The Knights of Columbus


Cunningham_formal_robes Pilgrims visiting the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception are always impressed with its magnificent and expansive space and the beautiful chapels that celebrate the love and devotion given to the Blessed Mother embedded in the culture of the many nationalities that now are at home here in the U.S.
The beauty of the Basilica is enhanced when this sacred space is filled to overflowing with men and women of every age and background giving praise to God and honoring the Mother of the Son of God. Such was the case last week when approximately 90 bishops and 200 priests joined more than 2,500 members of the Knights of Columbus and their families at the opening Mass for their annual convention. It was a glorious and inspiring sight to behold!
I was privileged to be there. The occasion gave me an opportunity to reflect on the history of this great fraternal order and the contributions made by its members to the church, to society at large and to our diocese in particular.
Most Catholics know the Knights of Columbus through the Fourth Degree Color Corps which is frequently present at solemn church functions. They are easily recognizable with their varied colored capes and ceremonial regalia. Their presence adds a special dignity on these occasions. Personally, I appreciate the sacrifice that these men make to travel and be present at so many liturgical functions throughout our diocese.
While the members of the Fourth Degree add much to our Church ceremonies, thousands more Knights of Columbus work in quiet and hidden ways behind the scenes. Have you ever wondered about the origin of the Knights, their membership, activities and service?
This fraternal order fulfills the pioneering vision of Father Michael J. McGivney, a young parish priest concerned about the needs of the people that he served in New Haven, Conn. Factory accidents and spreading disease had left too many widows and orphans in his community. Desiring to meet these economic and social needs and to keep men close to the Church, Father McGivney called together a handful of men to establish a fraternal order that would benefit society similar to organizations that existed in the secular world. From this small beginning in the basement of St. Mary’s Church, the Knights of Columbus have grown to more than 14,000 councils and 1.8 million members on three continents. In our own diocese we have 42 councils and more than 6,100 members performing a multitude of good works.
The Knights have always been noted for “solidarity with their priests.” Today they continue to support our priests most assuredly with prayer, public affirmation and sincere appreciation for their vocation. 
They also support our seminarians in many ways. The Knights stay in touch with our seminarians when they are away at school, keeping them informed about happenings in the diocese. Through the annual Bishop’s Burse Dinner, they provide financial assistance for the education of seminarians, including assistance with the purchase of textbooks. The RSVP fund helps to meet the personal needs of our students for the priesthood and of young women in formation for Consecrated Life. The Knights are present supporting our young priests and seminarians with promotional and financial assistance at the various Men in Black games.
Through the proceeds of their Charitable and Benevolent Fund, they are active in programs assisting the disabled. They are advocates for legislation that addresses a wide array of issues affecting the moral order in our society. They advocate the positions of the Church on the local, state and national levels. Their humanitarian efforts during Hurricane Katrina, and most recently during the devastating earthquake in Haiti, are well known. In Haiti they have pledged wheelchairs for the disabled and artificial limbs for the young who have lost an arm or a leg as a result of the earthquake. In 2009, the Knights world-wide donated $157,105, 867 to fund programs and activities and spent 69,251,926 hours in volunteer service. Our parishes also benefit from specific projects undertaken by the local councils.
All of this activity is rooted in their spirituality. Underlying each action and deep within the heart of each Knight is the recognition of the beauty of our Catholic faith and an implicit desire to do all that he can to care for the needs of another. The first sign of a true Knight is that he is a man of faith.
Father McGivney’s initial vision of an apostolate to foster not only the profession of one’s Catholic faith, but to put that faith into action has borne much fruit over the last 128 years. It is my prayer that such faith-filled works will bear still greater fruit in the years to come, here in the Diocese of Syracuse and throughout the Church.

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