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Youth and Knights at Vigil Mass Reflect Hope in Culture of Life

1/18/2019

By Joseph Pappalardo

120 College Knights help organize Vigil for Life Mass attended by hundreds of students and other pro-lifers

Justin Smith, Nicholas Procino and Robbie Cruz

CUA students (left to right) Justin Smith, Nicholas Procino and Robbie Cruz.

WASHINGTON — For nearly a decade, College Knights at The Catholic University of America (CUA) have helped organized the Vigil Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This year saw 120 college Knights managing the crowd, serving at the Mass, organizing the massive procession and taking care of all the details to make sure this Mass, which is held the night before the National March for Life in Washington each year, yet again ran smoothly.

Past Grand Knight Joe Basalla, the volunteer coordinator for the event, was rushing all over the basilica. Knights and CUA students wearing neon green or blue shirts were scattered throughout the crowd, directing people to their seats and priests and deacons to the registration in the basilica’s crypt church.

“One of the things that always strikes me is the majority of the people who come to the event are young people,” Basalla said. “This is the generation that's going to ensure the sanctity of life because they're so passionate.”

As Basalla wove through the crowd before the Mass, most of the people he passed were students, including freshman Robbie Cruz. Cruz, a third-generation Knight, was one of the volunteers tasked with packing as many attendees in the pews as possible. Cruz said it was his first March for Life and first year as a Knight, and he had volunteered in response to an email request sent out to students.

“We do so much for the Church,” he said, explaining why he joined. “And that stood out. I love that Knights put others before themselves.”

The Mass was followed by a National Rosary for Life. Afterward, a group of 50 Knights attend an all-night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Each hour from 11 p.m. until the 7:30 a.m. morning Mass, seminaries help bring in various groups to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. But throughout these hours, it is Knights who maintain a constant presence, ensuring that the Blessed Sacrament is never without an adorer.

All of this required the dedication of hundreds of volunteers. Though not at the helm of the massive network of ushers, servers and procession organizers, CUA’s Grand Knight Nathan Ledoux also dedicated much of his time to the event. He emphasized the opportunity Knights have to “witness” their faith and the pillars of the Knights of Columbus by giving up time to help out.

“I’m actually skipping a class right now,” he said.

Students at CUA have professors that understand, the grand knight explained. While Ledoux’s Thursday class was not cancelled, on Friday — the day of the March — classes are cancelled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Because of exemptions like these, students are able to devote more of their time to organizing the Vigil for Life and related events. The Knights are joined by staff from the shrine, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and fellow CUA students.

Cruz noted that while some of the volunteers or student attendees may not be Knights, there are many who are still considering joining. For some, it’s a matter of making time, while others are simply too young. Both Cruz and Ledoux said that time isn’t a problem when committing to the Knights.

“It’s not always about going to every single meeting, every single event,” Cruz said.

For college Knights, especially at CUA, events like the Vigil for Life may be the council’s biggest event, but men considering joining shouldn’t be intimidated by the time commitment. Cruz said that while a member of many other groups, including the radio program, college newspaper, and environmental club, he always made time for the Knights of Columbus. He suggests college men start by making a point of attending at least one Knight’s event a month.

Once you get involved in college, it’s an ongoing commitment. Ledoux noted that many outgoing members from their council continued to be active Knights after graduation.

“It doesn’t stop at college,” Ledoux said. “The Knights of Columbus gives you what you put into it.”

The Knights of Columbus have been at the forefront of March for Life events since 1974. Knights put their pro-life beliefs into action with countless other pro-life programs, including the Ultrasound Initiative, Pregnancy Center Support, Special Olympics, Masses for People with Special Needs and so much more. Each shows the world that every person deserves the chance to be loved, to be welcomed and to live to his or her full potential.

Want to be part of our global pro-life efforts? Join us by visiting kofc.org/joinus

For questions, or to tell your Knights of Columbus pro-life story, reach out to  Joseph.Pappalardo@kofc.org.