"Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father."
The Gospel at the opening Mass of the 135th international convention of the Knights of Columbus was from the Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, celebrated on Aug. 1. Shining a light on good deeds was appropriate for the world's largest lay Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded in 1882 by Father Michael J. McGivney, the Knights of Columbus has grown to 1.9 million members, with charity as the organization's primary mission. In 2016, Knights donated more than $177 million and more than 75 million hours of service to charitable causes.
Thomas Ketterer of St. Margaret of York Parish in Loveland, Ohio, arrived early for the opening Mass. Last year, among many other things, his council donated coats to military veterans spending time at a veterans hospital. It felt good to help former military members "who gave so much to our country," Ketterer said.
The Knights' efforts to give back to society "is that much more meaningful to me" because it involves "teaming up with people of a common faith," he said.
Jim DeZori of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Grand Bend, Ontario, Canada, enjoys being part of a food drive for two food banks prior to the Canadian Thanksgiving in October. This year, he said, they hope to collect at least 5,000 pounds of food. Being a member of the Knights of Columbus is special, he said, because "it's one way I can live my faith. There's so many aspects of Knighthood. I never get tired of it."
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson was the principal celebrant and homilist at the opening Mass concelebrated by about 80 cardinals, archbishops and bishops who took part in a lengthy procession with dozens of priests and a Knights' honor guard. About 100 members of the Catholic hierarchy were expected to attend the convention Aug. 1-3 at the America's Center Downtown, joined by about 2,000 Knights and their families.
Images of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis and various mosaics from the cathedral basilica were projected on screens, giving the convention room the feel of a church.
In his homily, Archbishop Carlson noted that Father McGivney benefited from reflecting on the teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. Those teachings continue to inspire the work of the Knights of Columbus, Archbishop Carlson said.
"You are called, each one of you, to be a light to the 21st century in whatever part of the world you call home," he said. "There's a need for zealous Catholics, men and women on fire with the love of Christ and with a deep and abiding desire to save souls. You are called to use your God-given talents creatively to present the fullness of the Gospel to your friends, to your family members and to your co-workers."
Archbishop Carlson mentioned challenges today — a deepening indifference to spiritual things, growing secularism in society and increasing polarization in communities. But he was optimistic that those challenges would be overcome with the same Spirit that inspired saints in previous generations.
He urged people to become men and women of prayer in order to carry on the work of missionary disciples. Prayer should be done as individuals and as families, he said, in order to have strength to face the "ups and downs and twists and turns" that confront every family.
Petitions were read at the Mass in French, English, Tagalog, Spanish and Polish by petitioners from Quebec, Texas, Philippines, Mexico and Poland. They prayed for Pope Francis, Archbishop Carlson and all the successors to the apostles in their efforts to lead the Church; for religious freedom to be respected and protected in all societies and for those who defend it; for civic leaders so they will protect human life in all its stages; for marriage and family; and for the beatification of Father McGivney and for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Tim and Angi Guski of St. John the Baptist Parish in Cooks Valley, Wis., attended the convention with three of their seven children, providing a photo opportunity after Mass for a group of Knights from the Philippines and inspiring an onlooker to call the children "rock stars."
Reflecting on the mention of families in the homily, Tim Guski said the Knights of Columbus provides an opportunity for his family to practice their faith in prayer services and events with other like-minded families. His wife said their work with the Knights has brought them to other parishes in their diocese and to see that the Church is a"a wider base" than in their small circles, she said.
Carey Hudnut of Assumption Parish in O'Fallon staffed a booth in the Missouri State Council Souvenir Store. She enjoyed seeing people from different countries, listening to their experiences and trading pins. "It's a blast," she said.
She and her husband, Kevin, are fond of an effort by their council at Assumption Parish in O'Fallon to raise funds to purchase ultrasound machines for pregnancy resource centers as part of the statewide Meet Life campaign. It's "so women can meet their unborn children and are less likely to have abortions," Carey Hudnut said.
A fashion show put on by the Knights of Columbus and ladies' auxiliary at Assumption Parish received a first-place International Service Award for Culture of Life Activities at the Knights' international convention last year. Proceeds from the shows have primarily gone to the Knights' Meet Life campaign. Other fashion show beneficiaries have included Mary Queen of Angels, an O'Fallon ministry that helps mothers in need, Birthright of St. Charles and parish ministries.
The Knights of Columbus have been ardent supporters of life issues for many years, donating to the Vitae Foundation, which promotes a culture of life through media efforts, and other organizations such as Birthright and Our Lady's Inn.
>> In Missouri
Founded in 1882 in New Haven, Conn., by Father Michael J. McGivney, the Knights of Columbus started as a way for Catholic men to join in solidarity in defending their country, families and faith. Part of Father McGivney's vision also called for a special life insurance program to provide for widows and orphans of deceased members. In Missouri, Knights' councils have shown leadership with charitable donations, evangelization of the faith and programs for the men and their families.
The Knights are particularly known for their support of issues in the areas of respect for life, disabilities and faith formation. Popular programs include the annual Tootsie Roll Drive to help individuals with disabilities and an annual rose campaign to legislators in recognition of respect for life.
Some of the efforts supported by the Knights of Columbus in Missouri include:
• Knights of Columbus Developmental Center at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital
• Special Olympics Missouri and the soon-to-open Training for Life Campus
• Religious Information Bureau, which helps Catholics and nonCatholics learn about the beliefs and practices of the Church (see Catholichomestudy.org)
• Respect life efforts, including placing ultrasound machines in pregnancy care centers, Roses for Life Weekend
• Building the Domestic Church, including efforts to strengthen family life
• Communities activities, including Habitat for Humanity projects, athletics, blood drives, a wheelchair mission, Agape House for families visiting prisoners and more
• Food for Families, donating to food pantries and helping with a meals program for needy people
• Coats for Kids, donations of coats to needy children
• Building the Domestic Church While Strengthening Our Parishes, including religious vocations efforts, an adopt-a-seminarian program, promotion of future vocations, support for Catholic education, faith enrichment
The Knights also provide leadership, spiritual and moral development to young people through its Columbian Squires and Columbus Girls programs and other activities. The work is supported by numerous Ladies' Auxiliaries.
For more information on the Missouri Knights of Columbus, visit www.mokofc.org.
Saving a Christian town
The Knights of Columbus will raise and donate $2 million to save Karamdes (Karemlash), a predominantly Christian town in Iraq which was liberated from ISIS late last year.
The Knights' action will move hundreds of families from minority religious communities in Iraq – especially Christians – back to the homes from which they were evicted by ISIS in the summer of 2014.
The gift matches a similar donation by the government of Hungary, which recently donated $2 million to save another predominately Christian town, Teleskov. About 1,000 families have now moved back to that town.
The Knights will partner in the resettlement and rebuilding effort with the Archdiocese of Erbil, which is currently housing the largest population of Christian refugees in Iraq, including many of the residents of Karamdes.
"The terrorists desecrated churches and graves and looted and destroyed homes," said Knights CEO Carl Anderson during his annual report at the Knights of Columbus 135th annual convention. "Now we will ensure that hundreds of Christian families driven from their homes can return to these two locations and help to ensure a pluralistic future for Iraq."
The Knights are urging K of C councils, parishes or other Church groups, and individuals who want to help to donate $2,000 – the approximate cost of resettling one family.
In the same speech, Anderson also announced that the K of C would partner with the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops on a "Week of Awareness" for persecuted Christians beginning Nov. 26.
Since 2014, the Knights' Christian Refugee Relief Fund has donated more than $13 million for humanitarian assistance primarily in Iraq, Syria and the surrounding region. The Knights' documentation of ISIS' atrocities and advocacy on behalf of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East were decisive in U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's 2016 genocide declaration for Christians and other religious minorities in the region. This designation was reaffirmed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week.
For his service to the sick in North Korea (the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea), and for his selfless bravery in carrying out this ministry, the Knights of Columbus awarded its highest honor to Maryknoll Father Gerard Hammond at the Knights' 135th annual international convention in St. Louis.
The Gaudium et Spes Award was presented to Father Hammond Aug. 1.
A veteran missionary in South Korea (the Republic of Korea), Father Hammond had long wanted to minister in North Korea. The opportunity to do so was facilitated by the Eugene Bell Foundation, a Christian organization that sponsors programs, projects and exchanges of a humanitarian nature in North Korea, particularly ones that focus on medicine and the diagnosis and treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.
He first travelled north in 1995, and has since made more than 50 trips across the demilitarized zone.
Father Hammond avoids politics and has a knack for loving everyone and gaining their confidence.RELATED ARTICLE(S): Knights of Columbus, In Defense of Christians mount genocide petition