FOLLOWING the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Supreme Knight Anderson wrote a message to members with a question: “Today we must ask ourselves, what will be our response?”
The answer was both prayer and action, including the immediate establishment of a Heroes Fund. Contributions poured in from councils, assemblies and individuals, and the fund distributed $1.4 million to support the families of first responders who died.
Months later, in his annual report, the supreme knight said, “The world changed forever on Sept. 11, but not the Knights of Columbus. Our role in the ever-evolving events shaping our history can be found in the guiding principles of our Order: Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism.”
Sept. 11 and its aftermath shaped many of the Knights’ patriotic initiatives in the new millennium. As combat operations began in the Middle East, the Order worked closely with the Archdiocese for Military Services, USA, to address the spiritual needs of service members.
Beginning in 2003, the Order provided more than 600,000 copies of a pocket-sized prayer book, Armed with the Faith, for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and deployed across the globe. The Knights also contributed funds to help the archdiocese create “Catholics Seeking Christ,” a peer ministry network, and worked to establish new K of C units on military bases.
“Our military councils and roundtables fill a real need in the armed forces, because there is a serious shortage of Catholic chaplains,” Supreme Knight Anderson noted in his 2010 annual report. “We often provide the only way that Catholic soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines can share and sustain their faith while on deployment.”
The Order responded to that shortage by supporting the Co-Sponsored Seminarian program, which helps to fund diocesan seminarians’ education in return for several years of service as a military chaplain. Since 2011, the Knights of Columbus has donated nearly $2 million to the program.
In recent years, attention has turned to serving the wounded, ill and injured — especially those with spiritual and mental wounds. Since May 2013, the Order has sponsored the Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage in partnership with the Archdiocese for Military Services, USA, bringing hundreds to pray at the Marian shrine.
“No one knows the value of peace better than those who endured war,” Anderson said in 2014. “The Knights of Columbus are honored to be able to support — and pray with — these soldiers and veterans as they come to Lourdes to seek the help of the Blessed Mother in their lives, enrich their faith, and pray for peace with those in uniform from around the world.”
SINCE THE ORDER’S Fourth Degree celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2000, assemblies have played a prominent role in the new millennium, supporting active-duty service members and first responders, honoring veterans, and promoting love of country.
Beginning in 1999, Fourth Degree assemblies and members raised and donated more than $520,000 toward the construction of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., and were well represented at its dedication five years later.
In 2003, the Fourth Degree began “Serving Those Who Served,” a program to provide support to veterans at Veterans Affairs medical facilities. These efforts continue to this day: In 2019-2020, Sir Knights volunteered 97,000 hours of service at more than 120 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.
The Fourth Degree has also led the way in raising nearly $2 million for the Co-Sponsored Seminarian program of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.
A historic change was introduced at the 135th Supreme Convention in St. Louis in 2017, when the familiar regalia used since the mid-20th century was replaced with a new uniform.
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