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NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson urged the Knights to redouble their efforts to combat racism, violence and hatred through their ongoing witness of charity, unity and fraternity in society. “Living these principles,” he said, “is the highest expression of patriotism today.”
Anderson addressed the Knights membership during the organization’s 138th annual convention, held virtually for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many of our fellow citizens are still treated differently because of the color of their skin,” said Anderson. “Whenever and wherever this happens, it is wrong. And it must be righted.”
Anderson recommitted the Knights to its programs in support of Native Americans and to foster an “honest recounting of their history.” He lamented the recent desecration of churches and statues of saints, especially St. Junipero Serra, whom he called a “heroic and saintly missionary.” “Where others seek to divide,” said Anderson, “let us promote unity. And where racism festers, let us build fraternity.”
Grounded in its principle of fraternity -- and as the beatification of its founder draws near -- the Knights of Columbus is focused on serving others in the face of daunting health, economic and social challenges.
“Living in fraternity is what we do every day,” said Anderson. “It is this commitment to fraternity that gives us the strength to do the great works of charity that our times demand.”
Anderson credited Knights’ founder, Father Michael J. McGivney, with a “spiritual genius” for bringing men together as brothers who care for others through lives of charity.
Father McGivney will be beatified – the final step before canonization – on Saturday, Oct. 31, at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hartford. Anderson also announced that the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven will be transformed into the Blessed Michael J. McGivney Pilgrimage Center.
Anderson suggested that Father McGivney’s beatification is timely since he understood well the pain of prejudice and discrimination as religious bigotry in the 19th-century targeted Catholics. However, McGivney and his contemporaries identified a uniquely American way forward.
“They saw in the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment a path offered to them that could be found in no other country,” said Anderson. He cited a similar insight expressed by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who placed hope in the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence because they constitute a “promissory note to …every American.”
In 2019, Anderson reported, the Knights donated more than $187 million and volunteered more than 77 million hours of service valued at more than $2 billion.
The organization responded to the pandemic with the Knights’ locally driven “Leave No Neighbor Behind” program to help neighbors most vulnerable to the illness, as well as blood drives and support for food banks in the U.S and Canada. Other initiatives included million-dollar lines of credit to dioceses in financial trouble and financial aid to the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù hospital for children in Rome.
Those programs are being carried out in tandem with the Knights’ ongoing activities for the disabled via Special Olympics and programs to help the needy, including Coats for Kids and disaster relief.
Despite the economic downturn due to the virus, Anderson reported insurance sales of $8.4 billion over the past 12 months with agents adopting a virtual business model over the last four months. With nearly $27 billion in assets under management, he said, the K of C is meeting both its financial obligations, and its charitable aspirations.
In April, the Knights of Columbus was one of six companies to receive the highest ranking in a Standard & Poor’s review of North American life insurance companies, ranking them on the basis of financial health.
Anderson concluded his report with a final word on Father McGivney’s beatification and how it is both a cause for joy and a call to higher standards of charity, unity and fraternity.
“We step forward together,” said Anderson, “as Knights of Columbus -- Knights of Fraternity – to continue our great work.”
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