Patrick E. Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. / Knights of Columbus.
Nashville, Tenn., Aug 1, 2022 / 16:40 pm (CNA).
Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly has an ambitious vision for the Knights of Columbus.
That vision involves everything from “charging up” the Knights to live in a post-Roe world, to providing humanitarian relief for Ukrainian refugees, to supporting pro-life pregnancy centers and encouraging young Catholic men to know and live their faith.
Speaking to CNA on Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee’s Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center at the Knights’ first national convention in three years, Kelly offered a preview of that vision and what he will say on Tuesday to the approximately 2,500 attendees, consisting of members of the Church hierarchy, Knights leadership, and their families.
Being a Knight in a post-Roe world
Kelly said that the theme for this year’s convention is “Into the Breach.” In his remarks — which he is giving for the first time in his role as Supreme Knight — he plans to inspire the Knights to step into the breach, which he says is the now-post-Roe world.
Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case that federally legalized abortion, was overturned by the court in June.
“It’s no secret that society is more divisive than ever,” Kelly said, “but our role is to be men of unity and to bring people together.”
Kelly said that the convention is an opportunity for the Knights to show their solidarity with the bishops, priests, and cardinals present. “It gives them a nice boost, a nice encouragement to see that they have an organization that’s in their corner,” Kelly said.
The Knights announced in June an initiative to donate at least $5 million to pro-life pregnancy centers and maternity homes across the United States and Canada by June 30, 2023. But Kelly said that the knights were being conservative in that estimate, and that he expects to surpass the number.
He also said that the Knights’ new initiative Aid and Support After Pregnancy includes support from the Knight’s headquarters, the Supreme Council. ASAP, which encourages local councils to increase donations to pro-life pregnancy centers, entails a 20% donation match from the Supreme Council.
Kelly said that since the initiative began just over a month ago, councils have already started to reach out with reports of their donations.
The Knights’ support for pro-life pregnancy centers comes during a wave of attacks against these centers that began after a leaked Supreme Court decision indicated Roe would likely be overturned.
Responding to the reports of vandalism, Kelly said that it makes him sad to see. He said Pope Francis reminded the Knights at their last convention that they need to be men who build up and not tear down.
“It’s terrible to see this kind of vandalism,” Kelly added.
The Future of the Knights
Kelly said the organization is placing a priority on reaching out to young men.
Kelly said that the Knights have piloted an evangelization and discipleship initiative in a few states in which they are training their councils how to evangelize, speak about the faith, and bring people in.
Kelly emphasized that when young men understand their faith, it has an “exponential” effect on their family.
“That’s the No. 1 thing you could do for the family is to get the man to really own his faith and really understand his role as a Catholic man, as a provider, as a father, and as a husband,” Kelly said.
But young Catholic men are not the only priority of outreach for the Knights.
Kelly said the organization is planning to redouble their efforts in reaching out to the Hispanic community as well. There are many Hispanic knights, he said, but because of the growth of the demographic within the United States, “we need more Hispanic knights.”
In order to stay true to the vision of Blessed Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights, reaching out to new communities is imperative, he said.
One of the ways the Knights are reaching out to a younger demographic is through online videos. The Knights’ video series “Into the Breach” was viewed more than 1 million times, he said. Another video series is coming next year on marriage and family life, he added.
“Where ‘Into the Breach’ focused on masculine identity, the series on marriage and family is going to focus on man’s role in his marriage and man’s role as the leader of the family,” he said.
The Knights in Ukraine
The Knights are still supporting Ukrainian refugees, Kelly said, and their fundraising efforts have achieved immense success.
Within 48 hours of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Knights implemented a fundraiser called the Ukraine Solidarity Fund. That fund has amassed $19 million for refugees, Kelly said.
Kelly said those funds are being used to ship food, water, clothing, shelter, and healthcare to refugees in trucks coming out of Poland called KofC Charity Convoys.
Kelly, who visited Ukraine in April, said it was a deeply moving experience.