Knights Give Thanks by Giving Back

Doug Oldmixon, IPSD, State Historian

As candidates going through our Admission Degree, we learn the importance of charity as a theological and practical virtue.  Charity is fundamental to what we do as Knights. More than anything else we do as Knights, charity is the most eloquent expression of the essence of our Order.

We are first and foremost a charitable service organization. But what sets us apart from other such organizations is that our service is rooted in, and inseparable from, our Catholic faith. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson describes it as a “charity that evangelizes” and explains that it is the way we, as Knights, “live out that spirit of fraternity and ‘missionary discipleship’ to which Pope Francis has called us.”  It is through charitable works that we put our Catholic faith into concrete action.  It is the primary, and most important, of our Order’s principles.

Our founder understood this well and it is why charity is the foremost principle of our Order and the bedrock on which our Order was founded. At 125th Supreme Convention in Nashville, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State and Pope Benedict XVI’s envoy to the convention, explained this concept further: “Father McGivney’s conviction was founded on [a] profound intuition, and that is, that our concern for the needy and the perseverance in charity activity could attenuate and find (itself) without their deepest meaning if it were not deeply rooted in faith, intended as an indwelling of the Holy Trinity in our hearts, through the divine grace which allows us to renew every day our ‘yes’ in the person of Jesus Christ.”

The Knights’ legacy of charitable deeds is long and storied. A major part of that tradition is supporting those with physical and developmental disabilities. Our Order has given hundreds of millions of dollars over the past four decades to groups and programs that help support individuals who are physically or intellectually disabled, such as the Special Olympics. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Knights established the Heroes’ Fund to provide immediate assistance to the families of those men who lost their lives in the rescue efforts. After Hurricane Katrina, the Order raised millions of dollars to help with the relief effort for the people of Louisiana and Mississippi. Our support to earthquake and hurricane victims in Haiti is ongoing. Typhoon and tsunami survivors in the Philippines and Southeast Asia have received direct assistance from the Order.  Aids orphans in Africa know the love and care we share directly.

Year after year our Order sets new records for charitable donations and service hours. In 2017 alone, the Knights gave $185,600,000 in donations and more than 75.6 million hours of service. And Texas Knights are certainly doing their part. Knights in Texas led all jurisdictions of the Order in both categories. In recent years, our Order has instituted programs specifically designed to help the needy and less fortunate. In 2009, the Order started a “Coats for Kids” program to help families that struggle to provide their children with warm coats in the winter. Since the start of the program, more than 520,000 coats have been distributed in 49 states and all 10 Canadian provinces. Another program founded that same year is the “Food for Families” program. The goal of “Food for Families” is to ensure that families in need have access to nutritious food.  Again, Texas has not been idle. In 2001, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Council 8306 in Helotes, Texas, started the “40 Cans for Lent” food drive, which encouraged council members and parishioners to donate a can of nonperishable food every day throughout Lent. This program, started at a local Texas Council, has since become an Order-wide initiative.

While we should be very proud of these programs and our history of service, we shouldn’t rest on our laurels. This time of year is especially difficult for those in need. What better way to offer thanks for all that we have than to give back to those who are less fortunate. Take advantage of those programs mentioned. Give to the “Food for Families” or the “Coats for Kids” programs. This time of year also provides ample opportunity to give back on the local level.  Offer to volunteer at a local food bank or parish food pantry, or organize a parish-wide food drive. Prepare food baskets or gifts to brighten someone’s holidays. Some councils even make this a parish-wide activity, involving family and friends, spouses, children and grandchildren, sharing the experience and spirit of giving. If your Council does not participate in one of these types of programs, it’s the perfect time to talk to your Grand Knight about starting to do so.

Our Catholic faith teaches us to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves” and this compels us to action. There is no simpler or effective way to experience this love of neighbor than by helping persons in need. Give thanks by giving back.

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