By Barry C. Knestout
Knestout is bishop of the Diocese of Richmond. This column originally appeared in the Sept. 9, 2019, issue of The Catholic Virginian. It is reprinted with permission.
As I’ve done since becoming bishop of the Diocese of Richmond, I concluded my summer break by taking part in the annual Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus.
Please put aside any stereotypical ideas of this being a gathering of people running around with funny hats and partying the entire time. While there were opportunities for fellowship and recreation among attendees, the heart of the convention focused as it always does on matters related to the four principles that undergird the Knights of Columbus — charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.
The Knights of Columbus are not just another fraternal organization. Evident throughout those principles and their application is the Knights’ commitment to grow in the Catholic faith and to live it. As I witnessed at the convention, prayer and worship are integral to the faith formation of these men and their families.
The Knights of Columbus contributed more than $185 million to charity in 2018. While that is an impressive amount, what is equally impressive is that the Knights donated more than 76 million hours of service during that same year.
In addition, the charitable works done by the Knights are seen in the relief they provide to those affected by natural disasters and in their outreach to the homeless. They are also among the major supporters of the Special Olympics.
Pope Francis has praised the Knights for their ongoing support for the Catholic Church in the Middle East. Thanks to them, many in those Catholic communities have much needed support to practice their faith in the midst of the violence that engulfs them.
Parishes and communities in our diocese are often the beneficiaries of the Knights’ charity. When many parish events require financial support and volunteers, both regularly come from your local Knights of Columbus council. Their generosity with their resources and time is exemplary for all Catholics.
The Knights are also at the forefront of protecting human life. Councils throughout our diocese are not only represented at the annual March for Life in Washington, but the Knights sponsor buses to the march so that others in our diocese can participate.
Another example of the Knights’ pro-life commitment is their willingness to raise money for the purchase of ultrasound machines for crisis pregnancy centers that provide women with images of their unborn children. These ultrasound images have proven to be a factor in women choosing to give birth to children instead of aborting them.
Throughout their history, the Knights of Columbus have promoted vocations with their prayers and grants for seminarians and religious aspirants. We are blessed that councils in our diocese have made support of our seminarians a priority.
Less than three months before he died in 1978, St. Pope Paul VI, in a message to the Knights of Columbus, said, “We rely on you … to bring holiness to the world, to live the Gospel values in your families, to transmit them to your children with the infectious conviction of joyful faith. Christ needs you to bring fraternal concern to your neighborhoods, to exemplify justice in your communities, to spread peace and truth in the world.”
Forty-one years later, we express our gratitude for the Knights of Columbus being true to the pope’s words, and for continuing to put them into practice.