This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue Columbia Magazine, page 25. Kevin DiCamillo is a freelance writer and editor in northern New Jersey, and is a member of the Don Bosco Knights of Columbus Council 4960 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Seeking to adopt a child following medical difficulties, a Knights of Columbus couple received an unexpected gift.
After my wife, Alicia, and I were married, we were looking forward to welcoming the children that God would send to our family. Yet we never expected the challenges that we confronted when I was diagnosed with cancer. Following surgery and months of radiation, doctors told us that we would not be able to conceive. Amid the heartbreak, we began to explore adoption.
We checked out private agencies for domestic and foreign adoption, but chose a more affordable option close to home: the New Jersey state adoption agency. After spending thousands of dollars on my cancer treatments, this seemed like the most sensible path. As with most things in life, there were good and bad aspects, and in the end, we received a surprise that only God could have arranged.
During his annual report Aug. 5, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson announced that the Order has expanded to South Korea, beginning with the chartering of St. Andrew Kim Taegon Council 16000.
“There are nearly 5.5 million Catholics in South Korea today,” said Anderson. “It is among the fastest-growing Catholic communities in the world. I am sure that South Korea, like the Philippines, will play a significant role in the future of the Knights of Columbus.”
The Order made its initial inroads into Korea in 2007 with the establishment of Bishop John J. Kaising Council 14223 at U.S. Army Base Camp Humphreys near Osan. Since then, military Knights in Korea have provided support to fellow service members in the Middle East and have demonstrated charity to Korean communities in need. Members of Council 14223 include Bishop F. Richard Spencer, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and Bishop Francis Xavier Yu Soo-il of the Military Ordinariate of Korea.
In response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Knights on Sept. 12 establishes its $1 million Heroes Fund. Checks for $3,000 are presented to the families of all full-time professional law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who lost their lives at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Forty-five Knights were killed on 9/11.
The Knights of Columbus awards Mother Teresa with the Order’s first Gaudium et Spes Award at the 110th Supreme Convention in New York in 1992. The “Joy and Hope” award acknowledges her contributions to the Church and the world.
In this picture, Supreme Knight Dechant presents Mother Teresa with the award.
In 1981, the Order establishes the Vicarius Christi Fund, with annual earnings used for the pope’s personal charities. The initial fund of $10 million is increased to $20 million in 1988. The Knights then underwrote a series of major restorations at the St. Peter’s Basilica in anticipation of the Jubilee Year of 1983. The Order agrees to underwrite the restoration of the 65,000-square-foot facade of St. Peter’s Basilica, the first time it has been cleaned in more than 350 years. Several subsequent projects have taken place at St. Peter’s, including the restoration of chapels and of the Holy Year Door.
In this picture, the fascade of St. Peter’s Basilica after the restoration.
More recently, on 12/12/2014, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson presented the Holy Father with a contribution of $1.6 million from the Vicarius Christi Fund. In addition, the supreme knight spoke about the Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund and provided the pope with a contribution of $400,000 from that fund to supplement the relief efforts of the Holy See in the Middle East.
The Knights of Columbus purchased for $2.5 million the land on which Yankee Stadium is built. Papal Masses in the United States have taken place at the Yankee Stadium (Pope Paul VI in 1965, JPII in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2005).
Sargent Shriver, a member of the Knights, is pictured with a map of Africa after his appointment as the first director of the Peace Corps in 1961. His wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded Special Olympics, which has drawn support from the Knights since the organization began in 1968.
The Knights of Columbus contributed $1 million toward the construction of the 329-foot bell tower at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. More than 1,000 Knights formed an honor guard for the shrine’s dedication. In 1963, the Order also finances installation of the carillon of 56 bells at the National Shrine.
The Knights of Columbus initiated a campaign in 1951 to lobby for the public adoption of the phrase “under God” in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. The Order’s Board of Directors had amended the pledge’s recitation at Fourth Degree assembly meetings and encouraged congressional representatives to adopt the same language nationwide. On June 14, 1954, Flag Day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs a law that adds the words “under God” to the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, completing an effort that Knights began three years earlier.
In the picture, U.S. Rep Louis Rabaut (D-Mich) presents a scroll with the words “under God” to KofC Michigan State Deputy Walter Graveline. At the urging of KofC, Rep. Rabaut presented a resolution to Congress to amend the Pledge of Allegiance with the words “under God”.
1926: Supreme Knight Flaherty, Deputy Supreme Knight Martin H. Carmody and other officers meet with President Calvin Coolidge about the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico. The Order launches a $1 million educational campaign to influence American public opinion on the need for a strong stand against the Mexican government’s attacks on the Church. It takes more than 10 years for the tensions to ease.
When the United States enters World War I, Supreme Knight Flaherty writes President Woodrow Wilson telling him that the Order plans to establish centers to provide for the troops’ “recreational and spiritual comfort.” The Knights’ services, he says, will be offered “regardless of creed.”
Everybody meant everybody. Whatever your race or creed, you were welcome at K of C facilities. In fact, the Order was praised by a contemporary African American historian of World War I, because “unlike the other social welfare organizations operating in the war, it never drew the color line.”
As a result of the Order’s wartime work, which earned high praise from Pope Benedict XV, nearly 400,000 men joined the Knights between 1917 and 1923.
By the summer of 1917, the Order opens service centers, or “K of C Huts,” in training camps and behind the lines of battle. The Knights and independent fund drives raise nearly $30 million to finance the huts.
In this picture dated in 1917, soldiers, officers and camp activity workers at Camp Wheeler in Georgia form the words “K of C.”