Knights still relevant in modern world

By 
  • August 25, 2008

{mosimage}QUEBEC CITY - At its inception in 1882, the Knights of Columbus played an important role in supporting poor Catholic immigrant families in Connecticut. During a difficult social period for Catholics in America, the Knights of Columbus, started by Fr. Michael J. McGivney, offered financial aid benefits and fraternal encouragement in daily life, soon after expanding to Canada in 1897.

Over the years, the Knights have grown to include more than 13,000 councils and 1.7 million members throughout the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Guatemala, Guam and Saipan. And while the order continues to provide Knights and their families with life insurance, the Knights of Columbus have a lot more to offer in today’s society as an organization that raises millions of dollars yearly for charitable causes.

Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson told Knights gathered for the 126th annual Supreme Convention in Quebec City Aug. 5-7 that their lay order is still more than relevant for the larger Catholic community today, for social and moral reasons.

“I think the Knights are a good example of an organization dedicated to being part of the renewal that’s going on since the Second Vatican Council, especially with Pope Benedict XVI,” Anderson said.

The latest example of that is a new initiative by the Knights for Catholic men started in August called Fathers for Good (www.fathersforgood.org). The Fathers for Good initiative offers newsletters, forums, podcasts and other helpful means to discuss and learn more about fatherhood.

“Fathers for Good . . . will help young men in their 20s and 30s as they are starting their families,” he said.

Anderson said people often talk about vocations for the priesthood, and good formation, but the vocation and formation for fatherhood is often not as well attended to.

Yves Duceppe, the Knights’ supreme director from Quebec, said that initiative will serve Catholic men well in the long term, encouraging responsibility towards fatherhood and their moral duties. This comes at a time when Canadians are facing challenges in the courts to key Catholic beliefs on the family and human life, he added.

Duceppe said the Knights always adapt to the issues that play out in the social moment.

“In Canada, even though we are part of the order (worldwide), because we have some special concerns, even though we have the same principles and direction, our challenges are different,” he said.

For example, in Quebec, with the shortage of priests, the Knights continue strongly promoting vocations to the priesthood, he said.

A major focus for this year’s convention was Pope John Paul II’s “civilization of love,” with the encouragement to promote life and family in the context of events happening in today’s society. A resolution accepted at the convention called Knights to actively promote pro-life issues rather than simply reacting to specific events that counter them.

Adrien Bosse, associate representative for New Brunswick, said it’s important for the Knights to focus on the cause against abortion by providing support to young mothers who would otherwise opt for the easy way out of a pregnancy.

“We’re here for good causes. We say that we work as a family, helping each other and also helping other families,” Bosse said.

Bosse has been serving his community as a Knight for 28 years and said the key to being an active Knight is having a wife and family who are supportive of the volunteer activities.

“If there’s a Knight who contributes a lot it’s because he’s got a good wife behind him,” he said.

Overall, the number of Knights worldwide is on the rise, although numbers in Canada have slid over the years in certain jurisdictions like Quebec, although it continues to be the largest jurisdiction with half of Canada’s Knights.

Edward Gibney, state secretary for Saskatchewan, said he sees quite a few younger Knights (the average joining age worldwide is 39). He cites World Youth Day and the March for Life in Ottawa, which drew thousands of young people, as examples that young men are interested in their faith.

“Youth are very strong in their faith and if they see us standing up for issues, they will join. We need to be more visible,” he said.

He added it helps to have an active Columbian Squire program for teenagers because young men then learn about the Knights in their teens and are more likely to become a Knight once they hit the entry age of 18.

Among some of the Knight’s new initiatives to encourage membership are a new member annuity which will be available Sept. 1, and a new and compelling film biography of the order’s founder.

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