by Carl A. Anderson


Following the U.S. House of Representatives’ unanimous vote to pass the Iraq and Syria Emergency Relief and Accountability Act (H.R. 390), Supreme Knight Anderson participates in a press conference on Capitol Hill June 7. With him are Chaldean Catholic Bishop Bawai Soro of San Diego and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who joined the supreme knight in stressing the urgency of the situation facing Christian and other religious minorities in the Middle East. Rep. Smith and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) were the principal co-sponsors of the legislation. Photo by Lloyd Wolf

My brother Knights, eight centuries ago, a king of France led his nation by the example of his faith.

Unlike other kings people could remember, this one invited the poor to eat at his table and even washed their feet. He cared for lepers, defended the rights of his citizens and protected the Church from the abuses of civil authorities. He sought to protect Christians in the Middle East, spending years in Syria.

He led France in an exceptional era of its history. He was considered the “first among equals” of the monarchs of Europe and was called upon to settle disputes beyond his own kingdom.

Putting his faith first, this king built his royal chapel, the beautiful Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, to enshrine one of history’s most precious relics, our Lord’s Crown of Thorns. Louis IX, king of France, lived the ideal so often expressed by Pope Francis — that true power is service.

St. Louis was a leader of knights, and today, the Knights of Columbus meets in the city named for him.

For generations, this city was the gateway to America’s West. It is also a city with a rich Catholic heritage and deep roots for the Knights of Columbus.

French missionaries brought the faith here — men like Jesuit Father Sebastian Louis Meurin, who worked tirelessly ministering to the French settlers and the Native Americans.

The legacy of the North American martyrs that we celebrated last year in Toronto continued here in St. Louis. Descendants of the Iroquois who had been converted decades earlier came to St. Louis in the 1830s asking for a “Black Robe” priest to minister to them.

The priest who answered their plea was the famous Belgian Jesuit missionary Pierre-Jean de Smet. In addition to his missionary work, he mapped the Missouri River and served as an emissary of peace to Native Americans. After a life of service, he died here in St. Louis in 1873.

These missionaries loved God and they loved their neighbor. They showed the very real power of love and service. They knew that God’s love could be transformative.

And through his love and their service, they transformed the world.

The city of St. Louis has seen many changes over the years, but its tradition of faith remains.

What began here as a French outpost soon came under the authority of Spain and then the United States. But the Catholic faith had taken root. And it continued to flourish.

It flourished because of the determination and prayers of missionaries such as St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, who came to the St. Louis area in 1818 to help evangelize the children of French and Native Americans. Even when elderly and infirm, her presence was demanded.

“She must come,” wrote one missionary. “She may not be able to do much work, but she will assure success to the mission by praying for us.”1

Missouri was the birthplace of the first black priest in the United States — Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton. He was ordained in Rome in 1886. He returned home to the United States, where he led an exemplary life, ministering with love and care to his community.

Catholics not only brought their faith to the Western United States — they also brought higher education.

Our country’s first institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi was founded here in St. Louis by a bishop. And what began as a Latin academy soon became St. Louis University, the second oldest Jesuit university in the United States. This Catholic university would develop into the first graduate school, the first medical school and the first law school west of the Mississippi.

For the Knights of Columbus, St. Louis also has special meaning.

Council 453 was established here in 1899, less than two decades after the founding of our Order. It was one of our first councils west of the Mississippi.

And so, also for the Knights of Columbus, St. Louis was the gateway to the West.

This city has also been home to key leaders in Knights of Columbus history. One in particular stands out. Prior to becoming the 10th supreme knight, Luke Hart practiced law in St. Louis, served as assistant city attorney, and was elected to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

In 1953, under his leadership as supreme knight, the Knights of Columbus helped establish the Vatican Film Library at St. Louis University. The archive now includes 37,000 microfilmed manuscripts from the Vatican Library.

Today, we also recall the historic 1999 visit to St. Louis of Pope John Paul II, a visit regarded by many as the most important event in the history of St. Louis. His Mass, which was celebrated here in this very building, was attended by more than 104,000 participants. It is still considered the largest indoor gathering in the history of the United States.

Today, we recall his words during that papal Mass. After recounting the Catholic history of St. Louis — a history that began in 1698 — he said:

“These three centuries have been a history of God’s love poured out in this part of the United States, and a history of generous response to that love.”2

This year marks our 135th anniversary.

We celebrate our anniversary in a city named for a great and saintly Catholic king, a city of missionaries, a gateway city opening up the promise of a new continent. And, like those early missionaries, we come to St. Louis because, in the words of this year’s convention theme, we are “convinced of God’s love and power.”

Our theme comes from Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace message. He praised those who — rather than resort to violence — are “so convinced of God’s love and power that they are not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth.”3

My brother Knights, each day we tackle the evils of our times in ways large and small. We do so peacefully, and we do so with love and truth.

We take to heart these words attributed to St. Teresa of Ávila: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless his people.”4


Pope Francis is welcomed by Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore to the K of C-sponsored Mercy Centre at Tauron Arena Kraków July 31, 2016. With them are (left) Bishop Damian Muskus, coordinator general of WYD Kraków, and (right) Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, then-archbishop of Kraków.Photo by L’Osservatore Romano

Every day, Knights serve as our Lord’s hands. And last year, we did so as never before. The Knights of Columbus reached an all-time high in charitable giving, with $177,500,673 donated. That is $2,421,481 more than in 2015.

And over the past decade, we have donated $1,622,606,995.

The jurisdiction that led the way this year was Texas, with $9.2 million. It was followed by California, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Ontario, Missouri, New York, New Jersey and Wisconsin.

We also set a new record for the time volunteered by Knights: 75,112,694 hours.

Each Knight spent, on average, 39 hours volunteering.

The 10 jurisdiction that led the way in volunteer hours were Texas, with 5.6 million hours, followed by Luzon North, Florida, California, Illinois, Luzon South, Ontario, Visayas, Pennsylvania and Québec.

Independent Sector estimates the value of a volunteer hour at $24.14. In other words, last year, Knights gave more than $1.8 billion of their time.

Over the past decade, the value of our volunteer hours has totaled more than $15.5 billion.

The overall numbers are impressive, but these numbers reflect countless individual acts of kindness and love. It is the lives changed — more than the numbers — that show what we do as Knights.

Most of our charitable work is done in the large and longestablished jurisdictions of the United States, Canada and the Philippines. But councils around the world — including in nations where the Knights of Columbus is new — also contribute in impressive ways.

In Poland, the bishops announced a year in honor of St. Brother Albert. Early in his life, Brother Albert Chmielowski had been an acclaimed artist, but he left everything to serve the poor. On the feast day of St. Louis of France, he took religious vows and founded a religious community known as the Servants of the Poor. To support the year in his honor, our Polish State Council organized a national pilgrimage of his relics to 100 parishes throughout Poland. During the tour, Knights have collected blankets and she to be distributed to the poor by the Albertine sisters and brothers.

In Lithuania, Knights — together with the Archdiocese of Vilnius — translated the Order’s Building the Domestic Church booklets and printed 50,000 copies that were distributed to parishes throughout the country.

In Ukraine, Council 16417 in Khmelnytskyi raised awareness of veterans with disabilities and collected funds and materials to help their families.

In Korea, Knights from Council 16000 in Seoul assist migrant workers with donations of basic necessities. They also provide scholarships for the children of refugees from North Korea.

In Mexico, members of Council 13963 in Mérida, Mexico South, reached out to poor families during Holy Week and Christmas by bringing them basic necessities, spending time praying with them and giving toys to children.

In France, members of Council 16502 in Paris renovated a room at their parish to use for youth activities and raised funds for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Knights from Council 16503, also in Paris, sponsored sports activities at their parish for the children of their neighborhood, many of whom are Muslim.

Knights are also there when natural disasters strike.

In August 2016, more than 30 inches of rain fell in southern Louisiana in only a few days. The rainfall was equal to three times the water that inundated the region during Hurricane Katrina. More than 60,000 homes were flooded.

In response, the Supreme Council spearheaded a national fundraising campaign to assist the flood victims. That September, I visited the area with Supreme Secretary Michael O’Connor. We witnessed firsthand our relief efforts. The destruction was breathtaking, but so was the response of our brother Knights.

Among the first to respond were members of Council 9247 in Baton Rouge. They were joined by the Louisiana State Council and Knights throughout the region to provide meals, emergency supplies and hands-on support. They transported drinking water and even filled sandbags to stop the flooding. They also helped relocate families and served more than 4,000 meals to those affected. After the floodwaters subsided, the work of our brother Knights continued as they assisted with the rebuilding.

Then, soon after these floods, Knights came to the aid of victims of Hurricane Matthew. In addition to local relief efforts in North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, Knights from throughout the country provided aid. And Knights of Columbus Charities raised more than $100,000 for emergency relief.

Doctors and staff who serve displaced Christians and other minorities targeted for genocide by Islamic State militants are pictured at the STEPIN clinic, a medical center in Erbil, Iraq, supported by the Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund. Photo courtesy of STEP-IN

Hurricane Matthew hit the Caribbean as well, and brother Knights in Puerto Rico purchased and shipped bottled water to victims in Haiti.

Some disasters capture national or international headlines. Others attract little attention but are no less devastating. In both cases, Knights turn out to help.

After a destructive apartment fire in Littleton, Colo., Knights from Council 3340 worked evenings preparing dinner for those displaced by the fire.

When our neighbors need help, Knights respond.

One of the greatest examples is our Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids program. This initiative started in the winter of 2009, and since then, we have distributed 394,722 new winter coats. Last year, 1,736 councils provided coats for 88,062 children.

Many of our U.S. councils distribute coats for kids on the day after Thanksgiving. Pioneered by Connecticut Knights, these Black Friday coat distributions are now conducted by councils from coast to coast.

In Lincoln, Neb., Knights teamed up with first responders, University of Nebraska-Lincoln student athletes and former NFL players to provide more than 1,000 coats to kids at the local Catholic Social Services center.

Another one of our popular programs is Food for Families. Also begun in 2009, this initiative continues to grow. Last year, councils donated nearly 3 million pounds of food and almost $1.6 million to support soup kitchens and similar programs.

Council 8045 in Airdrie, Alberta, partnered with the St. Vincent de Paul Society to conduct a 40 Cans for Lent food drive. The council set a goal of 2,500 pounds of food, but after six weeks, it had collected more than 9,200 pounds for a local food bank.

For eight years, we have been distributing wheelchairs in partnership with the Global Wheelchair Mission. During this time, we have donated more than 64,000 wheelchairs. Last year, we distributed wheelchairs around the globe, including in the Holy Land, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, the Philippines, Sierra Leone and Vietnam.

In Plano, Texas, Council 11716 organized a parish fundraising drive that collected $62,451 to provide wheelchairs for the Teletón Children’s Rehabilitation Center in La Paz, Mexico.

Of course, not all disabilities are physical. And Knights have long been friends to those with intellectual disabilities.

One of our longest-standing charitable partnerships is with Special Olympics. We assisted the first Special Olympics in 1968, and we have been helping ever since.

Last year, Knights volunteered nearly 300,000 hours and raised more than $4 million for Special Olympics. And we raised an additional $4.2 million for other programs to benefit people with intellectual disabilities.

For example, Council 13217 in Roswell, Ga., sponsors an annual 5K race to raise money for Special Olympics and other organizations. Last year, the event raised $24,000.

We also continue working with Habitat for Humanity. Last year, our councils raised nearly $600,000 and gave more than 1 million volunteer hours to Habitat for Humanity projects.

Councils around the country also help save lives through blood drives. Last year, more than 400,000 blood donors participated in Knights of Columbus-sponsored blood drives. The Knights sponsored the first nationwide blood drive in 1938, and we have been champions of this lifesaving service ever since.

This year, one blood drive in particular stands out. When political violence shook our country with the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA), brother Knight Adrian Bruneau and Council 1437 in New Orleans organized a special blood drive in the congressman’s name. It was the perfect counterpoint to that act of violence, and it helped bring his community together.

Along with sponsoring blood drives, we undertook a variety of health-related projects.

One example is Council 2403 in Timmins, Ontario. They donated $60,000 to a local hospital to purchase new medical equipment.

Knights care for the health and well-being of individuals in many ways — and that includes care for our “common home.”

We have answered the call of Pope Francis in Laudato Si’. In that encyclical, the pope stressed the need for clean water. And we are continuing our partnership with the organization charity: water to build 20 new clean water wells — 10 in Ethiopia and 10 in Uganda. These wells will save lives and improve the health of entire communities and thousands of people. The wells in Ethiopia are moving forward and are already transforming lives. The ones in Uganda will be finished next year.

In the Philippines, Knights from Council 11594 in Batangas, Luzon South, planted mangrove trees to help protect fish, coral and the shoreline. And Council 8026 in Georgina, Ontario, planted 160 cedar trees on their parish grounds.

Many of our councils participate in the Adopt a Highway ® program. Members of Council 6037 in Conneaut Lake, Pa., for example, have been doing so for 25 years.

We have a special responsibility to care for the world around us.

As St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote: “All the things in the world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully.”5

Supreme Secretary Michael J. O’Connor, Supreme Knight Anderson, Louisiana State Deputy James Riente and Bishop Robert W. Muench of Baton Rouge walk down a street in Denham Springs, La., Sept. 17, 2016, amid recovery work following last year’s devastating flood in Louisiana.

One of the ways we serve him faithfully is by being good stewards of his gifts.

As preparations were underway for the Super Bowl, Anthony Muñoz, one of the greatest NFL players of all time, joined the Knights of Columbus to promote a characterbuilding sports camp in Houston for approximately 150 children.

Recently, I had the privilege of introducing a delegation of Pro Football Hall of Fame members to Pope Francis during a special audience at the Vatican. The delegation included Jerry Jones, Franco Harris, Floyd Little, Ronnie Lott, Jim Taylor, Curtis Martin and Chris Doleman.

We will continue to find ways to team up with great athletes who are also great men of character.

We do this in the spirit of Brother Knight Vince Lombardi, who once said: “After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty,” the enduring thing that is left is “the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.”6

Overall, we donated nearly $1.7 million to support youth athletics.

We helped young people in other ways, too — assisting schools, offering scholarships and providing practical training.

Members of Council 15533 in Cincinnati, Ohio, helped replace ceiling tiles in the library of St. Dominic School, saving the school approximately $4,000.

Knights from Council 8447 in Metro Manila, Luzon South, donated 160 desks — along with overhead projectors, screens and music players — to four schools.

Council 10483 in Wichita, Kan., held a clinic that showed young drivers how to deal with road emergencies. The Knights offered one-on-one coaching and gave each participant a vehicle emergency kit.

And two of our most successful youth programs continue to grow: our Free Throw Championship and Soccer Challenge.

The Order also offers a variety of educational scholarships. Local councils and assemblies gave more than $7.6 million in scholarships. The Supreme Council gave an additional 515 scholarships totaling nearly $1.3 million. Overall, our local councils and assemblies gave nearly $19.5 million to youth programs last year.

The Knights of Columbus continues to work to provide safe environments for our children through our work with Praesidium. We utilize the most up-to-date resources available, and the Supreme Council’s Office of Youth Protection works vigorously to ensure safe environments.

In July 2016, we sponsored the site for English-speaking pilgrims attending World Youth Day in Kraków, Poland. The Knights of Columbus has had a significant role in World Youth Day celebrations since 1984, including our sponsorship of catechesis sites in Sydney and Madrid. But our work in Kraków was unprecedented.

We partnered with the Sisters of Life, the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, Salt + Light Television, Holy Cross Family Ministries and the Dominican Friars. Together, we transformed one of the largest arenas in Poland into the Mercy Centre. There we welcomed more than 100,000 pilgrims over five days.

It was the most popular catechesis site in any language. The Mercy Centre held the largest World Youth Day gatherings outside of the papal events. And on the final day, we hosted the meeting of Pope Francis with 12,000 WYD volunteers.

In addition to the national gatherings from Australia, Canada and the United States, the Mercy Centre offered daily Mass and catechesis and featured speakers, performances and exhibits.

College Knights from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Poland volunteered to help make the Mercy Centre a great success.

In the past three years, we have donated more than $13 million for Christian refugee relief. Most of the money has provided Christians in Iraq with food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care. We have also helped Christian communities in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. And we have helped other religious minority groups targeted by ISIS, including the Yazidis.

Along with our work in the Middle East, we continue to reach out in Africa. In addition to building wells through our support of charity: water, our work with the Apostles of Jesus continues to provide shelter, education and care for AIDS orphans in Uganda and Kenya, many of whom are HIV-positive.

For 135 years, Knights have gone to the peripheries with works of charity. Father McGivney’s vision of helping widows and orphans in 19th-century New England has become a 21st-century global initiative.


Korean members of the Fourth Degree are pictured with Supreme Knight Anderson; Supreme Master Dennis Stoddard (far left); and Marine Col. Charles Gallina, assistant for Military and Veterans Affairs (far right), following a Fourth Degree exemplification that took place in the base chapel of U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan April 9.

For 45 years, membership in the Knights of Columbus has grown. We now stand at an all-time high of 1,941,728 members. This is an increase of 23,606 over last year.

Along with these new members, we added 279 new councils for a new high of 15,589 councils. This is the 80th consecutive year of council growth.

As the Church around the world observed Holy Week, Supreme Master Dennis Stoddard and I had the opportunity to visit South Korea. We met with brother Knights and their families, as well as Church, military and civic leaders.

We also joined Auxiliary Bishop Richard Spencer of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, during his pastoral visit there. We met with Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soojung, archbishop of Seoul, and Bishop Francis Xavier Yu Soo-il, head of the Military Ordinariate of South Korea and a Fourth Degree Knight.

I can report to you the great enthusiasm and determination of our brother Knights in Korea to extend our principles of charity, unity, fraternity and our good works in a region of the world so in need of God’s love and power.

No other Catholic organization offers men what we do.

We help a man to protect his family with our exclusive, toprated insurance. We help a man to bolster his faith and strengthen his family through our Domestic Church program.

And we offer him the opportunity to live out his faith through charity as part of a brotherhood of Catholic men.

We have done this for 135 years, and today we continue to do so in even greater ways. As we look at the past year, we can see that Christ has done great things with our hands. But he could do even more if more Catholic men would join our ranks.

If every Knight recruited one new member each year, imagine the good we could do.

This is especially true of our brother Knights on college campuses.

For example, college Knights from both North Dakota State University Council 9126 and the University of North Dakota Council 10829 participated in an annual 32-mile bike race to raise funds for their Newman Centers. They raised more than $120,000.

We must also make sure that each council is providing the support that young men — especially young husbands and fathers — need. We should plan activities that encourage them to participate and organize events that include their families.

Many councils excel in membership recruitment, insurance promotion, and charitable service. In this way, they attain Star Council status. The total number of Star Councils for this year is 2,071.

So I ask you to continue to promote Star Councils. And I ask you to build a strong foundation for your jurisdiction’s success by recruiting more new members and establishing more new councils.

Strive to make every council a community of brothers where the faith of a new member is supported and where the principles of charity, unity, and fraternity radiate out into the parish and community.


In founding the Knights of Columbus, Father McGivney sought to respond to the difficulties faced by Catholic families in 19th-century America. As a priest, he confronted the problems affecting the families of his parish.

Father McGivney strengthened his parishioners’ faith and their lives as Catholics. And considering that his two brothers followed him into the priesthood, we can understand that the McGivney family home was a true domestic church.

His family was a living example of what the Second Vatican Council would later teach — that each person is called to holiness.

The Knights of Columbus supports families in their vocation to holiness through our Building the Domestic Church While Strengthening Our Parish initiative. This initiative helps our families grow in their faith by strengthening the connection between family life and parish life.

Councils help strengthen our parishes in a variety of ways, including Family Consecration to the Holy Family, Family Week Celebrations and our Affirmation of Wedding Vows program.

Throughout our jurisdictions, councils have sponsored our Holy Family Prayer Program. During the past two fraternal years, we have held 13,759 prayer services with more than 2.36 million participants.

We also introduced a program of men’s spirituality based upon Bishop Thomas Olmsted’s apostolic exhortation Into the Breach.


Army 1st Lt. William Fitzsimmons, a medical doctor and brother Knight from Kansas City (Mo.) Council 527, was the first American to fall in World War I. Knights of Columbus Multimedia Archives

Many of our founding members in the 1880s were Civil War veterans. They were men who cherished the values of brotherhood — values that had helped them survive the darkest days of that terrible conflict.

They knew that if the nation, once divided, was to emerge stronger, it would have to discover a new sense of brotherhood that could cross the line of blue and gray.

Father McGivney believed that Catholics could make a unique contribution. He proposed a new form of Catholic brotherhood based upon charity, unity and fraternity. And within a short time of the Order’s founding — the year 1900, to be exact — it would seem only natural that patriotism should be added to that list.

Almost two decades later, patriotism was front and center in American life as the United States entered the First World War.

Indeed, the Knights of Columbus was one of the most important groups supporting the effort.

We took a leadership role during World War I, attending to both the spiritual and the physical needs of our troops.

The Knights of Columbus Committee on War Activities raised more than $14 million, which provided support to servicemen in America and abroad through Knights of Columbus centers known as “KC Army Huts.” By the end of the war, nearly 2 million men would serve in the American Expeditionary Forces. The first American to fall in battle was a brother Knight from Missouri: Army 1st Lt. William Fitzsimmons, a medical doctor from Council 527 in Kansas City.

We provided Catholic chaplains, and more than 2,000 Knights of Columbus, nicknamed “Caseys,” volunteered to manage our army huts.

One of those Caseys — who ran one of our largest centers in France — was Thomas Dwyer, a lawyer from here in St. Louis.

Two of our most famous volunteers were Jack Hendricks, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Chicago Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers. Evers made national headlines when, just before leaving for France, he announced that he’d soon be playing baseball in Berlin.

We had only one motto: “Everybody Welcome, Everything Free.” And everybody meant everybody.

A soldier’s uniform was the only ticket he needed to enter any of our centers. During a time when the U.S. military was still racially segregated and religious prejudice was not unusual, the Knights of Columbus did not “draw the color line,” nor did we apply a religious test of any kind.7

Here is how a report at the time described our work: “The Knights have attended the soldiers in their time of trouble; they have helped them to make good use of their moments of leisure.

“They have knelt by their side on the battlefield, and, when no priest was to be had, they have taken the dying lad’s last message, encouraged him in making his act of contrition, and, when all was over, they have closed his eyes. In times of military stress they have taken food to soldiers in areas which the commissary had been unable to reach.”8

The effect of our work was profound. Many men from non-Catholic areas first experienced Catholicism through the charity they received at our centers.

The Knights of Columbus Museum is now commemorating the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into the war with its exhibit “World War I: Beyond the Front Lines,” which runs through the end of next year.

Our proud tradition of serving the military continues today.

Through our collaboration with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, we have provided 600,000 copies of our Armed with the Faith military prayer book. We have also provided 65,000 copies of a similar bilingual prayer book for Canadian forces.

A group of American pilgrims, including wounded and nonwounded military personnel, pose during this year’s Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage. Sponsored by the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and the Knights of Columbus, the pilgrimage is a time for both spiritual and physical healing. photo by Tamino Petelinsek

We continue to support the Co-Sponsored Seminarian Program of the Archdiocese for the Military Services. We started with a five-year pledge of $1 million. Not only did we meet that goal in 2015, but we contributed $200,000 last year and this year as well. Thanks to the generosity of Fourth Degree Knights, I am pleased to announce that we will make a further donation of $200,000 next year — bringing our support of Catholic chaplains to $1.6 million.

Our brother Knights in the armed forces are often charitable leaders through the work of our 66 active military councils. Members of our Afghanistan round table, sponsored by Council 11302 in Washington, D.C., collected clothes, toys, food and school supplies for the Missionaries of Charity to distribute to poor families in Afghanistan.

Following Hurricane Matthew, brother Knights from military Council 15250 at Fort Bragg, N.C., visited the homes of veterans with disabilities to clean up, remove debris and repair damages.

As our military councils reach out to help those in need, Knights serve veterans in a variety of ways.

Brother Knights are regular volunteers at VA facilities. In the past fraternal year, more than 1,130 Knights have regularly volunteered at 130 VA facilities, putting in 101,420 hours of service. Today, we are one of the largest participants in the VA Voluntary Services Program.

Council 5780 in Madison, Conn., held a drive to collect business attire for returning veterans who need to attend job interviews and seminars. The event was such a success that the Knights delivered a truckload of business suits and other clothes to the Save-A-Suit foundation.

Members of Council 14555 in Ferdinand, Ind., worked with the VFW to provide an Iraq War veteran with disabilities a cement sidewalk and gravel drive to create wheelchair access for his home.

Last year, I reported on U.S. Army Capt. Luis Avila. When Capt. Avila encountered an IED while serving in Afghanistan, his life changed forever. Although he survived, his injuries made even the simplest tasks nearly impossible.

Through our partnership with the Gary Sinise Foundation, we helped Capt. Avila overcome those obstacles by building him and his family a new custom smart home. The smart home was dedicated this past Veterans Day in Chevy Chase, Md.

This was the second smart home we helped build in partnership with the Gary Sinise Foundation. And now we are working on a third home — this time for U.S. Army Capt. Nicholas Vogt. It will be completed later this fraternal year.

Capt. Vogt lost both legs following an IED explosion in Afghanistan. Because of his catastrophic injuries, Capt. Vogt, then a first lieutenant, was considered clinically dead. He required open-heart massage and more than 500 units of blood — much of which was donated by more than 300 of his fellow troops. But today, Capt. Vogt is married and the proud father of a newborn son.

The Knights of Columbus is proud to support this American hero.

This year, we again joined the military archdiocese in sponsoring the annual Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage. There were 192 participants — including wounded soldiers, caregivers, military personnel and chaplains — who traveled with us to France.

Many of our programs that serve our active military and our veterans are led by our Fourth Degree Knights. But, along with this work, we also conduct various activities that promote love of country.

For example, Assembly 2594 in Monument, Colo., organized a speech contest at a local Catholic school on the theme “What the Flag Means to Me.” Participants delivered their remarks in front of the assembled student body, and the winners were presented with a monetary prize.

In the past fraternal year, 17,689 Knights advanced to the Fourth Degree, bringing the total of Sir Knights to 358,907. During that time, 81 new assemblies were established, making their total 3,412.

Throughout the history of the Fourth Degree, its official regalia has changed with the times. In 1940, the white tie, tails and top hat changed to the tuxedo, chapeau and cape that we know so well. And in 1981, different color capes and chapeaus were officially recognized.

This fraternal year, we make another historic change. The Board of Directors has decided that the time is right for a modernization of the Fourth Degree uniform.

This morning, at the opening Mass, our vice supreme masters processed wearing the new uniform of the Fourth Degree. Beginning today, the uniform of the Fourth Degree is a blue blazer with the Fourth Degree emblem, dark gray slacks, a blue Fourth Degree tie, a white shirt and a black beret with the Fourth Degree emblem.

On a limited basis, assemblies may choose to continue using the traditional cape and chapeau for color corps at public events and for honor guards in liturgical processions. However, the preferred dress for the Fourth Degree — including color corps and honor guards — is now the new uniform of jacket, tie and beret.


Father Michael J. McGivney was a man who knew adversity.

At St. Mary’s Parish, he saw and shared in the suffering of families that had lost their father and breadwinner. Day in and day out, Father McGivney was a true parish priest to his people, accompanying them during times of hardship and tragedy.

Today, we remain committed to his vision of protecting the financial future of our Catholic families.

The protection of our brother Knights’ families is the mission of our insurance program and our agency force.

Last year, we achieved our 16th consecutive year of growth in insurance sales with a new record: $8.54 billion in new life insurance.

The Knights of Columbus now has more than $105 billion of life insurance in force — a $50 billion increase in the last decade and a 4.4 percent increase over last year.

We issued 71,186 life certificates, surpassing the closest fraternal benefit society by 19,500 certificates. We now have 1,779,248 certificates in force.

Our five-year sales growth of 1.4 percent was seven times greater than the industry average. The Knights of Columbus lapse rate is only 3.5 percent — one of the lowest in the industry. Simply put, 96.5 percent of our insurance members keep their policies. That is the best measure of customer satisfaction. It is the result of quality products, professional agents and being an industry leader in ethical business practices.

Last year, our insurance premiums exceeded $1.2 billion. Our annuity deposits were more than $658 million – an increase of 23 percent. And we paid nearly $253 million in dividends.

But the best indicator of our financial strength and stability is our surplus. And our $1.95 billion surplus provides rock solid protection for our policyholders.

We continue to earn A.M. Best’s highest rating of A++ (Superior).

We are also among the small group of companies to have received the highest rating given to life insurers in America by Standard and Poor’s.

These ratings are achieved by a few select companies that show exceptional performance.

On this year’s list of Fortune 1000 companies, we were number 880.

These impressive sales numbers — and the overall success of our insurance program — is due in large measure to the commitment of our 1,524 agents.

Our agents are all brother Knights who are dedicated to the principles of the Order and to serving our families.


When a brother Knight buys a Knights of Columbus insurance policy or annuity, that money goes to work for his family — and for the Order.

Last year, on average, we invested more than $12 million each day. Our total investments increased by $1.4 billion, and we earned $956 million of investment income.

Our net investment yield for the year was 4.26 percent. Our total assets increased to $23.6 billion — an increase of $1.4 billion.

Our surplus increased by $108 million to a total of $1.95 billion. And our income after realized capital gains totaled $89 million.

In the low interest-rate environment of the past decade, these achievements stand as a testament to the excellence of our investment department.

They also stand as a testament to something else: We invest only in ways that are consistent with our Catholic principles.

We believe that the guiding philosophy and ethical standards of the companies we invest in matter.

For example, we refuse to invest in companies involved in abortion, contraception, embryonic stem-cell research or pornography.

We are proud to report to you that the Knights of Columbus way of doing business is not only ethical but also successful.

We do not sacrifice our ethics in order to chase profits.

On the contrary, we believe a values-based, ethical strategy in both marketing and investments is the best way to achieve sustainability and to remain competitive in a freemarket economy.

Now we have decided to make our investment model available to other Catholic institutions.

In 2015, we built on our investment team’s long-term success and founded Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors. This service offers faith-based investment solutions designed to meet the investment needs of Catholic institutions. We do this with portfolios managed by the same staff that has managed the Order’s assets so well for so many years.

In this way, we can help other Catholic organizations put their money to work in ways consistent with Catholic principles.

In two years, Asset Advisors has already attracted 137 clients in the United States, including 14 dioceses.

Our investment department also helps parishes and dioceses through our ChurchLoan program, which enables parishes and schools to finance construction programs at competitive interest rates.

At the close of 2016, our portfolio of ChurchLoan mortgages totaled nearly $100 million. That money is helping to build up our Church by building churches from coast to coast.

Again, for the fourth year, we were named a World’s Most Ethical Company® by the Ethisphere® Institute. We were one of only three life insurers to earn this designation, which was awarded to just 124 companies around the world that strongly promote business ethics.

Pope Francis has urged Catholics to take up what he calls “an ethics of fraternity” as a means to help transform our societies.9 This was also the vision of Father McGivney.

We should remember that in Father McGivney’s day there were already insurance companies in Connecticut. He could have easily referred his parishioners to these companies, but instead, he wanted something different, something new, something distinctly Catholic. He wanted a new Catholic fraternity that would transform the practical men of his day into a committed brotherhood of men capable of helping each other.

That is what he founded, and that is what we continue today.

At the Knights of Columbus, we have developed a strong, successful business model based upon “an ethics of fraternity.” It is what we mean when we say “insurance by brother Knights for brother Knights.”


Pope Francis greets Supreme Knight Anderson during a papal audience for the International Catholic Legislators Network, Aug. 28, 2016. During the audience, Pope Francis asked Catholic legislators to protect human life and to stand against a “throwaway” culture. Photo by L’Osservatore Romano

The Knights of Columbus has long been called the strong right arm of the Catholic Church. This has been true at every level — from the smallest parish to the Vatican.

Our mission is simple: Whether it is a pastor, a bishop or the pope who needs our help, the Knights of Columbus responds, and we have done so for 135 years.

We do this because we are first and foremost men who love our Church.

Sometimes we also have the opportunity to be part of an extraordinary celebration of our faith.

Last month, I had the opportunity to give a keynote address at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders on “The Joy of the Gospel in America.” The convocation was inspired by Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops convened this meeting of more than 3,000 leaders from Catholic organizations and dioceses.

There were many impressive aspects of the convocation. But to me, one of the most important was the evidence that the Knights of Columbus in every diocese throughout the country is already bringing the “joy of the Gospel” to millions of our fellow Catholics and those outside our Church through our works of charity.

Today, we have a leadership role in the great mission of our Church to build communities where people truly care for one another and where the light of the Gospel shines more brightly in our families and in our parishes.

Joining me at the convocation were Deputy Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, who participated in several workshops, and Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori, who was the main celebrant and homilist for the Fortnight for Freedom Mass.

Our Florida brother Knights were among the hundreds of volunteers assisting with the event, and the Knights of Columbus was a premier financial sponsor of the convocation.

Last year, we were honored to work with Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, postulator for the cause of Mother Teresa’s canonization.

No one was surprised that Pope Francis would declare Mother Teresa a saint. She led a life that radiantly expressed God’s love to the poorest of the poor.

Since the 1970s, we have been privileged to work closely with Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity. We always felt a special affinity with her, since our first principle is charity.

We commissioned the portrait of Mother Teresa displayed on the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica during her canonization as a gift for the Missionaries of Charity. It was painted by renowned American artist Chas Fagan.

Our gift also included the printing of more than 1 million prayer cards bearing this new image. These were distributed at Mother Teresa’s canonization and carried by her sisters to communities around the world.

In February, I had the privilege to meet privately with Pope Francis to discuss the activities and priorities of the Knights of Columbus. He thanked the Order for our works — especially those on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

At that time, I presented the Holy Father with the earnings from our Vicarius Christi Fund in the amount of $1.6 million.

Since that fund began in 1981, it has allowed us to give more than $57.6 million to the pope for his personal charities. We also assisted the Vatican during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

As part of our continuing efforts to foster greater cooperation between Catholics in North and South America, we provided funding for a conference on the Jubilee of Mercy in Bogotá, Colombia. Co-sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the Latin American Episcopal Conference and the Archdiocese of Bogotá, the event was attended by bishops from the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Vatican.

Our local councils also participated in the Jubilee Year of Mercy in many different ways.

For example, Council 5080 in Toronto led a Jubilee Year of Mercy pilgrimage. Its 150 pilgrims traveled to St. Paul’s Basilica to enter through the Holy Door and attend Mass. Then they traveled to St. Patrick’s Church to pass through its Holy Door and pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

In honor of the Holy Year, we also sponsored the restoration of a priceless masterpiece of sacred art: a 700-year-old crucifix in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Another way we participated in the Jubilee Year was through the production of the documentary film The Face of Mercy. Narrated by Jim Caviezel, the film uses powerful testimonials to highlight the impact of God’s mercy on people’s lives. It aired on more than 130 ABC affiliates throughout the United States.

In December, the film received two Emmy® awards.

The film also made its premiere on Polish national television and was broadcast on Ukrainian national television.

Liberating a Continent is now available on Netflix.

In addition to this film, we have continued to evangelize through the printed word. Through our Catholic Information Service — which began here in St. Louis nearly seven decades ago as the Catholic Advertising Program — we provide catechetical materials in English, French and Spanish. These materials are available in print, and they are also available worldwide online.

We continue to share the faith with thousands of Catholic pilgrims through our work at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine. Last year, the shrine opened a historic exhibit titled “God’s Servant First: The Life and Legacy of Thomas More.” We did this in partnership with the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst in England.

The exhibit included artifacts and relics of St. Thomas More never before displayed in the United States. When declaring Thomas More the patron saint of statesmen and politicians, Pope John Paul II said that the message of his life and martyrdom “speaks to people everywhere of the inalienable dignity of the human conscience.”10 And so did our exhibit.

For the opening ceremony of the exhibit, we were honored to have with us one of the great champions of international human rights, a member of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords, Lord David Alton of Liverpool.

Pope John Paul II greets then-Supreme Chaplain Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn during the papal Mass celebrated at the Aqueduct in Queens in 1995. The Knights of Columbus co-sponsored the papal Mass with the Diocese of Brooklyn. Photo by L’Osservatore Romano

And on St. John Paul II’s feast day, we unveiled an 11- foot bronze statue of John Paul II to commemorate his 1979 Mass on the Mall in Washington, D.C. The unveiling took place during a daylong youth and family festival, which brought together alumni from past World Youth Days.

While we celebrate recent saints like Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, we continue to pray for the beatification of our founder, the Venerable Father Michael McGivney.

His life, virtue and vision inspired the founding of our great Order, and his cause remains active at the Vatican.

We should all continue praying for Father McGivney’s intercession, and I would ask that any possible miracles or favors received through his intercession be reported to the Father McGivney Guild.

We look forward this Sept. 23 to the beatification of Father Stanley Rother, martyr and missionary priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. We are proud to have contributed financially to the preparations that are underway for his beatification ceremony.

We have long been strong supporters of priestly and religious vocations.

Our Refund Support Vocations Program remains our flagship initiative that supports vocations. Last year, 3,213 local units distributed nearly $4 million to 6,614 people pursuing religious vocations.

Since this program began, we have supported more than 100,000 individuals.

Many councils support vocations in other ways as well.

Council 4999 in North Palm Beach, Fla., thanked 35 priests, sisters, deacons and members of religious orders at their 29th annual Religious Appreciation Dinner. At the event, the council also donated $5,000 to the local Office of Vocations.

Texas Council 14355 in Port Arthur donated $14,000 to seven seminarians at St. Joseph’s Abbey and Seminary College in Louisiana following the recent flooding there.

Our support for our parishes and priests remains strong at the state and local level. It included more than $50 million in donations to the Church last year, of which more than $19 million went to parishes, $7.7 million to Catholic schools, $7 million to seminarians and $1.9 million to seminaries and houses of formation.

Lithuanian Knights joined the thousands who gathered in the country’s capital, Vilnius, for the beatification of Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis on June 25. The archbishop was martyred by the Soviet regime after spending many years in prison and labor camps. Lithuanian Knights helped with logistics for the event and provided volunteers. In addition, the Supreme Council donated $50,000 to help support the ceremony.

Council 6815 in Minnedosa, Manitoba, assisted the community of St. Mary’s Polish Church, located nearly 2,500 miles away in Nova Scotia. After St. Mary’s burned down, parishioners seeking to restore the church learned that two historic altars were in storage in Manitoba. Council 6815 raised funds to transport the altars and other religious items across country as well as to help with the restoration. The grand knight and his wife drove the altars to Nova Scotia in a cargo trailer. St. Mary’s is now fully rebuilt with the historic altars.

Council 8378 in St. Catharines, Ontario, spent six weeks and more than 600 volunteer hours renovating St. Mary of the Assumption Church. Because of the council’s efforts, the parish saved more than $40,000.

We have also continued our strong financial support for EWTN and its mission to provide news coverage from a Catholic perspective through EWTN News Nightly. In addition, we were happy to see the dedication of Salt + Light Television’s new headquarters in Toronto and the Father Michael McGivney Studio, made possible through our financial support.

This year, the Knights of Columbus was deeply saddened by the death of a cherished friend. Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, former head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, passed away in May at the age of 84. Cardinal Husar was instrumental in bringing the Knights of Columbus to Ukraine.

In 2005, at our Supreme Convention in Chicago, Cardinal Husar appealed for what he called a “transplanting” of our Order to Ukraine.11

Because of his vision and that of his successor, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, as well as the strong support of Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv, the Knights of Columbus now helps to meet the pastoral needs of the Church in Ukraine.

On this occasion, I am pleased to report on the Second All-Ukrainian Congress of the Knights of Columbus.

At that event, Archbishop Shevchuk said this:

“We know that Ukrainian knighthood is one of the highest ways to be a Christian, to testify to the courage, valor and perfection of the Christian life in Ukrainian culture. Today we warmly congratulate and pray for the knights who bear the name of the Knights of Columbus.”12

I would ask His Excellency Archbishop Mokrzycki — who is with us today — to take back to the brother Knights in Ukraine our solidarity and our gratitude as they continue their work of charity during this time of trial for their country. And we join them in praying for a peace in the region that respects the territorial sovereignty of their nation.

The Order also remembers in a special way the death of Bishop Thomas V. Daily, the bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Brooklyn and our beloved supreme chaplain from 1987 to 2005. He passed away May 15 at the age of 89.

Bishop Daily grew up in a Knights of Columbus family. His father was a state deputy of Maine, and later he represented the Supreme Council in New England and Eastern Canada.

Bishop Daily once wrote, “Just as I was brought up in the Catholic faith, I was brought up in the Knights of Columbus. Both ‘educations’ have helped me as a priest and bishop, and also as a Catholic man.”13

No one could ask for a more dedicated Knight of Columbus, Catholic man or holy priest than Thomas Daily. He brought the light of the Gospel to millions as our supreme chaplain. May perpetual light shine upon him now!


Vice President Mike Pence meets with Supreme Knight Anderson at the White House to discuss the Knights of Columbus’ Christian refugee relief, charitable activities and work on behalf of the culture of life. Photo courtesy of the White House

Since 1882, Knights have had to answer the following question: Can a good Catholic also be a good citizen?

Now, as then, our answer is a resounding yes!

In fact, far from hindering citizenship, our Catholic faith enriches it. Recall the words of President John Adams in 1798.

He said this: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”14

As Knights of Columbus, we would say this to President Adams: We counter avarice with charity, ambition with unity, revenge with fraternity, and errant gallantry with authentic patriotism.

For us, faithful citizens are those who are “so convinced of God’s love and power that [they are] not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth” in the public square.

For 135 years, we have used these weapons to stand against practices and policies that our Church and the natural law teach are intrinsically evil. And to stand against what Pope Francis has called a “polite persecution” — that is, the attempt to silence faithful Catholics on issues of national importance.15

In fact, Pope Francis has encouraged us to continue our public witness.

In his first message to a supreme convention, Pope Francis asked “each Knight, and every council, to bear witness to the authentic nature of marriage and the family; the sanctity and inviolable dignity of human life; and the beauty and truth of human sexuality.”16

The next year, the pope’s message stated that he “is grateful for the active role played by the Knights to resist efforts to restrict religion to the purely personal sphere, to defend its proper place in the public square and to encourage the lay faithful in their mission to shape a society that reflects the truth of Christ and the values of his Kingdom.”17

This is the reason in the 1920s we stood against the persecution of Catholics in Mexico.18 This is the reason in the 1930s we spoke out for the Jews of Germany.19This is the reason during the Cold War we worked for religious freedom behind the iron curtain.20 And this is the reason why we continue to speak out today on behalf of Christians being persecuted in the Middle East.

We have stood against violations of our own religious freedom for nearly a century. In the 1920s, we resisted attacks by the Ku Klux Klan to silence Catholic education. At that time, we funded the lawsuit brought by the Society of Sisters after Klan-induced legislation outlawed Catholic schools in Oregon. The case was successful before the U.S. Supreme Court, and it helped ensure constitutional protection for Catholic education.

More recently, our financial support enabled the legal defense of the Little Sisters of the Poor as they took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. They sought an exemption from federal regulations that would have forced them to provide contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drug coverage. We also filed an amicus curiae brief on their behalf. With our support, the Little Sisters were successful.

Today, they still provide their incredible service to the sick and dying, and they do so without being forced by the government to compromise their beliefs.

Last May, I was privileged to join the Little Sisters of the Poor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and other religious leaders in a White House Rose Garden ceremony as the president signed an executive order on religious freedom during the National Day of Prayer.

Congress established the National Day of Prayer, and President Harry Truman first proclaimed it in 1952.

Years ago, Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton reminded us that “the family that prays together, stays together.”21

I think the same is true of nations.

Six decades ago, the Knights of Columbus led the effort to add the words “under God” to America’s Pledge of Allegiance. Those words were, of course, taken from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It was Lincoln who, in 1863, first proclaimed a day of prayer for the nation.

While a national day of prayer has become an American tradition, during the past year, the Knights of Columbus has often turned to days of prayer for our nation.

In the face of violence in American cities last year, we encouraged people to pray a Novena for National Healing.

As the American presidential election neared, we urged Catholics to pray a novena for the welfare of our country. Following the election, we began a Novena for National Unity as we approached Inauguration Day.

Following the election, we began a Novena for National Unity as we approached Inauguration Day.

In March, we asked our fellow Catholics to join us in praying for those around the world who suffer for their faith.

Christians who endure suffering and death for their faith in places like Iraq, Syria and Egypt show us how to confront terrible evil with the weapons of love and truth. They are a brilliant witness to God’s love and power.

And, in instance after instance, we see their neighbors praise them for their strength and forgiveness.

Our support for these persecuted Christians has taken two forms.

First, since 2014, with your help and that of the public, we’ve provided more than $13 million for Christian refugees.

Second, we advocate on their behalf in the hope that someday they may live their faith in peace and live in their own communities not as second-class citizens but as free and equal citizens.

In September 2016, in a hearing on Capitol Hill, I called on the U.S. government to deliver aid directly to Christian and other minority communities who are victims of genocide in Iraq and Syria.

In the early 20th century, the U.S. government worked with Church groups and individuals — including the Knights of Columbus — to provide funding and deliver aid directly to communities victimized by the genocide against Christians at that time.

And the U.S. government should do so again.

The Columbus Memorial, proposed by the Knights of Columbus to the U.S. Congress and dedicated in 1912, stands outside Union Station in Washington, D.C. Potomac Council 433 drafted the bill, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907. Supreme Knight Edward L. Hearn served on the Columbus Memorial Commission, which oversaw the memorial’s placement, design and construction. More than 20,000 Knights marched in the parade that concluded with the dedication of the memorial, which commemorates the great explorer and discoverer of America who brought the Catholic faith to the New World.

Such aid can be an investment in a more peaceful future in the region, but this will happen only if the system of religious apartheid there ends. Christians and other religious minorities must have equal rights.

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) took these words to heart. With Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), he authored H.R. 390, which mandates that the U.S. government provide aid in such a way that it reaches Christians and other minority groups targeted for genocide.

In June, the House of Representatives unanimously passed this bill.

Now that the House has acted, we urge the Senate to pass H.R. 390 as quickly as possible.

The administration should take steps now to ensure that aid reaches these communities before it is too late.

The survival of Christianity in the Middle East hangs in the balance. As part of our ongoing effort to aid persecuted Christians, especially in the Middle East, I am pleased to announce that the Knights of Columbus and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will sponsor a Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians on Nov. 26, followed by a Week of Awareness and Education. I ask every council to make sure that this effort receives the highest priority within your council and your parish.

In October 2017, I had the honor to accept the Path to Peace Award from the Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations. The award was given in recognition of our work for Christians and other persecuted minorities in the Middle East — and for our humanitarian work throughout the world.

Let me repeat here what I said at that time: These Christian communities are a priceless treasure for our Church and for humanity. They have every right to live, and we are determined that they should survive.

Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil, Iraq, recently told us: “Without the help of the Knights of Columbus, the Christians of Iraq would have disappeared. Thank you for standing with us. And as much as you have done for our people, I must tell you that the next two months are critical. We need your support now as never before. Without substantial assistance, the few remaining Christians in Iraq may well disappear forever.”

My brother Knights, our work has truly changed history. And while we raise awareness, we must also continue our financial support for these people who literally have no one else. So, I ask each of you to join us in supporting the survival of these innocent people, and to ensure that our Christian faith — present in this region since the time of the Apostles — does not disappear.

I am pleased to announce today that the Knights of Columbus is taking a concrete step to save Christianity in Iraq. This weekend, your board of directors has authorized a new effort to raise $2 million to save a Christian town on the Nineveh Plain. In doing so, we are matching the action of the government of Hungary, which recently donated $2 million to save another Christian town.

The town the Knights of Columbus is saving is Karamles. It is a town in Iraq that until recently was controlled by ISIS.

The terrorists desecrated churches and graves and looted and destroyed homes. Now we will ensure that hundreds of Christian families driven from their homes will return. We will give them and many others hope for the future.

For $2,000, a council, a parish or an individual can move a family back home. The work will begin this week.

During the darkest days of World War II, almost a year before America entered the war, Winston Churchill gave one of his most important speeches. In it, he appealed to the United States for help.

He said, “Put your confidence in us. … We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools and we will finish the job.”22

My brother Knights, in the days ahead, let us keep in mind these words of Sir Winston. Let us say to our brothers and sisters in the faith: “Put your confidence in us. We shall not fail or falter, we shall not weaken or tire. We will give you the tools and together we will finish the job.”

Father McGivney chose Christopher Columbus as our namesake. He did so because Columbus was one of the few Catholics considered a hero of American history in 19thcentury America.

Ten years after the founding of the Knights of Columbus, the 1892 Columbian Exposition in Chicago would attest to this fact. In 1907, Colorado became the first state to celebrate Columbus Day, and by 1937, Columbus Day had become a national holiday in the United States.

Father McGivney’s idea was that Columbus would show that an American could be both a good citizen and a good Catholic.

But the fact that Columbus was a Catholic didn’t sit well with some extremists. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan tried to stop Columbus Day celebrations because Columbus was a Catholic.

The Knights of Columbus successfully resisted these efforts. But today, Columbus is under attack again.

According to experts like Carol Delaney, a former professor at Stanford and Brown universities, Columbus is often blamed for things he did not do and for the actions of others who came after him.

These problematic narratives have been promoted by extremely partisan historians, whose allies in many cases are again dusting off the mean-spirited, anti-Catholic tactics of a century ago.

Their goal is not only to rewrite history and disparage Columbus, but also to suppress his holiday across the country.

But we are again taking action.

In the past year, we have successfully defended Columbus Day in Illinois, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, Montana and Baltimore.

Speaking in Genoa this spring, Pope Francis said this about Columbus: “To be Christians who make a difference, young people must have the same qualities as Christopher Columbus.”

In the days ahead, we will continue to defend the truth about Columbus and Columbus Day.


Supreme officers and their wives join Jeanne Mancini (center) in leading the 2017 March for Life in Washington, D.C.: (left to right) Supreme Advocate John Marrella; Amey Marrella; Deputy Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, chairman of the board of the March for Life; Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life; Supreme Knight Anderson; Supreme Secretary Michael O’Connor; Patricia O’Connor; and Dorian Anderson.Photo by Matthew Barrick

We will continue our efforts to build a true culture of life and a civilization of love. And we will work to end the legal regime that has resulted in more than 60 million abortions.

In this effort, we will take the words of Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium as our guide. He wrote this: “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological.”23

And then, Pope Francis concluded, “Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right.”

My brother Knights, to prioritize the rights of the unborn child is not partisan; it is not political. To the contrary, to insist that Catholics put aside their commitment to the child in the womb in order to vote for a political party that promotes abortion — that is the very height of partisanship.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Knights of Columbus is pro-life.

To anyone who asks why this issue is our priority, we would quote Pope Francis, as I did a moment ago: “This defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right.”

And the pope said something else as well. Writing on the environment in Laudato Si’, he noted that care for the world around us is nearly impossible without care and protection for the unborn. He asked, “How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo?”24

There is another reason why we prioritize combating this evil. It is this: If we are serious about building a culture of life, then we must be serious about stopping America’s number one cause of death. The number one cause of death in this country is not an illness and it is completely preventable. It is abortion.

Of course, we face many problems in our country, and there are many worthy issues requiring action. But how can we, in good conscience, look the other way as a million lives a year are lost to abortion?

Mother Teresa, whom I had the privilege of knowing, put it this way. Calling abortion “one of the greatest poverties,” she said, “A nation, people, family that allows that, that accepts that, they are the poorest of the poor.”25

For nearly a decade, the Knights of Columbus has partnered with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, one of the country’s most respected polling firms, to release an annual report of American attitudes on abortion.

What we have found is that Americans overwhelmingly support substantial restrictions. Although we are told that unrestricted abortion must be the law of the land, majorities of both political parties disagree.26

It is time for a new national conversation on abortion that begins with this national consensus in favor of restricting abortion — a consensus that American women and men have already reached.

Pro-life is winning in America. It will continue to win as long as we remain determined, steadfast and compassionate in our efforts to build a culture of life.

We will continue to advocate for pro-life laws and to support pro-life judicial nominations.

And through our Ultrasound Initiative, we will also help mothers choose life.

Since 2009, state and local councils have partnered with the Supreme Council to fund ultrasound machines for prolife pregnancy care centers.

We know from experience that a woman who sees an ultrasound image of her child is highly likely to keep her baby.

Last March, I attended the blessing of a mobile ultrasound unit that Texas Knights had donated to A Woman’s Haven, a pro-life pregnancy center in San Antonio.

During the dedication, a nurse practitioner at the center told me that the first time the machine was used, it saved a life. The first pregnant woman to use the new machine had initially said her mind was already made up — she was going to have the abortion. But then, as she watched the ultrasound, her baby turned and seemed to wave to her. She looked up at the nurse and declared, “I’m going to keep my baby.”

My brother Knights, as of today we have placed 829 ultrasound machines.

These machines have already saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

But we can still do more.

Let us continue this great effort by reaching the goal of 1,000 machines as quickly as possible.

If each machine saves the lives of just four unborn children each week, then with 1,000 machines, by the 10th anniversary of this initiative, we will have saved more than 1 million lives.

So I ask you today: Will you join me in this great Knights of Columbus Campaign to Save 1 Million Children?

We continue to peacefully march for life throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Philippines — especially this year. Knights from throughout Canada joined the 20th annual Canadian National March for Life in Ottawa, which this year coincided with the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. Among those at the march were our three supreme directors from Canada: Graydon Nicholas of New Brunswick, Arthur Peters of Ontario and Larry Kustra of Manitoba.

This summer, I was honored when Pope Francis renewed my appointment to the Pontifical Academy for Life. My involvement with the academy began in 1998, with my appointment by Pope John Paul II. As I have in the past, I look forward to working with the Holy Father and the academy in supporting an authentic human ecology and building a culture of life.


Supreme Knight Anderson walks with Jean Vanier in Trosly-Breuil, France, May 15, 2017. In 2005, the Knights of Columbus awarded Jean Vanier its Gaudium et Spes Award. Photo by Thomas Koszul

Last January, I took time to reflect upon the message of Pope Francis for the 50th World Day of Peace.

I was particularly struck by these words of Pope Benedict XVI, which Pope Francis quoted. He said: “For Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behavior but a person’s way of being — the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he or she is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone.”27

I decided then that these words would form this year’s convention theme.

In his message, Pope Francis urged people everywhere to adopt “nonviolence as a style of politics” — a style based on the recognition, he said, “that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity.”

He then went on to quote St. John Paul II, saying, “May people learn to fight for justice without violence, renouncing class struggle in their internal disputes and war in international ones.”28

As the events of 2017 unfolded, the message of these popes showed itself to be truly prophetic. Violence and the rhetoric of violence have increased, culminating most recently in the attempted assassination of members of Congress on a baseball field outside of Washington, D.C.

Violence and the rhetoric of violence have no place as a style of politics in America or any other country. Violence and the rhetoric of violence must end and must end now!

Today, we make the words of Pope Francis our own: “May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other.”

Pope Francis signed his message of peace on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Can it simply be a coincidence that the Immaculate Conception is named patroness of the United States?

Today, I call upon all my brother Knights and their families to again seek the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace. Let us ask her on Aug. 15, the feast of her assumption into heaven, for peace and reconciliation in each of our countries. In Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that each Christian is called to have “a heart which sees where love is needed and to act accordingly.”29

Today, we might say that this is the first principle of faithful Catholic citizenship.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the “strength to love” as fundamental to the civil rights movement.30 He showed the nation and the world the power of Christian witness. Ultimately, he was proven right.

Today, faithful citizenship requires us to continue to defend religious liberty.

We need to resist the effort to drive out of our national conversation all mention of God — to exclude the light of the Gospel from our public square and turn it into a dark, secular city.

Today, we are active in many nations around the world — nations with different traditions regarding church and state. In each of these countries, we are committed to promoting the Church’s teaching on the dignity of conscience and the right of religious freedom.

In doing this, we are guided by the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom. In matters of public policy, we advocate for laws that conform to the natural law and therefore apply to all citizens.

This is the case, for example, in our defense of the right to life.

This is why we applaud the recent decision of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to establish a permanent Committee for Religious Liberty and why we look forward to working closely with it.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity and privilege to spend some hours with Jean Vanier. In 2005, the Knights of Columbus awarded Jean Vanier our Gaudium et Spes Award for his lifetime of work on behalf of people with intellectual disabilities.

We spoke about what he has done since that time and how he used our gift of $100,000 to purchase a new home for his L’Arche community in Calcutta. We also spoke about the Christian responsibility to build communities based upon compassion and respect.

Some years ago, he had written about the tendency of some Christians involved in politics to become fiercely partisan. He wrote: “I sometimes wonder if these fighting Christians wouldn’t do better to put their energies into creating communities which live as far as they can by the charter of the Beatitudes. If they did this, they would be able to live by … values other than those of material success … and political struggle. … They would not change political structures at first. But they would change the hearts and spirits of the people around them.”31

My brother Knights, think of our councils and assemblies dedicated to the principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism as just such communities that seek to “live as far as they can by the charter of the Beatitudes.”

Think how their work can change the hearts and spirits of those around them, helping them to see citizenship not as a political struggle but as an opportunity to create a civilization of love.

St. John Paul II often spoke of our responsibility to build a civilization of love.

This is a “civilization” from which no one should be excluded. To the contrary, it is a civilization that is open to all and for all. And the reason this is so was stated by St. John Paul II here in St. Louis in this very arena. He said, “Once we know the love that is in the Heart of Christ, we know that every individual, every family, every people on the face of the earth can place their trust in that Heart.”32


My brother Knights, we have much to celebrate this year.

We have set new records in charity. We have set new records in the protection of Catholic families. We have had the strength and ethical nature of our insurance program internationally recognized.

We helped AIDS orphans in Uganda, homeless refugees in Ukraine, persecuted Christians in Egypt, Christian survivors of genocide in Iraq, child refugees from North Korea, typhoon survivors in the Philippines, flood victims in Mexico and the United States, and people with disabilities in Vietnam, Cuba and Haiti.

We expanded our charitable and evangelization efforts. We built up the domestic church by strengthening the marriages and families of our members.

And we continued our strong defense of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

We had — by any measure — our greatest year ever. Blessed Pope Paul VI once said that today “people prefer to listen to witnesses” because “they thirst for authenticity.”33

And it is precisely authenticity that shines so brilliantly throughout the year in the thousands of charitable works of our local councils.

In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis calls all Catholics to be “an evangelizing community … filled with joy,” a community that is “permanently in a state of mission” and a community that practices a “fraternal communion.”34

He urges all Catholics to “live in fraternity” and to share “a fraternal love capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbor.”

And he also says this: “I especially ask Christians in communities throughout the world to offer a radiant and attractive witness of fraternal communion. Let everyone admire how you care for one another, and how you encourage and accompany one another.”

My brother Knights, in the days ahead, I ask you to reflect on these words. When you do, I know you will join me in seeing in them an even greater call to mission.

This year, let us be in even greater ways who we are called to be as brother Knights.

Let us strive to be that “radiant and attractive witness of fraternal communion” that our Church and our world so desperately need. Let us strive to be authentic witnesses of how to care for one another and how to encourage and accompany one another.

We can and we will do these things as the spiritual sons of Father McGivney.

We can and we will do these things because we are convinced of God’s love and power.

Vivat Jesus!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *