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Knights Celebrate National Shrine’s 50th anniversary

11/12/2009

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The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., observes the 50th anniversary of its dedication (November 20, 1959) this week. Named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, the National Shrine [link to nationalshrine.com] is the patronal church of U.S Catholics and the country’s preeminent Marian pilgrimage site.

At more than 77,000 square feet, the Shrine is the largest Catholic Church in the United States, and ranks among the largest in the world. It founder, Bishop Thomas Shahan, was a contemporary of Knights of Columbus founder, Father Michael McGivney -- and both were priests of the (then) Diocese of Hartford. Knights have been actively involved and supportive of the Shrine’s ministry since its beginnings. In 1959, the K of C provided $1 million for the erection of the campanile, known as the “Knights Tower.” Five years later, the Order donated a carillon of 56 bells. The Knights also established a $1 million endowment in honor of Past Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart to promote Marian devotion at the National Shrine and to preserve and maintain the Shrine. For 27 years the Knights of Columbus has funded, coordinated and staffed an usher ministry at the National Shrine. Since 1989, the K of C has periodically funded internationally televised liturgies and other spiritual broadcasts from the National Shrine. In 2007 the Knights provided $1 million to the National Shrine for the installation of a mosaic depicting the Incarnation of Christ. The Order has conducted several events at the National Shrine, and will return there in 2010 during its Supreme Convention in Washington, DC.

Blessed (mother) Teresa of Calcutta visited the Shrine on multiple occasions. Pope John Paul II visited it in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI addressed U.S. bishops there in 2008.