WASHINGTON, D.C. — Supreme Knight Carl Anderson welcomed Life Is Sacred, a pro-life Native American organization, to Mass at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine after participating in the 47th annual March for Life, Jan. 24.
“Native Americans are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they are so often forgotten by the culture at large,” Supreme Knight Anderson said. “Together we march as people of faith standing up for the rights of every human life.”
The mission statement of Life Is Sacred, posted on its website, notes that Native and indigenous peoples did not have legal recognition as “persons” in the United States until 1924. It also states that “in the past too few stood by to defend the lives of our people, and so today we are here to stand for the lives of all people, born and unborn, in order to build a civilization of life and a culture of love.”
The group was among the thousands of marchers who traveled to Washington to protest the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that mandated legal abortion across the United States.
Patrick Mason, a member of the Osage Nation, serves on the board of directors for both the Knights of Columbus and Life Is Sacred.
“As a native I am taught by my culture to stand for the most vulnerable, and as a Knight of Columbus it is my solemn duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” Mason said.
The Saint John Paul II National Shrine is an initiative of the Knights of Columbus. Supreme Knight Anderson was on hand to welcome members of Life Is Sacred in the shrine’s chapel. There, he discussed St. John Paul II’s emphasis on the importance of every culture in the Church. He also noted that the chapel’s altar contains a relic of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint, and encouraged the members of the group to always feel welcome at the shrine.
On behalf of Life Is Sacred, Mason presented the supreme knight with a 100-year-old Navajo blanket.
The Mass was celebrated by Father Maurice Henry Sands, a full-blooded Native American and longtime member of the Knights of Columbus. He is the executive director of the Black and Indian Mission Office at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Father Sands delivered the keynote address to the College Knights at their annual conference last fall, where he discussed the high levels of poverty, unemployment, substandard housing and education, substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide among Native American peoples.
Last year, Supreme Knight Anderson announced a new Order-wide initiative serving Native American communities in the United States and First Nation communities in Canada.
The Knights of Columbus partnered with the Diocese of Gallup and the Southwest Indian Foundation last summer to break ground on a new national shrine dedicated to St. Kateri in Gallup, N.M.
The Knights’ recent efforts to serve Native American and First Nations communities are the latest in the Order’s longstanding support for Native American communities, which dates to the Order’s early history. The Knights supported Catholic missions for Native Americans in the early 20th century and established the Bureau for Indian Affairs to help protect the rights of Catholic Native Americans. As many as one in four Native Americans is Catholic.
“Today the unborn are not recognized as persons under the United States laws and every day they’re killed by the thousands,” said Daniel Berg, a member of the Navajo nation who took part in the event. “And so in the past we believe that too few stood by to defend the lives of our peoples. And so we stand to defend the lives of all peoples, born and unborn in order to create a culture of love and a civilization of life.”
The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization. In addition to supporting the March for Life, the Order has donated more than 1,000 ultrasound machines to pregnancy care centers around the world.
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