoods cheap”13 that they refused to stand with them.

My brother Knights, we are so proud of the Little Sisters of the Poor that this evening, at our States Dinner, we will award them the Knights of Columbus’highest recognition: the Gaudium et Spes Award.

Pope Francis has emphasized how important it is for Catholics to be engaged in the political process. His words regarding the importance of Catholics being faithful citizens are especially important for us.

He said, “Politics, according to the social doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity because it serves the common good.” He also stated that we “have to do [our] best by participating in politics according to [our] ability.”14

This does not mean partisanship. Nor does it mean that we should be party men.

It does mean that we should stand for the common good and for those moral and religious values that make possible our free and democratic institutions. And foremost among these is the equal dignity of every human life and the right of every person to freely practice their religion.

I want to thank our supreme chaplain, Archbishop William Lori, who is a courageous champion of religious freedom.

Eight years ago, our Supreme Convention met in the city of Québec.

I feel called as a matter of conscience to repeat today what I said to the delegates at that time. I said this:

Once again we meet during a presidential election campaign in the United States, and once again the question confronts us: How should Catholics exercise their responsibilities as citizens? … Catholics often confront a dilemma in deciding how to vote. Can we support a candidate who may be attractive for many reasons but who supports abortion? Some partisan advocates have sought to excuse support for pro-abortion candidates through a complex balancing act.

They claim other issues are important enough to offset a candidate’s support for abortion. But the “right” to abortion … is not just another political issue; it is in reality a legal regime that has resulted in more than 40 million deaths.

Imagine, for a moment, the largest 25 cities in the United States and Canada –including New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Dallas and Vancouver – suddenly empty of people. This is what the loss of 40 million human beings would look like.

In fact, 40 million is greater than the entire population of Canada.

What political issue could possibly outweigh this human devastation?

The answer, of course, is that there is none.

Abortion is different. Abortion is the killing of the innocent on a massive scale

… We need to end the political manipulation of Catholic voters by abortion advocates. It is time to end the entanglement of Catholic people with abortion killing. It is time to stop creating excuses for voting for pro-abortion politicians.

We will never succeed in building a culture of life if we continue to vote for politicians who support a culture of death.

Catholic voters have the power to transform our politics. Faithful Catholics can build a new politics – politics that is not satisfied with the status quo, but dedicated to building up a new culture of life.

If we truly hope for a culture of life and a civilization of love, then we must first think, and then act, in new ways.

I believe these words are as relevant today as they were eight years ago.

But today, I would add this:

We must also think in new ways if we are to build a civilization of love.

Last year, during our supreme convention in Philadelphia, I spoke about the racial murders that occurred in Charleston, S.C.

At that time, I said, “Our nation owes these courageous Christians a debt of gratitude for showing us a noble path.”

Tragically, since that time, racial violence has continued in the United States. Just weeks ago, the Knights of Columbus urged Catholics and others to join us in nine days of prayer for national healing and reconciliation.

And this is one of the most important demonstrations of our faithful citizenship: that in times of national tragedy, we refuse to let the worst among us define who we are.

Faithful citizenship means that in times of tragedy we raise a standard of charity, of unity and of fraternity that can make possible forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.

Faithful citizenship calls us to follow the better angels of our nature to build a better society.

But to build a better society we must have the freedom to follow those angels.

 


International Religious Freedom

Coptic Orthodox Bishop Anba Angaelos of the United Kingdom and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson display the genocide report at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., March 10.

Pope Francis has warned that the encroachment on religious freedom in the West is a “polite persecution” “disguised as culture … (and) progress.” This, he said, “takes away from men and women their freedom as well as their right to conscientious objection.”15

More recently, Pope Francis called for governments to have “a solid law guaranteeing religious freedom.” He said, “People must be free to profess their faith at the heart of their own culture, not merely at its margins.”16

At the same time, the pope has spoken about violent and deadly persecutions: “Christians around the world are suffering the greatest part of this discrimination. The persecution of Christians today is even greater than in the first centuries of the Church, and there are more Christian martyrs today than in that era.”17

This summer, the Pew Forum reported that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, with persecution occurring in 108 countries.18

Today, this sort of persecution is seen most clearly in the Middle East. Christians there have been tortured, murdered, enslaved and driven into exile.

Many in the West wanted to look away, but we would not let them.

Last year when we met, I pledged that the Knights of Columbus would lead an education effort “to expose the crimes against humanity that are being committed.”

I said, “It is time for a season of truth about what is happening to Christians and other minorities.”

As a result of the determined and courageous work of so many brother Knights and others who have joined us, we have had that season of truth.

And the result? The American government has finally called the martyrdom of these Christians by its proper legal name: genocide.

We were told by many that such a declaration would be impossible.

But we persisted, working with Congress and the State Department and unleashing a powerful public awareness campaign that included a commercial run on major news networks.

Our team did an enormous amount of research, assisted by many members of the region’s hierarchy. We sent one of our staff to Iraq to collect firsthand evidence, and within a month, we had produced a nearly 300-page report that documented conclusively that the genocide perpetrated by ISIS against Christians is a reality.

The Knights of Columbus was credited by the speaker of the House of Representatives and senior officials at the State Department with being a crucial element in achieving this declaration.

On March 14, the House of Representatives moved first, declaring by a vote of 393-0 that Christians and other religious minorities had been targeted for genocide.

Three days later, Secretary of State John Kerry formally declared that what is happening to Christians is genocide.

And on July 7, the Senate passed its own genocide resolution.

My brother Knights, we made history!

However, this is only the beginning.

As I said in congressional testimony and at the United Nations, Christians in the Middle East deserve equal rights, not second-class citizenship. Governments and the United Nations should use all of their leverage to ensure that Christians get those fundamental human rights – rights that include freedom of speech, freedom of religion and equal protection of the law, consistent with the guarantees in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The denial of equal rights to Christians was the breeding ground for genocide, and it must stop.

We will continue to work to ensure that the Christians who still speak the language of Jesus, and whose ancestors baptized St. Paul, survive.

Governments and the United Nations should act to ensure that these fragile indigenous communities survive. Canada has asked the U.N. Security Council to establish an international investigation of ISIS’crimes.

We applaud this effort.

The United States government has spoken with one voice on the matter of the genocide of Christians. So has the European Parliament, and governments and officials around the world.

Of those who take a position on the matter, by more than 2 to 1, a majority of Canadians say what is happening to Christians in the Middle East is genocide.

Now it is time for “the True North strong and free” to add its voice to this consensus!

 


Conclusion

Recently, Pope Francis spoke about the vocation of the laity. After the Second Vatican Council, he recalled, it was said “the hour of the laity has come.” But the pope went on to observe that now “it seems that the clock has stopped.”19

He continued by saying that the laity is called to boldly bring the Good News of the Gospel to all areas of society.

But how are we to do this in the light of the Second Vatican Council?

At the conclusion of the council, Pope Paul VI directly answered that question. He said that the work of the council should be understood as a great confrontation – a confrontation between what he described as “the religion of the God who became man” and “the religion ... of man who makes himself God.”20

He said that in this confrontation the council could have chosen to issue a great condemnation. But it did not. Instead, he said, it did something entirely different.

Pope Paul VI said: “Charity has been the principal religious feature of this council.”21

And he went on to say that the Second Vatican Council offered to the world what he described as the Church of the Good Samaritan.

We are all familiar with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. And our Lord’s question still echoes to us through the ages: “Which of the three was a neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” And so does the reply echo: “The one who showed him mercy.”

My brother Knights, we are coming to the end of the Holy Year of Mercy. But for us, as Knights of Columbus, this year should only be the end of a beginning – the beginning of greater mercy in our families, our councils, our communities and our nations.

Although much has been written this year about mercy, I will tell you this:

There can be no mercy without charity.

There can be no mercy without unity.

There can be no mercy without fraternal brotherhood.

In short, there can be no mercy without love of neighbor and the concrete acts that express that love.

In our day, this is the prophetic flame that the laity is called to hold high as a light to the nations.

And this reality places a special responsibility upon the Knights of Columbus.

In thousands of ways, every day the Church of the Good Samaritan lives and grows through the works of charity that are the hallmark of the Knights of Columbus.

And all of this is the legacy of our founder, the Venerable Father Michael McGivney. His spiritual genius inspired generations of Catholic men to step forward with courage, to confront the challenges of their day by living out the principles of charity, unity and fraternity in a distinctly Catholic way.

The prophetic flame of which Pope Francis speaks22 continues to burn bright in the hearts of our brother Knights around the world. That flame enkindles in them a true sense of Catholic charity – a charity that evangelizes and that brings, in a very concrete way, a light to the nations.

Yes, it is the hour of the laity.

It is the hour of the Knights of Columbus.

Vivat Jesus!

 


Notes

1. Donnelly, S.J., Joseph Peter. Jean de Brébeuf, 1593-1649 (Chicago: Loyola UP, 1975).

2. Douglas Brinkley and J. M. Fenster. Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism (New York: Harper Perennial, 2006).

3. Pope Francis. Address at the Missionaries of Charity Homeless Shelter “Dono di Maria,” Vatican City, May 21, 2013.

4. Pope Francis. Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), Apostolic Exhortation (Washington, D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2016), 42.

5. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). “Church and Economy in Dialogue” symposium, Rome, Nov. 20-24, 1985.

6. Pope Francis. Address to U.S. Congress, Washington, D.C., September 24, 2015.

7. Marist Poll. Americans Support Abortion Restrictions, Survey, Continental United States, July 5-12, 2016. http://kofc.org/polls (accessed July 26, 2016)

8. Leger Poll. Knights of Columbus OMNI Results, Survey, Canada, July 11-14, 2016.

9. Marist Poll. Americans Support Abortion Restrictions, Survey, Continental United States, July 5-12, 2016. http://kofc.org/polls (accessed July 26, 2016)

10. Marist Poll. The End of Life Debate, Survey, Continental United States, Jan. 7-13, 2015, and Feb. 25-March 5, 2015. http://kofc.org/en/news/polls/poll_assisted-suicide-bills-fail-several-states.html (accessed July 26, 2016)

11. Leger Poll. Knights of Columbus OMNI Results, Survey, Canada, July 11-14, 2016.

12. Pope Francis. Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), 32.

13. William Shakespeare. Henry V (“St. Crispin’s Day Speech”), Act 4, Scene 3, line 68.

14. Pope Francis. Mass at chapel of St. Martha’s House, Vatican City, September 16, 2013.

15. Pope Francis. Mass at chapel of St. Martha’s House, Vatican City, April 11, 2016.

16. Pope Francis. “INTERVIEW: Pope Francis,” La Croix, May 17, 2016. http://www.la-croix.com/Religion/Pape/INTERVIEW-Pope-Francis-2016-05-17- 1200760633 (accessed July 22, 2016).

17. Pope Francis. “International Religious Liberty and the Global Clash of Values” conference, Vatican City, June 20, 2014.

18. Travis Mitchell. “Harassment of Specific Religious Groups: Christians and Muslims Were Harassed in the Most Countries in 2014,” Pew Research Center Religion & Public Life Project, June 23, 2016. http://www.pewforum.org/2016/06/23/harassment-of-specific-religious-groupschristians- and-muslims-were-harassed-in-the-most-countries-in-2014/ (accessed July 26, 2016)

19. Pope Francis. Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, March 19, 2016. Cited by Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko at 28th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Vatican City, June 16, 2016.

20. Pope Paul VI. Address of Pope Paul VI during last general meeting of the Second Vatican Council, December 7, 1965.

21. Ibid.

22. Pope Francis. Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, March 19, 2016.