Volunteerism informed by Christian concern is the hallmark of the Knights of Columbus and results in outstanding contributions of time and talent to the Catholic Church, our communities, families, young people and brother Knights through the "Surge...with Service" program.
Much of the success for the Order's volunteer record can be attributed to the fact that the Supreme Council does not mandate participation in any volunteer initiative. Fraternal and charitable programs arise at the grassroots level to meet the needs of local parishes and communities.
417 families of emergency medical technicians, firefighters and police officers killed in the line of duty after the September 11 terrorist attacks each have received $3,000 checks from the Knights of Columbus from a special $1 million Knights of Columbus Heroes Fund established Sept. 12 by the Order. The checks were given to the families of all deceased heroes regardless of whether they were Catholics or members of the Knights. The fund was created with $500,000 from the Supreme Council and more than $500,000 raised and donated by local Knights of Columbus units throughout North America and elsewhere. A total of $1,251,000 in Heroes Fund benefits have been disbursed.
The Knights of Columbus champions life from conception to natural death. The Order supports the Church in its work to defend human life, conducts education programs for its members and the public, provides financial assistance to national and local right-to-life groups, and prays for the protection of life. The Order prints and distributes millions of pieces of pro-life literature at no charge. Its most recent publication is a study guide to Pope John Paul II's pro-life encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), along with Pope Paul VI's important and prophetic encyclical, Humanae Vitae.
The Knights of Columbus supports the New Haven World Games, Special Olympics and other programs for people with mental retardation. Individual Knights serve as trainers, coaches, officials and in any other capacity needed at international, state and local Special Olympics games. In 1999, the Order raised and donated more than $17.8 million to benefit people with mental retardation and programs supporting them.
Knights of Columbus members participate in a variety of health service programs. Councils regularly join in national programs to bring public attention to heart disease and the dangers of smoking and alcohol and drug abuse. Members help raise money for medical research in a variety of areas. In 1999, Knights at all levels of the organization reported raising nearly $4 million for health and service organizations and hospitals.
Knights throughout the world organize and conduct blood drives. In 1999 they reported nearly 370,000 blood donors at Knights of Columbus-sponsored blood drives. Knights and their families regularly volunteer at veterans' hospitals, hospices and other health care facilities.
Members' civic involvement comes in many forms. Councils and assemblies run campaigns urging citizens to vote. Knights take part in community recreation programs, patriotic observances, penal reform programs and cultural activities. K of C councils regularly recognize outstanding civil servants, police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and others in their communities by presenting them with certificates of merit.
The Knights of Columbus has been at the forefront of efforts to stem the flood of pornography engulfing our culture. Councils promote programs to inform people of the dangers of pornography and report violations of community standards to those responsible for enforcing existing laws.
Knights of Columbus members regularly participate in and sponsor programs aimed at combating substance abuse. Councils work with local police, youth groups and other organizations to conduct educational programs on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. The Supreme Council also offers posters on alcohol abuse awareness to local councils for community projects. Members also participate in programs that publicize the dangers of drunk driving.
The Knights of Columbus encourages the spiritual growth and personal holiness of each of its members, and each Knight in turn strives to perfect his own spirit as well as those of his brother members. Participation in Church ceremonies, prayer, and charitable works allows the Knights to work for the Church in many different ways. These ideals are even represented in music used at Knight functions, including many Christian hymns. A few of the ways members serve the Church are:
Support for the Holy Father and the Church universal takes many forms. At the request of Pope John Paul II, the Knights of Columbus financed the restoration of the facade of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City between 1985 and 1987. Visitors to the Supreme Council office in New Haven can tour a display that highlights this effort to renew one of Christendom's and Western culture's most important structures. In 1999 the Knights volunteered 25.7 million hours of service and raised and distributed more than $33 million to the Catholic Church.
When architects and engineers studied the Maderno Atrium of St. Peter's Basilica in 1998, they found that climatic conditions, pollution and termites had made restoration necessary. The atrium is an historic extension of the nave of St. Peter's, designed by Carlo Maderno in 1605, through which all visitors pass. It is considered one of Rome's most beautiful architectural works, and it includes 32 statues by the master sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Because prompt restoration is required, the Knights of Columbus have stepped in to fund the restoration so that it can be completed in time for the Great Jubilee.
The Knights of Columbus has a first mortgage loan program to assist dioceses and parishes and Catholic schools with building and renovation projects. The program is a conventional commercial program which requires documentation, including the filing of a mortgage on the land records, similar to that which is required by commercial lenders. The interest rate is typically below prevailing market rates and is fixed for the life of the loan, which usually has a term of 15 years.
Each year the Knights of Columbus supports the "Keep Christ in Christmas" campaign to remind people that Christmas is above all else a holy day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. To help deliver the "Keep Christ in Christmas" message, the Order offers a variety of posters and other materials as well as public service announcements for radio and television. Local K of C councils also participate in "Light Up for Christ" ceremonies, in which councils throughout the Order simultaneously illuminate Nativity scenes and Christmas trees on the first Tuesday in December.
The Knights of Columbus is consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Order fosters devotion to Our Lady and, in particular, encourages its members and their families to pray the rosary as often as possible.
Every new member of the Knights of Columbus receives a rosary.
Each month through this program thousands of rosaries, which have
been blessed by the Order's supreme chaplain, Bishop William E.
Lori of Bridgeport, CT, are distributed. In addition, the
Supreme Council office offers rosary prayer cards, audio cassettes
featuring the praying of the rosary and booklets on this devotion.
The Knights of Columbus has sponsored Marian Hour of Prayer programs since 1979. As part of this program the Order distributes pilgrim icons depicting Mary under her various titles, which travel on a year-long journey from council to council in each of the Order's jurisdictions throughout the world. These Marian icons serve as the focal point for prayer services held in council homes, churches or other locations. More than 10,851,768 people have participated in more than 68,989 prayer services since the program began.
St. Mary's Church on Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut, is the church of the city's original Catholic congregation. The parishioners' first church burned down in 1834. The current church was dedicated in 1874. Burdened by a $150,000 debt, the original plans for a steeple were left on the drawing board.
Since it is the birthplace of the Knights of Columbus, the Supreme Council helps maintain and update the church as needed. Over a four-year period from 1981 to 1984, the Knights completed a top-to-bottom renovation of the church. In 1986, the Order added a 179-foot steeple to the church and a three-bell carillon installed. Occasional restoration projects have been undertaken since then as part of the Order's efforts to maintain the beauty of the church, which is the final resting place for Father Michael J. McGivney, the Order's founder.
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