Archbishop Edwin O’Brien
Archbishop Edwin O’Brien dedicated the new headquarters for the Archdiocese of the Military Services, USA, in Washington, D.C., Sept. 26. Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson attended the ceremonies. The K of C provided grants and loans totaling $4.5 million for the purchase and renovation of the new facility.
A painting of the Knights founder, Father Michael J. McGivney, is displayed in the main foyer.
The archdiocese coordinates the spiritual care of nearly 1.5 million U.S. Catholics around the world, including military personnel and National Guard members, their families, government workers overseas and residents of Veterans Affairs hospitals. For almost a century, the Knights of Columbus has shown the same concern for members of the armed forces. Since before World War I, the Knights have provided for the spiritual and temporal welfare of soldiers.
Beginning in 1916 during the Mexican campaign, the Knights established recreation centers where the Knights could attend to both the physical and spiritual needs of enlisted men.
The program was so successful that it was greatly expanded in World War I with the “hut program.” The motto of the huts was “Everybody welcome; Everything free.” The Knights - first at home and later abroad - established huts near the front, at or near military bases and in cities frequented by soldiers and sailors. The Order also provided K of C chaplains to supplement the work of the military’s Catholic chaplains in ministering to the spiritual needs of the servicemen.
During World War II, the United Service Organizations - in which the Knights of Columbus represented the Catholic Church - largely provided for the entertainment of U.S. troops. In addition to working with the U.S.O., Knights in the Philippines ran a program very similar to the World War I hut program for American servicemen before the fall of Manila and again after its liberation. During the war years, the Knights were led by Francis P. Matthews, who later became Secretary of the Navy under President Harry Truman.
In the 21st century, the Knights of Columbus continues its proud tradition of service to the men and women of the armed forces through its scholarship program and several other programs for the military.
More than $500,000 was raised by the Order’s Fourth Degree members for the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Of particular note, since 2003 more than 400,000 Catholic prayer books, titled Armed with the Faith and printed on rugged paper to withstand the rigors of combat, have been produced for members of the armed forces.
The concept for this prayer book originated with an individual Knight and Air Force veteran, and was developed in conjunction with the archdiocese. All costs for this program, including printing and distribution, have been borne by the Knights of Columbus. In 2005 the Order pledged $1 million to establish a new program for the catechesis and spiritual support of servicemen and women, administered by the archdiocese.