WHEN HURRICANE KATRINA slammed the Gulf Coast Aug. 29, 2005, it soon became one of the most devastating storms in U.S. history. Within several days, Supreme Knight Anderson urged all state deputies to mobilize support, and the board of directors voted to match money raised by councils toward disaster relief. In a message to members, Anderson wrote, “We must be prepared to do everything we can to help those who have lost so much.”
The supreme knight’s words, and the Knights’ actions in the months that followed, seemed to anticipate what Pope Benedict XVI would write in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, which was published on Christmas Day 2005. “The Christian’s program,” the Holy Father wrote, “is ‘a heart which sees.’ This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly.”
Pope John Paul II similarly wrote, just two years earlier, of “serving the Gospel of hope by means of a charity which evangelizes.” These themes would be echoed often by Supreme Knight Anderson and define the Knights’ charitable work in the years to come.
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, for example, the supreme knight declared 2009 the Year of the Volunteer and announced a new initiative called Neighbors Helping Neighbors. This led to two signature programs of the Order — Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids and Food for Families — and it set the stage for the Leave No Neighbor Behind initiative, introduced last year.
Under Anderson’s leadership, the Order has also developed partnerships with numerous organizations and has undertaken unique charitable initiatives to assist people in need throughout North America and around the world.
But perhaps most significantly, in 2018 the supreme knight introduced Faith in Action, the Order’s first new program model in nearly 50 years, which has focused council activities in four fundamental categories: Faith, Family, Community and Life.
“The name encompasses what it means to be a Knight of Columbus and a true Knight of Charity,” he explained in his 2018 annual report. “It’s our way of proclaiming that in today’s world there are men who put their faith into action — men who bring value to our communities and hope to our nations.”
THOUSANDS OF KNIGHTS helped organize soup kitchens and temporary shelters, and donated $10 million in aid, in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. In the years since this historic effort, the Order’s response to natural disasters has been far-reaching, responding not only to hurricanes — including Sandy (2012), Harvey, Irma and Maria (2017) and Michael (2018) — but also to devastating tornadoes, earthquakes and flooding.
Central to the Order’s relief work over the past decade has been the Knights of Columbus Disaster Relief Fund, which Supreme Knight Anderson announced at the 129th Supreme Convention in 2011. With the help of first responders, the supreme knight said, “We will build a local council network that can better help those who need food, clothing and shelter following a disaster.”
Since that time, the Knights of Columbus has also responded with unique initiatives, such as the Livelihood Project to help Filipino fishermen, farmers and craftsmen rebuild their lives after Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in 2013.
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