On Feb. 5, the Knights of Columbus Board of Directors elected Patrick E. Kelly to become the Order’s 14th supreme knight. Supreme Knight Kelly’s election follows a distinguished career in the military, public service and the Knights of Columbus, where he has served as deputy supreme knight since 2017. Taking office as supreme knight on March 1, he has been charged to lead the Order and continue the mission established by the Knights’ founder, Blessed Michael McGivney, nearly 140 years ago.
Carl A. Anderson retired Feb. 28, after more than 20 years of service as supreme knight, upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. He leaves a legacy of Christian witness and service to the Catholic Church, to the Knights of Columbus and to communities throughout the world.
“The Knights of Columbus board has elected an extraordinarily well-qualified new supreme knight in Patrick Kelly,” affirmed Supreme Knight Anderson in a Feb. 5 statement. “He has served as deputy supreme knight for four years and is a well-rounded public servant with diplomatic and military experience. He is ideally suited to carry on the work of the Knights of Columbus as we enter a new era, faithful to our principles of charity, unity and fraternity, and in close collaboration with the Holy See and the bishops throughout the world.”
Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore likewise acclaimed the new supreme knight.
“Patrick Kelly is a devoted husband, father of three young daughters, and a man of deep faith with many years of experience as a public servant,” Archbishop Lori said. “He possesses the knowledge, experience and commitment necessary to carry the Order forward in service to our brother Knights, their families, our parishes and our communities.”
Prior to his service as deputy supreme knight, Patrick Kelly served as the Order’s vice president for public policy for 11 years. He is also a past state deputy of the District of Columbia. As a longtime executive and fraternal leader, he has consistently strengthened the Knights’ record of charity, financial protection and membership growth.
When the Knights purchased the former Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., in 2011, Kelly oversaw the renewal of the facility and was appointed the first executive director of what would soon become the Saint John Paul II National Shrine. During his tenure, the shrine became a premier pilgrimage site and a source of education and inspiration for Catholics throughout the United States and the world.
Supreme Knight Kelly has served as the chairman of the board of directors of the March for Life since 2012; as a member of the board of directors of the National Catholic Bioethics Center since 2013; and as a consultant to several committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for more than a decade.
After 24 years of active-duty and reserve service in the United States Navy, Kelly retired from the JAG Corps Reserve in 2016. As a judge advocate general, he specialized in international and operational law and served as the commanding officer of the international law unit at the U.S. Naval War College.
Before his leadership roles with the Knights, Kelly also pursued a lengthy career of public service. He held advisory roles on the House Intelligence Committee and at the Justice Department, where he specialized in counterterrorism and national security. As senior advisor to the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom from 2005 to 2006, he served as the State Department’s principal liaison with the Holy See and helped to form U.S. foreign policy on religious freedom worldwide.
Supreme Knight Kelly holds a master’s degree in theology from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C.; a law degree from Marquette University Law School; and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Marquette University, where he joined the Knights of Columbus in 1983. He and his wife, Vanessa, have three daughters. They live in Connecticut.
Deputy Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly addressed the Feb. 5 meeting of the Knights of Columbus Board of Directors, during which he was elected the Order’s 14th supreme knight. Here are excerpts from his remarks.
THIRD-GENERATION KNIGHT: “Inspiring the next generation of Knights is personal for me. I am a third-generation Knight. My grandfather joined the Order in 1915 before he left for World War I. My father was a faithful member of the council at our parish up until his death. And I joined the Order as a College Knight. I know how much we have to offer young men. And I know the Order’s mission is the same now as its was more than 100 years ago, when my grandfather joined. Our mission is to strengthen Catholic men.”
STRENGTHENING FAMILY LIFE: “We are advancing this mission in difficult times. The family is under more intense pressure now than at any time in our history. Fathers are trying to build healthy marriages and raise their children in the faith amid a culture that is working against them. I believe the Lord is calling us to place an even higher priority on caring for the spiritual lives of men specifically as husbands and fathers. Blessed Michael McGivney established the Knights to strengthen Catholic families, and that is what we must do now in new ways.”
UNITY IN A TIME OF DIVISION: “The Order remains a symbol of unity within the Church. Now is the time to build on that reputation. We have long been known as the strong right arm of the Church, and with that strength, we can be a gentle but firm guide.… Unity is the Order’s second principle, and as Knights, we can, we must and we will be a source of unity in these divided times.”
SUPPORTING COUNCIL ACTIVITIES: “We have a fundamental goal of supporting, strengthening and honoring every individual Knight and every council. The health of our Order lies there — in our brother Knights and in our councils. They are the ones who distribute coats to kids, sponsor free throw contests, raise money for ultrasounds and wheelchairs, and lead their parish in care for their neighbor. They are the core of our identity, the witness that serves as the foundation for everything else we do.”
OUR FOUNDER’S WITNESS: “I would like to turn to the witness of Blessed Michael McGivney. And I would like to acknowledge with gratitude the work of our worthy supreme knight who skillfully led us to the moment of beatification. We are now actively engaged in praying and working for his canonization, if that be God’s will. His cause is a source of great passion and pride for all of us.”
A BROTHERHOOD OF FAITH: “It is often said the Knights have what men need. I believe it’s also true that the Knights are what men want. We are a community of purpose — a brotherhood of faith — and a force for good for the things that matter most. The Order was made for the moment we are in, as a Church, as a country, as families and as men.”
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