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NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly addressed the Knights membership during the organization’s 139th annual supreme convention, held virtually for the second time due to the pandemic.
In his first annual report to the Order, he urged his brother Knights to find creative solutions to adapt to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and other cultural challenges facing Catholics today.
“On every front, the end of the pandemic is an invitation to action,” Kelly said. “Charity is our highest calling, and it demands our renewed focus. Where there’s pain, let us heal. Where there’s grief, let us comfort. Where there’s need, let us meet it, in new and creative ways.”
Kelly committed his tenure to strengthening the faith of men and their families despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic and current societal pressures on Catholic values. “Our growth depends on empowering men to be the husbands and fathers that God wants us to be. It is harder than ever, and for that reason, we must push forward as never before. It will require creative courage.”
In keeping with their founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity, the Knights of Columbus is focused on serving others in the face of daunting health, economic and social challenges.
To put their faith into action effectively, Kelly said the Knights must be “bold in faith,” following the example of St. Joseph.
The day Kelly was installed as supreme knight, his first act was to consecrate his administration to St. Joseph, whom he called “Guardian of the Family” and “Guardian of the Truth” in his annual report.
Kelly said the Knights, too, must be guardians of the family during this time when the family faces many challenges and a hostile culture. The Knights are also called to defend the truth incarnate of Jesus Christ amid this time of bigotry and intolerance in which “key truths — about life, marriage, the nature of the family, and the meaning of freedom — are increasingly denied and even vilified.”
A documentary about the life of St. Joseph, produced by the Knights of Columbus, will air on ABC affiliates starting Oct. 10. It will serve as a valuable source of inspiration for all those wishing to model their lives after St. Joseph’s bold faith.
He also addressed the Knights’ support for the National Eucharistic Revival currently being organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Working with our bishops and priests, we will strive to renew belief in the Eucharist and build up the Church,” Kelly said. “We are a force for unity, and we will prove it by pointing to the source of unity. As ‘Knights of the Eucharist,’ we proudly proclaim this truth.”
Kelly suggested the other man whose example each Knight should follow is Blessed Michael McGivney, the founder of the Order. Though Father McGivney also lived in a time of families in crisis facing a hostile culture and a Church under attack, he did not shrink from those challenges.
“In the mold of St. Joseph, [McGivney] stepped into the breach, with creative courage,” Kelly said. “Father McGivney listened to the Lord, fought for the family and the faith, and devoted himself to our Blessed Mother.”
McGivney successfully rallied the men of his parish to lead lives of charity, unity and fraternity, which Kelly argues are still the solutions to the most serious problems of our time.
“By elevating our founder, the Lord has called us to greater depths of courage and faith, and greater heights of charity, unity and fraternity,” Kelly said. “In the beatification of Blessed Michael McGivney, the Lord has not only confirmed where the Knights have been in the past. He is showing us where we must go, in the future.”
The supreme knight also discussed the Knights’ distinguished legacy of defending life. That legacy includes:
“The fight for life has many fronts. They all require our creative courage, and the coming year will be pivotal,” Kelly said. “I look forward to the day when together we march to victory!”
“Faith and courage compel us to be men of charity,” said Kelly, a prime example of which is former Supreme Knight Carl Anderson.
Kelly thanked Anderson for his 20 years of faithful leadership, during which time the Order grew dramatically in every measurable way: “Our charitable donations soared by more than 60%. Insurance in force nearly tripled. Membership rose by nearly 400,000 and surpassed 2 million. And the Order expanded internationally for the first time in a century, to Europe and mainland Asia.”
In 2020, Kelly reported, the Knights donated more than $150 million and volunteered more than 47 million hours of service using “creative courage” to serve communities despite the challenges of the pandemic.
Under the banner of the Leave No Neighbor Behind initiative in response to the pandemic, Knights’ members donated nearly $7.7 million to community and parish projects, as well as 1.2 million pounds of food and almost a quarter million pints of blood. They supported nearly 300,000 struggling parishioners and brother Knights, with a special focus on indigenous families across the continent.
Those charitable efforts were completed alongside the Knights’ ongoing activities, including these highlights from 2020:
Despite a difficult year, Kelly reported insurance sales were strong, with Knights agents selling $7.4 billion dollars in new insurance. The Knights now have more than $116 billion dollars of insurance in force protecting Catholic families.
Kelly also reported the Knights’ Charitable Fund is off to a strong start: “After just 18 months, we already have $14 million in assets, and we anticipate robust growth in the coming months.”
Kelly concluded his report with a final word on how St. Joseph and Blessed McGivney can serve as examples for all Knights on leading through service and creative courage to overcome the hurdles facing our families, the Church, and our culture.
“Let us summon the creative courage to fulfill the calling that our Lord has placed on our hearts. And let us take comfort in the knowledge that the work of our Order is far from over,” said Kelly. “The work of the Knights of Columbus is only beginning — and we are the ones who will carry it forward.”
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