Supreme Knight Receives Notre Dame Award
At a ceremony held at the University of Notre Dame, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson and the Knights of Columbus were honored with the annual Evangelium Vitae Medal, one of the nation’s most prestigious pro-life awards.
The supreme knight accepted the medal on behalf of the more than 1.8 million Knights worldwide at the April 26 banquet. He was joined at the event by the members of Notre Dame Council 1477, the Order’s first and oldest college council.
Conferred by the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, the citation for the Evangelium Vitae Medal lauded Anderson and the Knights for their long-time charitable outreach to “the most vulnerable members of society: the widowed, the orphaned, the disabled, the elderly and the unborn.”
Last year, the Knights of Columbus raised $170 million and donated 70 million hours for charitable causes.
Named for a 1995 encyclical of St. John Paul II, the medal honors individuals “whose outstanding work proclaims the Gospel of Life by steadfastly affirming and defending the sanctity of human life from its earliest stages.” Past recipients include Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, superior general of the Sisters of Life; Helen Alvaré, professor of law at George Mason University Law School; and Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope St. John Paul II articulated his vision of “a Culture of Life” that would demonstrate “unconditional respect for the right to life of every innocent person” (EV 101). Inspired by that vision, the University of Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal honors those individuals whose outstanding work proclaims the Gospel of Life by steadfastly affirming and defending the sanctity of human life from its earliest stages.
This year, Notre Dame is pleased to honor Carl Anderson and the Knights of Columbus for their heroic and tireless efforts “to ensure that justice and solidarity will increase and that a new culture of human life will be affirmed” (EV 6).
From its founding more than 130 years ago, the mission of the Knights of Columbus has been the protection of the most vulnerable members of society: the widowed, the orphaned, the disabled, the elderly and the unborn. Founder Rev. Michael J. McGivney envisioned a fraternal organization dedicated to the help and support of families in need, where “each member is accepted, respected, and honored precisely because he or she is a person” (EV 92), precious in the eyes of God.
That support has taken many forms in the history of the Knights. In the last year alone, the Knights raised $170 million for charity and gave more than 70 million hours of volunteer service. Through their Ultrasound Initiative, launched in 2009, the Knights have donated over 540 ultrasound machines for pregnancy care centers across the country, at a cost of more than $16.1 million, giving expectant mothers a vision of “the miracle of new life within [them],” in the words of Supreme Knight Anderson.
The Knights’ Culture of Life Fund has also raised millions of dollars for other pro-life initiatives, including the Sisters of Life, Birthright International, the National Life Center, the National Catholic Bioethics Center and the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In the spirit of “solidarity [with] society’s weakest members” (EV 8), the Knights’ commitment to the dignity and intrinsic worth of every human person extends to the elderly, the abandoned and the disabled — through their fundraising efforts on behalf of shelters for women and children, advocacy against euthanasia and assisted suicide, and volunteer work with the Special Olympics and other organizations that care for those with physical and intellectual disabilities. Taken together, their work constitutes “a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life” (EV 95).
In his role as supreme knight since 2000, Carl Anderson has embodied the Knights’ commitment to advancing a Culture of Life. As a professor of family law at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, and later as the founding vice president and first dean of the Institute’s United States session, he played a vital role in advancing a comprehensive understanding of the family as “a community of life and love, founded upon marriage,” that “is summoned to proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life” (EV 92).
Supreme Knight Anderson was appointed by John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy for Life in 1998, and by Pope Benedict XVI to the Pontifical Council for the Family in 2008. In addition, he has served as a consultant to the Pro-Life Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops since 2002.
Under his leadership, the Knights of Columbus has reached unprecedented levels of charitable giving, and its 1.8 million members have tirelessly volunteered, educated, advocated, donated and prayed on behalf of every human life, from conception to natural death. They are an inspiration as they carry out the task that God has entrusted to each of us: “To defend and promote life, to show reverence and love for it” (EV 42).
So it is fitting that, at this university dedicated to Our Lady, “who is the mother of Life” (EV 105), we celebrate their remarkable contributions “to build ... the civilization of truth and love” and so bestow on Carl Anderson and the Knights of Columbus the University of Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal.