In his message for World Mission Day 2019, which we celebrate October 20, Pope Francis reminds us that the Gospel’s missionary mandate touches each one of us personally.
“I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission,” the pope writes. No one is insignificant in this endeavor, he adds: “Each of us is a mission to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God’s love.”
The Knights of Columbus recognizes it has a mission to the world, a duty to extend God's love and mercy wherever it is needed. The Order has long maintained an outreach overseas and in mission lands, providing support for victims of natural disasters, persecuted peoples and refugees among its many international projects.
But the mission is even larger than that. It begins at home.
St. Teresa of Calcutta, the foundress of the Missionaries of Charity who for decades ministered to the sick and the dying in the streets of Calcutta, India, once gave advice to someone who had expressed a desire to leave her comfortable life and join her work.
“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta,” Mother Teresa wrote. “Find the sick, the suffering, and the lonely, right where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in homes and in your workplaces and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.”
As Knights of Columbus, we take these words to heart, seeking our own “Calcuttas” in our own back yards.
The Knights serve the needy through council participation in a number of nationwide initiatives such as Special Olympics, Coats for Kids, Global Wheelchair Mission, and support of indigenous communities in the United States and Canada.
Yet on top of these broader-based initiatives, councils across the United States and Canada seek additional opportunities to serve the needy in their own neighborhoods. Here are just a few recent examples:
• Knights and family members of All Saints Council 15706 in Knoxville, Tenn., found their own Calcutta among the homeless of the city’s downtown. For the past several years, they have served meals each month to some 200 homeless men, women and children through the Knoxville Bridge Ministry.
• In Hays, Kan., members of St. Nicholas of Myra Council 10044 started Knights of Service, a volunteer handyman group of 13 men that completes home repairs for veterans, the elderly, and those who are disabled or sick. Recently they did some tree-trimming for a man who was not able to maintain his property because he was battling cancer.
• St. Joseph Council 4810 in Greenlawn, N.Y., donated and delivered an electric wheelchair to a local woman who had partial paralysis and was denied one by her insurance.
• When Jennings Council 2012 in Louisiana learned of a parishioner who needed a wheelchair ramp and could not afford one, seven council members answered the call and constructed the ramp at her home.
• And after an accidental shooting took the life of a husband and father in Charlevoix, Michigan, two local councils came together to provide cash support and material gifts to the young widow and her daughter.
As Pope Francis reminds us, each of us is a mission to the world. And as St. Teresa of Calcutta urged, we can find Calcuttas all around us, if only we have the eyes to see. Live out your mission by joining your brother Knights in serving the needy of the Calcutta wherever you are.
About the Author
Gerald Korson, a veteran Catholic journalist, is a member of the Knights of Columbus in Indiana.
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