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St. Augustine Parish, Washington, D.C.
October 26, 2014

New Council at St. Augustine Council Church in Washington, D.C.


You may know that the Knights of Columbus, every year, establishes about 250 new councils throughout the world. And as supreme knight, I have the opportunity to maybe visit one or two to do the charter presentation. Last May, I went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and presented the charter to our new council there. I think we all know that those men and women in the 101st Airborne are being deployed — as we speak now — to West Africa to work at the Ebola crisis. So we pray for them and especially for the brother Knights who are going to West Africa.

I had a prepared text that I was going to use this afternoon, but I think I will just say a couple of things more directly to you.

It has been almost five years since that terrible earthquake struck Haiti and the leaders of the Knights of Columbus spoke about what we could do to help. We talked to some of the medical personnel who were working there and they told us this: “Look, this is a country with great scarcity. There are going to be very few resources, and most of the resources are going to help men. If there is anything left over, they are going to help women, if we can, and as far as children are concerned here, they are third on the list and they will probably not get any help at all.”

One of the things we decided, when we found out that there were almost a thousand children that had legs amputated in Haiti as a result of the earthquake, was that we would make sure that every single one of them got an artificial limb, got training, and we would give them the best chance we could for a new life.

So we did that, and we also trained some technicians there, Haitians, so they can continue to give that kind of assistance, because children grow larger and they need larger artificial limbs and so on. For us, it is going to be a long-term commitment there.

When I went down there with our first shipment of wheelchairs, we went to a hospital and distributed wheelchairs. I talked to a young woman who had lost a leg who we had given a wheelchair to. And she indicated that her entire family had been killed. So, she had no relatives, and there she was in her early twenties, missing a leg, and I just thought, you know, what possibly is her future going to be in Haiti in those circumstances. I asked, “What are you going to do when you get out of this hospital?” She said to me, “The first thing I am going to do is go to church and thank God.” So, it brought home to me, very clearly, that spiritual strength and spiritual integrity does not depend upon affluence or upon material possessions. It depends upon something very different.

Christian discipleship, the authority of Christian witness, depends upon people who have experienced something, or suffered something, or sacrificed something, and have been able to walk through the valley and come out to the other side strengthened. And I think you know what I mean.

I agree with Father Pat, what he said in the homily: “We need people with a song!” This city and this country needs people who are not afraid to stand up and say, “My God is awesome! He is the savior of world! He can move mountains!”.

That’s what our neighborhoods need. And it needs people of faith who can say that. It needs people with a strong voice who are willing to speak out. And it needs people with a strong arm who are willing to reach out and help their neighbors.

That’s what the Knights of Columbus is about and that’s the path we are on, and we are very, very pleased to be partnering here with you in St. Augustine.

So, I am are very proud that we have a new council here at St. Augustine, and I just want to thank our brothers in Council 15723 for what you have done to get this established and what you’re going to be doing in the future for this church, this parish and this community.