English | | | KofC 125th Home | Contact Us

At Work Everywhere

by Cardinal Donald Wuerl

 Cardinal Donald Wuerl
of Washington, D.C.

When we look at today’s religious, cultural, educational and social landscape, we see the great change that has taken place in the lives of Catholics. The Knights of Columbus has played a significant leadership role in that transformation. As we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Knights of Columbus, I would like to highlight, from the perspective of the Archdiocese of Washington where it is my privilege to serve as chief shepherd of this faith-filled and vibrant flock, just a few examples that speak to the prominent place our Order has in enhancing Catholic life here and, by extension, to the wider world.

Marian Devotion

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception stands in northeast Washington as a monument to the faith of American Catholics. It reflects visibly, pastorally and spiritually the presence of the Knights of Columbus. The great bell tower, the 329-foot Knights’ Tower,was completed in 1959. This gift from the Knights of Columbus proclaims the Order’s undying devotion to the Mother of God and our Mother while, at the same time, making a quiet statement about the Order’s presence in the U.S. capitol.

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Within the basilica, the Order is equally visible. The Knights usher at the basilica, particularly in the Great Upper Church during Sunday and special liturgies. Thanks to the generosity of the Order, the Eternal Word Television Network is able to share liturgies at the shrine with U.S. viewers and beyond. Just this past August, scaffolding was put in place in the nave of the basilica to begin work on the dome that will depict in mosaic the events of the Incarnation. This dome, reflecting the generosity of the Order, will be called the Knights of Columbus Incarnation Dome.

Alongside the shrine is The Catholic University of America (CUA). This also is a national Catholic entity — the bishops’ university. Founded in 1887, it addresses now, as it has since its founding, the desire of the Church to provide academically excellent educational opportunities within the context of our great Catholic faith tradition. The Knights of Columbus is found here as well in the Columbus School of Law, which traces its origins to a nighttime vocational training program the Knights offered to veterans after World War I.

The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family is an initiative of the Order to highlight, articulate and transmit the Catholic understanding of God’s creative plan for human life. The North American branch of this worldwide graduate school will soon be moving onto the CUA campus into a building being renovated and renamed after the founder of the Knights of Columbus, Father Michael J. McGivney. This action speaks to the Order’s commitment to bringing the wisdom and values of our faith to the great debates in our land, particularly as they touch on Christian anthropology or the identity of the new person in grace, marriage and the family.

Promoters of Pope John Paul II's Culture of Life

Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson and Pope John Paul II.

Up the road from the National Shrine and the CUA campus is the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. Here, too, the Knights’ generosity is visible. The purpose of this center is to form at its core a “think tank” to engage modern culture in dialogue with the wisdom of our Catholic tradition, particularly as it was so extraordinarily articulated for a quarter of a century by the late Pope John Paul II. The Order continues to support this intellectual and scholarly outreach.

Another equally prestigious institution with which the Knights has been intimately connected for more than 25 years is the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) in Philadelphia. The center’s primary concern is understanding controversial life-science issues in light of the Church’s teaching office. The Order’s support of the NCBC places the Knights alongside the bishops as we face such important challenges as cloning, stem cell research, end-of-life issues and more. The center has become a leading voice in the ongoing application of the Gospel of Life to a society too often overwhelmed by the voices of a culture of death. Since 1980, working with the NCBC, the Knights of Columbus has sponsored a workshop on bioethics and related matters for bishops from Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico and, of course, the United States.

A Rightful Place on the World Stage

Pope John Paul II greets Knights of Columbus and dignitaries.

It would be tempting to name other events and initiatives that show how in 125 years the Knights of Columbus and the Church in the United States have come of age. Other examples demonstrate how greatly engaged the Church and the Knights are in efforts to shape the soul of the United States by touching the human mind, heart and soul.

On Jan. 17, 2004, a concert celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s papacy was performed before a standing-room-only audience at the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI auditorium. The papal concert of reconciliation, called “A Celebration of Faith,” was made possible through the generosity of the Knights of Columbus, and it spoke to me of an extraordinary evolution in the 125 years of the Knights of Columbus.

What began as the dream of Father Michael J. McGivney to support Catholic working men and their families in his parish, has grown and flourished into a worldwide fraternity. It has rightfully earned a place on the national and world stage by addressing the great and defining issues of our day while staying true to its founder’s vision and faithful to the Holy Father, and the bishops and priests in union with him.

While each of us as a Knight identifies with our local council and assembly, as I do with Duquesne Council 264 and Fort Pitt Assembly, we should also realize how much the Knights means and accomplishes at the service of the Church throughout the United States and every country where we are active. Truly this is reason to celebrate, and to thank God for so many blessings received and for the great promise of blessings for the future that is our Order — the Knights of Columbus.

Historical Highlights
125 Years in Review
The McGivney Legacy
Supreme Knights Gallery
St. Mary’s Church
Papal Moments
At Work Everywhere
His Timeless Message
Faith in Action
Knights of Columbus Photo Album