DELIVERED BY CARL A. ANDERSON
SUPREME KNIGHT, KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS
November 6, 2020
St. Mary’s Church
New Haven, Connecticut
It is fitting that we gather here, at St. Mary’s, to mark the passing of Andrew Walther. It was here, in 1882, that Blessed Michael McGivney established the Knights of Columbus, the fraternal organization to which Andrew devoted so much of his life. From the start, the Knights were known for the “young go-ahead men” of their day who filled the ranks of the new fraternal society. “Go-ahead” men because of their faithfulness, their vision, their innovation and their determination. By that definition Andrew was a sterling exemplar of that tradition.
He faithfully served the Church, his family, and our country, embodying the principles of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism. Andrew will be greatly missed. But through his life’s work, his legacy will endure. He will be present not only through the work of the Knights of Columbus but in so many other places in the world, for example, when Christians gather on the Nineveh Plain his legacy will endure.
I first met Andrew in 2003. He was the driving force behind the Tilma of Tepeyac Tour – the pilgrimage of a piece of St. Juan Diego’s tilma to more than 20 U.S. cities. Two years earlier, I had dedicated the Knights of Columbus to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and so it was only natural that the Knights would partner with him in that unique opportunity for evangelization. It was my first encounter with Andrew’s vision and determination. Thankfully, it was not the last.
Two years later, Andrew joined the Supreme Council staff, and over the following 15 years, Andrew went from strength to strength in communications, strategy, and many other fields. Andrew never saw his work with the Knights as a job. For him, it was a vocation, an avenue to serve and advance the Catholic Church which he loved so faithfully.
Andrew was one of my closest collaborators, and I came to highly value his counsel. He had a unique ability to think and act strategically. And because of this, he was a major contributor to so many of our initiatives.
He promoted devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe through academic conferences, a book, a documentary film, and events which gathered many tens of thousands in Phoenix and Los Angeles. He led our catechetical site at World Youth Day in Madrid. With his wife, Maureen, he wrote a new history of the Knights of Columbus, published earlier this year. He supervised groundbreaking polling that shows a growing consensus in America against abortion and for the right to life. And these projects are just the tip of the iceberg.
Andrew deserves singular credit for another initiative, a years-long effort to which he was totally dedicated: the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. When the world witnessed the brutality against Christians perpetrated by ISIS, many were concerned and moved to prayer. So was Andrew. But equally, Andrew was moved to action.
He spearheaded our efforts to bring relief to suffering Christians in the Middle East. To date, those efforts have resulted in more than $25 million of relief in Iraq and Syria. He helped shape U.S. foreign policy during the Obama and Trump administrations alike, leading to numerous policy victories on behalf of the persecuted. In Andrew, the ancient Christians of the Middle East saw not only a friend, but a friend who stood with them when it mattered most and made a profound difference. And for countless Christian families that made all the difference.
And although travel was difficult for him personally and for his family, Andrew was untiring in his efforts to advance the Faith, the growth of the Knights of Columbus and international religious liberty as we traveled together in Mexico, England, France, Spain, Hungary, Italy and Iraq.
Andrew’s final weeks at the Knights of Columbus were joyful days, and his skill and devotion were on full display. We were preparing for the announcement that Pope Francis had confirmed as a miracle the healing of an unborn child through Father McGivney’s intercession. Andrew contributed much to our understanding of Father McGivney’s life, ministry and especially his death. It was Andrew who placed our founder’s passing in historical context, coming as it did during what we know now was a pandemic caused by a coronavirus.
I do not know why God, in his infinite wisdom, chose this time to take Andrew from us. I do not know why this young go-ahead man has been called home. But I do know that Andrew is a leader whose legacy will be enduring and who we will always remember.
A year after the failed assassination attempt against his life, Pope John Paul II remarked: “In the designs of Providence, there are no coincidences.” And so, we may ask, “Is it a mere coincidence that Andrew passed away only after Father McGivney was proclaimed blessed?”
Was it a coincidence that he died minutes after a relic of Blessed Michael McGivney arrived at his bedside, and a litany was prayed, invoking our founder as “Blessed Michael, strong in suffering” “Blessed Michael, peaceful in dying”?
I do not think so. There are no coincidences. Today we pray that Andrew Walther is on his way to join Blessed Michael McGivney. We ask Blessed Michael McGivney, pray for Andrew and his family!
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