byFather Robert M. O'Grady
WASHINGTON — Knights of Columbus, family and friends, together with more than 70 bishops and an equal number of priests, gathered in the nation’s capital for the 121st annual meeting of the international Catholic fraternal organization.
The guiding theme for the three-day meeting, adapted from Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in Oceania, is “Building a world of justice and mercy, freedom and peace.”
In his annual report and opening address, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson explained that the Knights wanted to combine their Catholic faith with civic virtue and community activity. The Knights, widely known for their charitable activities, also form the backbone of many parish activities and have maintained an outstanding commitment to the pro-life activities of the Catholic Church in the United States.
The presence of so many bishops and priests is a reminder, both to the Knights themselves and to their shepherds, of the dynamic collaboration that exists between faithful leaders and committed collaborators. Bishops and priests rely on the Knights for leadership and example in many spheres of life, giving testimony to the genuine principle of Catholic lay leadership urged by the Second Vatican Council. The members cherish the presence and support of their bishops and priests, but more than that they desire their priestly ministry of word and sacrament.
The linking of the Second Annual Eucharistic Congress of the Knights to be celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Aug. 7-8, makes concrete the interconnection among — servants and ministers of sacramental life; and the knights — brothers and families bonded in love and service of one another and the world.
The annual meeting opened with a solemn celebration of Mass at the basilica and continued on Aug. 5 with Anderson’s annual report to the membership. There was good news everywhere: programs of service surged in numbers participating and hours given; the financial condition of the order, backed by a careful investment policy of members’ dues and highly rated insurance program; growth in number of councils and members.
Each year the Supreme Council hosts a luncheon for the concelebrating bishops and priests immediately following the opening Mass. It is a chance for the leadership of the order and the leadership of the churches where the order lives and serves to get to know each other a bit more.
This year, a special preview of a recently produced video, “The Vocation to the Priesthood,” capped off the luncheon. The Knights are ardent supporters of vocation programs worldwide. The new video destined for dioceses and parishes was well received by the bishops and priests present.
Later in the evening, the Washington Hilton’s main ballroom was the scene of the annual States Dinner. As Anderson noted, it was the principal celebration of the fraternity of the Knights during the meeting. Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, addressed the attendees.
In the remaining days of the meeting, delegates will vote on proposals submitted from various jurisdictions, celebrate Mass in memory of deceased members, gather in state council groups and elect members to positions on the Supreme Council.
Many members and theirs families were planning to remain in the federal capital for the celebration of the Eucharistic Congress, which promotes the theme, “Drawing life from the Eucharist.” Among the bishops scheduled to speak at the congress will be Boston’s Archbishop Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap.