When the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic in early March, the Knights of Columbus took decisive action — responding to immediate organizational, spiritual and material needs.
Knights of Columbus insurance and fraternal operations quickly adapted to protect employees, members and their families. Following public health recommendations, the Supreme Council headquarters building in New Haven, Conn., closed March 13, and employees and field agents shifted business operations to their homes.
“We remain positioned and ready to serve our brother Knights,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson in a message to members March 16, noting that the Order’s sustainable investment strategy has limited its exposure to stock market volatility.
The supreme knight also urged members and their families to pray the Order’s Novena for Protection in Time of Pandemic, based on a prayer of Pope Francis, and he noted various ways in which councils can assist families, parishes and communities in need. In the days that followed, an Orderwide charitable initiative — “Leave No Neighbor Behind” — was further developed in consultation with state and local leaders.
“It is no exaggeration to say that we are facing the greatest threat to our nations and to the Order of the Knights of Columbus during our lifetime,” Supreme Knight Anderson told state deputies in a conference call April 3. “I am determined that working together, we and our Order will get through this stronger than ever before. … With Father McGivney’s prayers, we will accomplish our mission.”
PRIORITY OF PRAYER
Praying the Novena for Protection in Time of Pandemic, Knights and their families entrusted themselves to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, under her title “Health of the Sick.” The Supreme Council likewise urged all Knights and their families to pray the Divine Mercy Novena, beginning Good Friday.
“Our faith makes clear that God is our all-powerful creator and he is more powerful than any natural force, illness or economic setback,” said Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, when introducing the first of the two novenas. “Prayer has always been for Christ and his Church the most important response in times of adversity.”
The Order also provided financial support for the worldwide broadcast of Pope Francis’ extraordinary Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) blessing, broadcast from the Vatican March 27, and later for Vatican broadcasts on Good Friday and Easter Sunday (see page 7). Many local Knights of Columbus leaders, meanwhile, found creative ways to connect members spiritually by helping to livestream Masses and eucharistic holy hours, or by organizing rosaries, prayer groups and Silver Rose ceremonies online.
With public Masses cancelled in most dioceses, Supreme Knight Anderson also underscored the importance of fathers as spiritual leaders.
“The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis,” the supreme knight said, “but it is also an opportunity for Knights of Columbus to become the spiritual leaders that our families need in this hour, when the only church we can enter is our own domestic church.”
In particular, fathers were encouraged to lead their families in praying the Way of the Cross on Good Friday, using resources specially created by the Supreme Council.
ADAPT AND SERVE
While Knights of Columbus staff has continued business operations remotely and field agents are conducting meetings with clients online, the Order’s Fraternal Mission department has hosted a series of webinars to assist K of C leaders. The Supreme Council has also published twice-weekly special issues of Knightline to encourage and mobilize Knights during this time.
Central to the Order’s response has been the “Leave No Neighbor Behind” initiative, which has focused Knights’ charitable efforts on five pillars in the face of the pandemic.
Addressing one of the five pillars — feeding the hungry — the Supreme Council helped kick things off on April 7 by announcing an initial donation of more than $1 million to food banks in more than 20 major cities throughout the United States and Canada.
“In addition to confronting the threat of the COVID illness itself, we are facing a pandemic situation in which hunger is a growing concern for an increasing number of unemployed individuals and their families,” explained Supreme Knight Anderson.
The Order is also helping U.S. dioceses weather the financial impact of the pandemic. The Knights established a $100 million fund in late March, offering up to a $1 million secured line of credit per diocese.
Globally, the Order has committed support to hospitals and clinics in Iraq and Lebanon and is collaborating with USAID in food and medical aid programs in the Philippines. In addition, the Supreme Council donated $100,000 to the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital for a high-intensity treatment room for infants and newborns with COVID-19 infections. The unit will be named for the Knights’ founder, Blessed Michael McGivney.
Finally, in addition to practicing charity and unity, Knights have worked to build and strengthen fraternity, even while in-person meetings have been suspended. State leadership has collaborated with K of C staff to organize “virtual” state conventions, beginning in late April. The Supreme Council also conducted its first online exemplification April 16, drawing more than 13,000 participants.
For more information, visit kofc.org/coronavirus.
Follow these 5 pillars to ‘Leave No Neighbor Behind’
SEPARATION, even isolation, is a hallmark of the COVID- 19 crisis. While adhering to safety guidelines, Knights are encouraged to participate in the Order’s “Leave No Neighbor Behind” action plan according to their ability, so to make sure no one in the community is forgotten.
“Christ’s words ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ are particularly important right now, and he made clear that our neighbor was anyone in need,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “We have provided vital support at key moments — including during the 1918 flu pandemic, during two world wars, and after natural disasters. Our ‘Leave No Neighbor Behind’ initiative continues that tradition.”
The initiative consists of the following five “pillars” of charity:
1 Support for brother Knights. No council should leave a brother Knight behind. Through tools including phone trees and daily check-ins, councils can make sure that all members, especially the elderly and those living alone, are well and have the essentials they need.
2 Support for the parish. Pastors have lost the traditional methods of charitable and evangelical outreach and need help to fulfill the Church’s mission. Councils must show that Knights stand ready to support their pastor and the parish community, ensuring that no member of the parish is forgotten or goes hungry.
3 Support for the community. As a result of quarantine measures, many find themselves cut off and isolated — especially those without family and community support systems. Some needs may be physical, while others are social, emotional or spiritual. Whatever the need, councils are encouraged to assess and creatively support their broader community.
4 Feed the hungry. Now, more than ever, many are unable to provide adequate food for their families. Knights are especially encouraged to donate to food pantries and soup kitchens directly or through the Supreme Council fund — and coordinate donations from their parish and others in the community.
5 Donate blood. Many communities are facing blood shortages, and Knights who are in good health, under 60 years of age and do not have any underlying health conditions are encouraged to donate. In addition, councils in many jurisdictions are sponsoring drives, continuing a work of the Knights of Columbus that dates to the 1930s.
A guidebook for the “Leave No Neighbor Behind” initiative, with detailed action steps and resources, can be downloaded at kofc.org/neighbor.
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