The year 2000, the Great Jubilee, was a significant turning point in the life of the Catholic Church and of the Knights of Columbus. More than 20 years earlier, St. John Paul II had made preparation for the third millennium of Christianity a central theme and task of his pontificate — a task enthusiastically embraced by the Order, led by then-Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant.
As the long-awaited celebration of the Great Jubilee was drawing to a close in 2000, Carl A. Anderson became the Order’s 13th supreme knight, taking office Oct. 1. Several months later, John Paul II published a visionary apostolic letter titled Novo Millennio Ineunte (At the Beginning of the New Millennium), which the new supreme knight called “a blueprint for the work of the Church in the new millennium.”
On a fundamental level, John Paul II wrote, the task of the Church does not change: “The program already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its center in Christ himself.” But at the same time, he added, this program “must be translated into pastoral initiatives adapted to the circumstances of each community.” Echoing Christ’s words, the Holy Father exhorted the Church to “put out into the deep”: “Let us go forward in hope! A new millennium is opening before the Church like a vast ocean upon which we shall venture, relying on the help of Christ.”
Supreme Knight Anderson focused on these words in his first annual report, delivered at the 119th Supreme Convention in Toronto in 2001: “My brothers, Pope John Paul is speaking to the Knights of Columbus! He is challenging us to new initiatives and new boldness. He is telling us to ‘put out into the deep’ to seek new ways to serve our Order, our Church and our world.” Anderson then urged members to “look to the example of Father McGivney to make us his true spiritual heirs, true Knights of Columbus,” and added, “May he, as ‘Apostle to the Young and Protector of Christian Family Life,’ lead us into the new millennium with confidence and hope!”
Two decades have passed since these words were spoken, and the Knights of Columbus now faces another turning point — marked by the conclusion of Supreme Knight Anderson’s 20-year tenure as well as unprecedented challenges facing the Church and society. Though many of the events of this past year stand in stark contrast to the celebration that surrounded the Great Jubilee, the recent beatification of Blessed Michael McGivney reminds us of our call to be joyful witnesses of the Gospel in our own time. Therefore, as we look back at the past 20 years, we also look to the future, full of confidence and hope in Christ.
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