WHEN COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic last March, the Vatican communications office received a letter from Supreme Knight Anderson with an offer of help. Within days, Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi blessing was being broadcast worldwide with financial support from the Order. With the launch of the Leave No Neighbor Behind initiative soon after, parish priests began receiving calls from their local councils with a similar offer: What do you need?
At a moment of crisis, Knights stood in solidarity with their priests and bishops — as they have always done.
“Our mission is simple,” said Supreme Knight Anderson in his 2017 annual report. “Whether it is a pastor, a bishop or the pope who needs our help, the Knights of Columbus responds. We do this because we are first and foremost men who love our Church.”
During the pilgrimage of the board of directors to Rome last February, Pope Francis thanked the Order for its century of charitable service in the Eternal City, adding, “Since its foundation, the Knights of Columbus has demonstrated its unswerving devotion to the successor of Peter.”
Under Supreme Knight Anderson’s leadership, the Order has supported many Vatican initiatives, papal visits and international events such as the World Meeting of Families and World Apostolic Congress on Mercy. It has likewise assisted bishops’ conferences with a wide array of projects, ministries and evangelization efforts.
The Knights of Columbus has also continued to promote vocations and foster devotion in various ways. Within the first five years alone of Supreme Knight Anderson’s tenure, the Order organized three eucharistic congresses, two Marian prayer programs and a Divine Mercy prayer program, as well as a Sacred Heart Holy Hour to strengthen solidarity with priests.
That solidarity, the supreme knight has emphasized, begins close to home. With Supreme Chaplain Archbishop Lori, he has revitalized the role of state and local chaplains. And he has urged councils to collaborate with their pastors and integrate more closely into parish life. The Building the Domestic Church While Strengthening Our Parish initiative, announced in 2015, formalized and accelerated this process.
In March 2007, on the 125th anniversary of the Order, Supreme Knight Anderson affirmed, “We are proud that in so many ways we have earned the title of the ‘strong right arm of the Church.’ In this regard, we often recount service to our Holy Father and our bishops.” He then added, “Our greatest contributions, however, will always be at the parish level. It is there that we must make our mark as the strong right arm of the local church and the strong right arm of our parish priest.”
KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS presence at international World Youth Day celebrations, which began with Pope John Paul II’s visit to Denver in 1993, has been significant under Supreme Knight Anderson’s leadership. In addition to the participation and support of councils, the Order contributed $1 million for a vocations pavilion and the Duc in Altum reconciliation park at World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. Later support included co-sponsorship of major catechetical sites in Sydney (2008), Madrid (2011) and Kraków (2016), each of increasing size, assisted by delegations of college Knight volunteers. Kraków’s Tauron Arena was transformed into the Knights of Columbus Mercy Centre, hosting 100,000 pilgrims over five days of programming.
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