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NEW HAVEN, Conn.— The Knights of Columbus honored its Family of the Year and councils throughout the world with international service awards during a virtual awards ceremony at the Knights' 139th annual convention this week. In addition to recognizing its Family of the Year, the awards recognize outstanding programs in the categories of Faith, Family, Community and Life. This year they additionally recognize the council that excelled in the Leave No Neighbor Behind initiative. As pandemic challenges continued, these awardees worked to live out the four principles of the Knights: Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism.
The award categories and this year's recipients include:
International Family of the Year: The Steciak Family, Rembieszyce, Poland
Michał and his wife, Angelika, whom he married in 2011, are deeply involved in the life of the Church where they lead numerous social and volunteer initiatives. Together they run the Angels’ Village Foundation, which helps, among others, children with disabilities and the elderly. They are very active in parish life; they run a children's choir and Bible study group. The highlight of Michał and Angelika’s life is their marriage and family. Their plan was always to accept the children that God gave them, but early in their marriage, they learned that they were unable to have children. Their desire to be parents came to fruition, however, in 2020 when they adopted an infant named Peter, who was rejected by his biological parents when they discovered he has Down syndrome. The Steciak family was the 10th family in line to adopt this little boy, but the other nine candidate-couples gave up when they found out about the child’s health condition and refused to even see him. Today, 19-month-old Peter is being raised by a loving family, which recently also adopted a second child: 11-month-old Mary, now his little sister.
Faith: Monroe Council 1266, Monroe, Michigan
Organized by Knights, Catholic men are creating a brotherhood and environment where they take responsibility for learning, living, strengthening and sharing the faith by hosting a men’s prayer breakfast. Together, these 30 members and 20 nonmembers call themselves the “Regular Joe’s” and focus on becoming better men, leaders, husbands, fathers and followers of Christ. This men’s group has had a profound impact on the community and exposed a thirst for the Gospel. Because of the witness and brotherhood in this group, 18 men were compelled to join the Order and injected new life into the council. This group began meeting in 2019 with five men and has grown to 50 and continued to meet consistently and remotely during COVID.
Life: Divine Word Council 7331, Techny, Illinois
Council 7331 serves as one of the main organizers and route marshals for the March for Life in Chicago each year. In 2020, due to the pandemic, the march was unable to proceed as a normal, in-person event. Rather than giving up, members of Council 7331 increased their support for the cause and worked with other organizations to ensure the pro-life voice would still be heard. Along with the Archdiocese of Chicago and WeDignify, nearly 50 Knights helped organize a “Drive for Life” through the cities of Mundelein and Chicago, drawing more than 1,100 vehicles (holding 4,000 riders) from Illinois and nearby states. The council was involved in recruiting and organizing volunteers, the setup and takedown of stages and audio equipment, directing traffic, helping stage and park cars, and handing out pro-life signs. Thanks to the work of the council, more than 70,000 diapers were collected during the event and thousands of people were made aware of the importance of defending life.
Family: Our Lady of Fatima Council 9636, Las Pinas, Metro Manila, Luzon South
When pandemic restrictions limited the ability for people to gather, Council 9636 developed a plan to maintain community and foster the faith of families during these uncertain times. Beginning in July 2020, Knights and their families, as well as other parishioners and their pastor, gathered virtually every Saturday night to pray and share their needs and experience. Prayers were said for the sick and those who had died, and the weekly event has become a source of consolation over the past year. Over 250 people have participated in the more than 40 virtual family prayer nights that are still occurring.
Community: Saint Cecilia Council 7395, Claremore, Oklahoma
Oklahoma Council 7395 organized 30 members and 10 nonmembers to help the Benedictine monks of Clear Creek Abbey. They provided the funds and 3,200 total hours of experienced labor to rebuild a suspension bridge; build a gravel sifter used to maintain the abbey roads; construct and install roll cages for their tractors; and host a luncheon for 500 people. The council also surprised a priest of the abbey with a new car to help him travel and begin a new monastery. They also supported the community by preparing and donating 1,200 food boxes to people in need during the past year.
Leave No Neighbor Behind: Saint Bonaventure Council 7432, Calgary, Alberta
Parish closures and restrictions were severe across Canada during the pandemic. Council 7432 jumped into action to help their pastor transition the parish to a virtual format. The council organized 106 members and 168 nonmembers to provide 4,159 volunteer hours toward this effort. Activities also included volunteering for Masses, bringing Communion to the Catholic community, and other worship activities that greatly helped the parish resume operations. In addition, the council raised nearly $7,000 to support St. Vincent de Paul and other charities during the pandemic.
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