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    The Knights of Columbus provides assistance to the Little Sisters of the Poor when it’s needed most

    by Matt Hadro 7/1/2020
    Sisters and several priest residents at the St. Joseph’s Home in Palatine, Ill., express their thanks to the Knights of Holy Ghost Council 4977.

    This past spring, the Little Sisters of the Poor saw their latest legal battle for religious liberty again reach the U.S. Supreme Court. But even as historic telephonic oral arguments were being heard in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania (see sidebar), the sisters were fighting another battle — against the coronavirus.

    When the Little Sisters quarantined in March to protect the elderly residents they serve, they had trouble obtaining everyday supplies, let alone scarcities like hand sanitizer and masks. Mother Provincial Loraine Marie Maguire, one of three regional superiors of the Little Sisters in the United States, made a call to a longtime ally, the Knights of Columbus.

    The Office of the Supreme Knight promptly reached out to the sisters’ residences throughout the country, and state councils in 20 jurisdictions rallied their communities to fulfill requests for things such as water, food, cleaning supplies and paper products. The Supreme Council helped procure harderto- find respiratory masks, gowns and other medical supplies.

    “The Knights of Columbus with their gestures of charity have become guardian angels for the Little Sisters,” Mother Loraine said of the outpouring of support. “It’s gestures like this that really lighten the load and show you the goodness of people.”

    Since they were founded in France by St. Jeanne Jugan in 1839, the Little Sisters of the Poor have expanded to more than 30 countries. They live with and care for the elderly poor of every race and religion, and traditionally have sustained their homes by begging in the community. Over the years, the Knights have supported the Little Sisters in many ways, from local council donations to the Order’s highest honor, the Gaudium et Spes Award. The 2016 award was presented to the sisters in recognition of their work, as well as their stand for religious conscience rights.

    When supplies began to run short in the sisters’ homes in March, the Maryland State Council was one of the first to step up. When Maryland State Deputy Dale Trott heard that the Little Sisters’ St. Martin’s Home outside of Baltimore was in dire need of certain supplies, he and his wife bought whatever they could from the sisters’ wish list. With Maryland Knights, they made the first of several deliveries in early April.

    “The sisters have been a godsend to this community for 150 years,” Trott said. “We truly appreciate all that they do, and we must make sure that they can take care of the residents here and themselves.”

    The Knights in Maryland have since expanded their work beyond St. Martin’s Home, organizing an ongoing statewide collection program to supply Little Sister residences in Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.

    Around the country, state and local councils have arranged similar collections. Deliveries have included medical supplies, meat and eggs to the Holy Family Residence in St. Paul, Minn.; gloves, masks and hand sanitizer to the Jeanne Jugan Residence in Somerville, Mass.; and toilet paper, bleach and tissues to the Queen of Peace Residence in Queens Village, N.Y.

    In Louisville, Ky., District Deputy Joe Carter put out a request to local councils, and the donations quickly started piling up in his garage. He and others brought several truckloads of paper products and masks, as well as 20 gallons of sanitizer, to nearby St. Joseph’s Home.

    The project was a great opportunity to build unity among councils, Carter observed. “We all came together in brotherhood in order to get the supplies,” he said.

    Another notable example of support took place in early May, when the Little Sisters in Palatine, Ill., were thrown a curveball by new state health guidelines for nursing homes. The guidelines discouraged serving water from pitchers, which meant that the sisters needed bottled water for the 90 residents of their St. Joseph’s Home — and they needed it fast.

    Bob Novak, grand knight of Holy Ghost Council 4977 in Palatine received a phone call from Mother Margaret Charles Hogarty.

    Maryland State Deputy Dale Trott helps unload a delivery of supplies at St. Martin’s Home in Catonsville, Md.

    “That’s when it all clicked,” recalled Novak, noting that his council had been looking for ways to answer the call of the Order’s new initiative, Leave No Neighbor Behind.

    By the end of that day, he and fellow members of Council 4977 delivered numerous cases of bottled water to St. Joseph’s and had organized the shipment of three more pallets — almost 6,000 bottles total.

    They weren’t finished. A few days later, the Knights ran water bottle drives at nearby St. Theresa and St. Thomas of Villanova parishes, and raised money to purchase more water for the home. The community response surpassed expectations, and the council collected more than $13,500 in donations.

    “At a time like this, it means more than ever,” said Mother Margaret Charles, administrator of the residence and superior of the Palatine community. “We are always so grateful to have the Knights in our life.”

    Novak was equally thankful to the sisters for the chance to help. “We were so happy to hear from them,” he said. “We feel like we’re big brothers of the Little Sisters, and we were so happy to hear from them. My faith has really been magnified by what’s been happening here.”

    The Supreme Council, meanwhile, has contributed $90,000 of personal protective equipment, thermometers and hand sanitizer to Little Sister residences nationwide to help them safely care for sick residents.

    “The Knights have been good Samaritans because they have seen neighbors in need,” said Mother Provincial Maria Christine Lynch, who oversees the sisters’ Chicago province. “Leave No Neighbor Behind is a manifestation of their generosity, and we are truly grateful.”

    MATT HADRO is the senior Washington, D.C., correspondent for Catholic News Agency. He is a member of George Brent Council 5332 in Manassas, Va.



    Order sides with Little Sisters and conscience protections in U.S. Supreme Court cases

    Little Sisters of the Poor rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building March 23, 2016, as the court hears arguments in Little Sisters v. Burwell, a religious liberty case they won but which continues to be challenged today.

    Order sides with Little Sisters and conscience protections in U.S. Supreme Court cases

    The Knights of Columbus’ emergency assistance during the coronavirus pandemic is a continuation, not the beginning, of its support for the Little Sisters.

    With the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the religious order’s communities in the United States were suddenly placed in an untenable situation. They faced heavy fines if they did not cover contraceptives, sterilizations and abortifacients in their employee health plans, per rules of the Department of Health and Human Services.

    The sisters have been fighting the mandate in court since 2013. The Knights of Columbus has stood with them throughout their legal battle, providing financial support to Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, their legal defense, and filing amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs on their behalf.

    The sisters opposed the mandate “not out of duty to rules, but out of love for God,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a keynote address to women religious in September 2018. Quoting Mother Loraine Maguire, he noted, “The Little Sisters wanted the mandate rolled back ‘so that we can continue caring for the elderly poor and dying as if they were Christ himself without the fear of government punishment.’”

    Montse Alvarado, vice president and executive director of the Becket Fund, said that the Knights’ support has been invaluable.

    “The Knights have been right alongside the sisters, supporting their ministry … and standing with them to defend religious freedom for all,” she said.

    In May 2016, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the government could not fine the Little Sisters, arguing that a solution should be found to appease both sides. The following year, HHS issued a new rule allowing exemptions from the mandate for religious nonprofits like the Little Sisters. Pennsylvania, California and several other states challenged that rule in the case now before the court.

    Supreme Court justices heard arguments in the case via telephone in early May, with a decision expected in late June. — reported by Matt Hadro



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