Honoring the faithful: from local business leaders to Knights of Columbus members

| August 14, 2014

NienstedtBlEvery year I look forward to being present to distribute the Leading With Faith awards, sponsored by our own Catholic Spirit. The cere­mony will take place this Thursday, Aug. 14, at St. Catherine University.

There are three categories of honorees: those who own or administer large businesses, others with small businesses, and still others who run nonprofit businesses.

This year’s distinguished awardees are listed elsewhere in today’s edition of The Catholic Spirit. I encourage you to read the write-ups on each of these dedicated persons. Truly they are an impressive group of individuals who are clearly putting their Catholic faith into action. I offer them my heartfelt congratulations on receiving their award and I thank them for their outstanding public witness to our Catholic faith.

I was also reminded of the faith-filled dedication of other fellow Catholic men and women when I attended the 132nd Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Orlando, Fla., last week. This has truly become an international summit of the Knights and their wives as it included representatives from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Canada, Mexico, Poland, Lithuania, Guam, Ukraine and the Philippines.

And as it so happens, past Grand Knight Joseph M. George, from Council 9905 in our own Lino Lakes, received the Star Council Award, becoming one of only four recipients in the nation. Congratulations to him and his lovely wife, Dawn.

The Knights were founded in 1882 by an energetic young parish priest in the then Diocese of Hartford, Conn., by the name of Father Michael J. McGivney. Born to immigrant parents, young Michael grew up in the brass mill factory town of Waterbury, where he experienced the harsh grip of poverty but also the powers of love, faith and family fortitude. In an era when parish and fraternal clubs were quite popular, the newly ordained Father McGivney thought there should be some way in which he could strengthen the faith of Catholic families and at the same time provide for their financial needs when overwhelmed by illness or distraught because of the death of the family breadwinner.

Today, the Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization with more than 1.8 million members in 16,000 councils worldwide. Last year, their members performed more than

70.5 million hours of service and donated over $170 million to charities. Through their life insurance program, they paid out $286 million in death benefits last year. In the course of their history, death benefits to the families of deceased Knights have totaled more than $3.7 billion. In addition, insurance dividends last year were paid out to policyholders in the amount of $274 million. Since its inception, more than $12 billion has provided living benefits to their insurance mem­bers. The organization carefully vets investments of its portfolio, erring on the side of caution with almost 88 percent of its funds in bonds.

But even more impressive to me is the number of charitable works that are accomplished by the Knights of Columbus. They have heavily invested in educational scholarships and fellowships, including two scholarships to foster priestly and religious vocations. They are well known for their Tootsie Roll campaigns to assist the disabled and the handicapped. Presently, they are sponsoring the “American Wheelchair Mission” wherein they buy up wheelchairs in bulk and share them with children and adults throughout the globe. A more recent project is a joint effort with actor Gary Sinise, whose foundation provides American veterans who have been maimed or wounded in battle with homes that are modified so as to accommodate our wounded warriors’ physical needs and limitations. And above all, the Knights of Columbus, both nationally and locally, have been strong and constant defenders of life in the womb, of the divinely revealed definition of marriage, and of healthy and holy families. In this regard, the Knights of Columbus and their families are also constantly involved in what the Church calls “popular piety,” activities such as rosary processions, May crownings and the like, activities that are foundational for building a Catholic culture.

The Order’s principles, as defined in 1882, were “Unity” and “Charity.” But since then, two more have been added — the concepts of “Fraternity” and “Patriotism.” At the “States Dinner” of the Convention, Cardinal Quevedo, O.M.I., of Catabato in the Philippines, spoke of “Fraternity” being the basis for world peace, because once fraternity is established, charity and respect will inevitably follow.

In addition to the adult degrees of Knights of Columbus membership, the Knights of Columbus also sponsor “Squires,” an association made up of 10- to 18-year-olds engaged in service activities, spiritual activities and just plain fun. These are organized into local units, called Columbian circles. Since 1910, a college council program has been established on college or university campuses. Today there are some 300 college council programs with nearly 25,000 members, including one on our own campus of the University of St. Thomas.

Yes, it is impressive to see the good work being done by the Knights of Columbus to fortify Catholics in their faith, to offer their members greater financial security and to strengthen them in a sense of self-esteem. I recommend them highly. If you are interested in joining this charitable organization, please go to their website, and sign up.

May God bless you!

 

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