By Devin Watkins
The novel coronavirus has turned the world upside down, left unprecedented numbers of people jobless, and brought on the new norm of social-distancing.
At the same time, we are all becoming more aware of a deeply-rooted desire for community and ways to help those in need.
Perhaps that explains why the Knights of Columbus have seen a sort of mini-boom in membership requests.
Over 2,000 men joined the Catholic fraternal organization on 16 April in its first-ever online “Exemplification of Charity, Unity and Fraternity”.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson spoke to Vatican Radio about why Catholic men are interested in joining the Knights of Columbus.
Active in charity
Mr. Anderson identifies two main reasons.
“One, they see the need for added charity during the coronavirus pandemic, and so they want to get active.”
The Knights have 10,000 local councils, and “they are active in charity.”
“Plus,” Mr. Anderson adds, “they want the fellowship of Catholic men who will be more than friends but will be fraternal brothers and work together.”
The Knights of Columbus were founded by Venerable Fr Michael J. McGivney in 1882 in the US state of Connecticut. According to their website, the Knights’ aim is to “bring financial aid and assistance to the sick, disabled, and needy members and their families.”
Helping those next door
After the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Knights began the “Leave No Neighbor Behind” initiative during Holy Week. Members are urged to help out local food banks, and to make blood donations.
“We launched this with a $1.25 million food supplement program,” says Mr. Anderson. “We went to food banks in the United States and began buying food through the food banks. Then our local men began to raise money to supplement that. They also volunteer to help the food bank package the food and deliver it.”
Mr. Anderson says the Knights have a particular strength: local councils implement national guidance in the best way to help their communities.
The initiative is working in several inner cities and in a Native American reservation in New Mexico.
The Knights of Columbus are also working on an international level. One recent initiative included a donation to help set up a Covid-19 field hospital in Italy’s Lombardy region.
The organization also provided funds to create the special coronavirus unit at the Bambino Gesù Hospital, a Vatican children’s hospital in Rome.
Charity begins at home
As lockdowns abound in the US, the Knights of Columbus’ characteristic fellowship could face difficulties.
But Mr. Anderson says many councils have started holding virtual meetings. Knights can also do charitable work together, while following social-distancing guidelines.
The home provides another opportunity to build communion.
“We’ve been emphasizing, for a number of years, our Domestic Church Program, which looks to build up Catholic families through the Church in the home,” he adds. “We have a spirituality program. We promote families praying together, reading Scripture together, and different charitable projects.”
Mr. Anderson also says the Knights wholeheartedly took up Pope Francis’ invitation to pray the Rosary during the month of May.
“So,” concludes the Supreme Knight, “a lot of the councils are coming up with very creative ways to stay connected online.”