IN HIS 1999 apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America, St. John Paul II urged the Church to build a new “solidarity and communion” across the continent’s different cultures. He observed, “America, which historically has been, and still is, a melting-pot of peoples, has recognized in the mestiza face of … Blessed Mary of Guadalupe an impressive example of a perfectly inculturated evangelization” (11).
Supreme Knight Anderson dedicated the Order to Our Lady of Guadalupe during his installation the following year, and later called Ecclesia in America “the document that most comprehensively affects the mission of the Knights of Columbus.” He noted that “the ability of our Order to overcome divisions of language, heritage, ethnicity and geography already suggests the potential for ‘solidarity and communion’ within our hemisphere.”
In 2002, Pope John Paul II canonized St. Juan Diego, the native layman to whom she appeared in 1531. To help spread devotion and Our Lady’s message, the Knights of Columbus has since sponsored a series of events, beginning with a 2003 U.S. tour of a relic of St. Juan Diego’s tilma — the cloak on which the image of Our Lady was miraculously imprinted. In 2007, the Order organized a speaking tour with Msgr. Eduardo Chávez, the postulator for St. Juan Diego’s cause of canonization and later co-author with Supreme Knight Anderson of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love.
Other major K of C-sponsored events have included an international Marian Congress and Guadalupe Festival in Phoenix in 2009 and the Guadalupe Celebration in Los Angeles in 2012, drawing tens of thousands of people. The Knights also organized international gatherings, including a Vatican conference on Ecclesia in America in collaboration with the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
Meanwhile, the Knights of Columbus has promoted solidarity and communion among the continent’s Catholics by preserving and celebrating their history — supporting existing shrines and building new ones. In honor of the canonization of St. Junípero Serra, the Apostle of California, and Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope, the Order donated $600,000 to the historic Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in New York in 2015. Construction is currently underway in New Mexico on a new Shrine of St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
THREE MONTHS AFTER the beatification of Pope John Paul II in 2011, Supreme Knight Anderson announced a historic initiative: The Order would purchase the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., and transform it into a multi-faceted pilgrimage site.
“It will be a place where English, Spanish and French-speaking pilgrims from throughout North America will encounter the mission and legacy of one of history’s greatest popes,” the supreme knight explained. “It will also be a place where our children and grandchildren will learn about their great heritage as Catholics.”
In anticipation of John Paul II’s canonization in 2014, the U.S. bishops designated it Saint John Paul II National Shrine. Later that year, an integral component of the site was completed — a world-class, permanent exhibit on John Paul II’s life and teachings.
One year later, Supreme Knight Anderson and Jesuit Father Marko Rupnik designed two worship spaces for the Shrine featuring Father Rupnik’s mosaics—the Redemptor Hominis Church and Luminous Mysteries Chapel. (Earlier in 2005, the supreme knight and Father Rupnik enlarged and redesigned the Holy Family Chapel in the Supreme Council’s headquarters in New Haven.)
The shrine’s mission statement affirms that it is “a place of genuine encounter with God that leads to a renewal of individuals, families, societies and cultures.”
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