In praise of the Knights of Columbus

  • August 24, 2009
{mosimage}The title of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical, Charity in Truth, was intended for a broad audience, but Carl Anderson believes it speaks directly to the Knights of Columbus.

Addressing the Knight’s annual convention in Phoenix earlier this month, the Supreme Knight called the title of the encyclical confirmation of the Knights’ first principle — charity — and affirmation that “his priorities are our priorities.”

“In fact,” said Anderson, “the words charity, unity and fraternity are used so often in this new encyclical that one would almost conclude it was written for us.”

Not to nit-pick, but anyone familiar with the work of the Knights could argue they are among the last people on Earth in need of instruction on charity and truth. For 128 years, those virtues have been the pillars that underpin a global fraternity numbering more than 1.7-million members in 14 countries.

Spending time with the Knights is to realize that this grand fraternity is largely taken for granted by the broader Catholic community. Maybe it’s overstatement to call them a well-kept secret, but not by much.

Over the past decade, the Knights have contributed more than $1.3 billion to worldwide charity. In 2008, despite the recession, the Knights set a record for giving, increasing their global fund raising by 3.5 per cent to an astounding total of $150 million.

Nowhere are Knights more committed to charity than in Canada. Fourteen states and provinces in North America had per-capita fund raising of more than $100 per Knight. Nine of those jurisdictions were Canadian, with British Columbia first at $214 and Ontario second at $161. Ontario led all jurisdictions in total giving at $9.1 million with Quebec second at $8.5 million, and those two provinces alone accounted for an impressive 12 per cent of the Knights’ charity worldwide.

Volunteer service is another measure of the Knights’ commitment to stewardship. By their calculation, Knights donated more than 68 million hours to volunteer work ranging from well-known charities such as Habitat for Humanity and the Special Olympics to hundreds of local causes — all done without fanfare and all done in addition to unending important Catholic work in support of the priesthood, life issues, education, marriage and family.

In Canada, more than 225,000 Knights toil, if not in obscurity, then in modest service in more than 1,900 parish councils. You may not know who they are but, as Anderson puts it, these are the type of men who, when duty calls, “roll up their sleeves and do what needs to be done.” He says  hardly a day goes by that you won’t find Knights serving in the liturgy or helping to fix the kneelers in a church or organizing parish events in the church hall.

By their fund raising, the Knights invite us to share our treasure. By their volunteer work, they are living out the call, as Pope Benedict put it, to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the world.

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