A new initiative to help the children of Haiti was a highlight of the annual report that Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson delivered to the 128th Supreme Convention on Tuesday.
Anderson outlined details of a record year for the Knights of Columbus in terms of charitable giving and volunteer hours.
In 2009, the Catholic fraternal organization donated more than $151 million to charity, and members provided 69.2 million service hours to worthy causes, the Supreme Knight said in his address to convention delegates gathered in Washington, D.C.
Membership in the Order stood at 1,808,671 as of June 30, with a net gain of 23,278 members over the past fraternal year. It was the 39th consecutive year of membership growth within the Knights of Columbus, he reported.
Knights and their families from all 50 U.S. states, the ten provinces in Canada, and from Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, Guam, Puerto Rico, Cuba and other Caribbean countries gathered for the convention.
Help for Every Child
In the “Healing for Haiti’s Children” initiative, the Knights of Columbus has committed to providing every child in that country who lost a limb in the recent earthquake with appropriate treatment, including physical therapy and prosthetic devices. The Order will provide more than $1 million for the program and the University of Miami/Medishare Hospital will conduct the rehabilitation and fittings of the prosthetic limbs.
Recounting his trip to Haiti in April, when the Order delivered 1,000 wheelchairs for those injured in the disaster, the supreme knight stated:
“Today, I am proud to report to you that the Order’s Board of Directors has voted to provide every child in Haiti who has lost an arm or a leg the prosthetic device they need. Each and every one of these children will receive a new start in life thanks to the Knights of Columbus.”
After delivering his 90-minute annual report, Anderson received a surprise gift from the Board of Directors to mark his 10th anniversary as supreme knight. The gift was a triptych of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with a carved replica of the image of the Virgin on the center panel, and six scenes from the apparition appearing on the two side panels.
Deputy Supreme Knight Dennis Savoie served as master of ceremony for the presentation, calling Anderson a model Catholic and a model Knight of Columbus who has led the Order to greater achievements during his decade of service.
In his report, the supreme knight identified a portion of Lumen Gentium, a document of the Second Vatican Council, as a “mission statement” of the Knights of Columbus. The document says that the lay vocation is to “seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God,” and to “make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.”
The many works of charity and the religious focus of the Order help Knights to live out their vocation, he said, highlighting two recent programs that have become popular with local councils during the economic turndown: Food for Families, which provides funds and canned goods to local food banks and soup kitchens; and Coats for Kids, which offers new coats to children of impoverished families during the winter months.
While stressing that partisan politics is forbidden within the Order, the supreme knight also said that Knights are called to take public stands on certain vital issues that transcend politics, such as abortion, defense of marriage and protection of religious liberty.
Rejecting the notion that Roe v. Wade cannot be challenged because it is “settled law,” Anderson said, “Abraham Lincoln could not accept that the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dred Scott case had settled the issue of slavery. And we cannot accept that Roe v. Wade has settled the issue of abortion.”
He stressed that the Order would pursue its fight against abortion in a fully Christian and charitable way.
One method, he added, is the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Initiative, by which local councils partner with the Supreme Council to purchase ultrasound machines for pro-life pregnancy centers across the United States. Thus far, the Order has placed 53 ultrasounds in 25 states at the cost of $1.6 million.
Noting that when a pregnant woman who is considering abortion almost always decides to keep her baby after viewing an ultrasound, he stated, “We will help save thousands of lives this year by ensuring that women make an informed decision.”
Outlining the business aspect of the Order, the supreme knight said that the fraternal insurance program is more solid than ever, despite the poor economy. The reason for the success is an unwavering commitment to ethical standards and a system of insurance provided by brother Knights for brother Knights and their families. Devotion to the mission and vision of Father Michael McGivney was another key to the Order’s service to members, he added.
“We don’t need a special set of ‘business ethics.’ We adhere to a single set of moral standards that govern everything we do,” Anderson said.
“In times like these,” he concluded, “Knights of Columbus insurance is a shield that your family, like mine, can rely upon.”