These Men They Call Knights
Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest lay Catholic family service organization. As their forebears did more than a century ago, today’s Knights and their families stand shoulder to shoulder in support of one another. Through their charity and the examples of their lives, they stand in service to all as witnesses to the Good News of the Gospel. Although the Order is a “can-do” organization, its scope and the role it plays on the world stage often surprise people. They are amazed to learn that in the year 2000 Knights the world over combined to give more than 57 million hour of volunteer service and more than $116 million to a wide range of Church, community and charitable activities and programs. This was a record in both categories dating from the time statistics were first kept in 1977.
Most recently, through its $1.3 million Heroes Fund, the Knights of Columbus granted $3,000 to the families of each of the fire fighters, law enforcement officers and emergency service personnel who lost their lives in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York. The aid was given immediately – the first check was hand-delivered just days after the tragedy – and regardless of faith or membership in the Order. In the wake of the tragedy too the Order established an annual “Blue Mass” in honor of law enforcement, fire and emergency service personnel – those “Everyday Heroes” who risk their lives in service to our communities. Examples of what the Knights do – day in and day out – abound. For example, the Order funds the satellite uplinks necessary to broadcast papal messages and ceremonies, especially at Christmas and Easter, throughout the world. The Knights paid the cost of the restoration of façade of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Order also financed the restoration of the Maderno Atrium which leads to the Holy Door that is opened by the pope at the beginning of a Holy Year – the most recent being Jubilee 2000 held to usher in the third Christian millennium.
The Holy Father also receives each year a contribution from the Order for his personal charities. The contribution comes from the interest earned on the $20 million Vicarius Christi (Vicar of Christ) fund. Each year the interest earned from this fund is presented to the pope. Since it was established in 1982 nearly $30 million has been provided to His Holiness. The World Youth Days celebrated by the Holy Father every two years since 1987 have benefited from major funding and participation by the Order. At the World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002 the Reconciliation site in Duc in Altum Park was sponsored by a $1 million gift from the Knights of Columbus.
Though the Order does not restrict itself or its councils to any particular charity or cause, a favorite K of C activity over the years has been service to people with mental retardation. Special Olympics at the local, state and international levels has been a major recipient of funding, service and support from the Knights. Our Order’s outreach to a variety of religious and other causes is chronicled in our monthly magazine, Columbia that goes to each of our members. Our deeds do not go unnoticed by the Holy Father. Pope Paul VI said. “Tell your sons, your nephews, your grandsons; tell the people that the pope loves the Knights of Columbus.” He added: “The glory of the Knights of Columbus is not based on humanitarian works alone. Even more admirable have been your insistence upon the supremacy of God and your fidelity to the Vicar of Christ. In truth you can call yourselves ‘brothers’ because you call God your Father and have declared yourselves ready to do his will and serve his cause. . . the Knights of Columbus an immense force for good.”
Pope John Paul II once said: “Many times in the past, and again today, you have given expression to your solidarity with the mission of the pope. I see in your support further proof – if further proof were ever necessary – of your awareness that the Knights of Columbus highly value their vocation to be part of the evangelization effort of the Church.”