Most Reverend Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington D.C., encouraged the Knights of Columbus to promote the New Evangelization “in the midst of this much secularized world” as he delivered the homily today for the opening Mass of the 128th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The Mass, presided over by Archbishop Wuerl, was attended by eight cardinals, including Francis George, president of the USCCB; Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana, Cuba; and Gaudencio Rosales of Manila, Philippines. Seventy-eight bishops and more than 200 priests also concelebrated at the Mass.
During his homily, Archbishop Wuerl recalled that Pope John Paul II “called the Church to a new evangelization. At the beginning of his pontificate more than 30 years ago, he encouraged Catholics with the words “do not be afraid.” “Pope Benedict XVI used the same words as he assumed his responsibilities five years ago in April 2005 at the beginning of his Petrine ministry, 'Do not be afraid!'”
“These words, taken from today’s Gospel, have become the staple of the new evangelization,” Archbishop Wuerl noted, adding that “Our Holy Father challenges us to experience Jesus personally and then to become heralds to others of that personal encounter with Jesus.”
The Archbishop of Washington then said that in Our Lady of Guadalupe, “Patroness and Queen of America, we see the model of our own mission of evangelization,” since “(o)ur task begins with the understanding that all of us are called to be instruments of the manifestation of Mary’s son, Jesus.”
“At this time it is you, it is I, who are asked to invite people to come to know Jesus … we are the ones who have to be witnesses by our words and deeds … and we need not to fear the mission of stepping out into this world, as secular as it may be.”
Later in his homily, explaining the theme of this year’s Supreme Convention, “I am my Brother’s Keeper,” Archbishop Wuerl said that it references the fact that “God’s love manifested in Christ is supposed to be reflected in our care for one another and all human beings.”
Speaking about the charism imprinted in the Knights of Columbus by their founder, Servant of God Father Michael J. McGivney, the Archbishop Wuerl underscored that “the very origins of our order are connected to the witness of charity.”
He then praised the Knights for their “longstanding commitment for the good of the Church and the nation,” including their nationwide charitable activities and volunteer work, service to the community, to the Gospel of life, the family, the true definition of marriage and the promotion of vocations in the Church.
“Father McGivney did not hesitate to step out onto the water ... Look around this basilica and see the fruit of his commitment. I have long held that the real miracle of Father McGivney is the growth of his order, now embracing a growing number of nations,” said Archbishop Wuerl as he surveyed the basilica, packed with more than 2,000 Knights from the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Poland, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and other countries.
He also praised the Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, “for continuing and consolidating the Knights’ tradition.” “I continuously marvel at the Supreme Knight’s final report showing how the Knights are living witnesses to the call to be our brother’s keeper,” Archbishop Wuerl remarked.
“What we lift up at this Supreme Convention — the works of charity and service of the Knights of Columbus throughout the world — is truly a celebration of our Catholic identity and a fruit of Our Lady’s visit to America,” the archbishop said.
Turning back to the contemporary culture, Archbishop Wuerl said, “Our mission as Jesus’ witnesses takes place in a world profoundly in need of a New Evangelization. The threads of an encounter with the living Lord and the love that he brings into this world need to be woven once again into the fabric of our culture, of our society, our nation and our world. This, Christ and his Church entrust to us today.”
“We are our brother's keeper! in wild contradiction to all the other lifestyles, options and opinions, we are to be champions of the New Evangelization … to be a living, effective sign of the Risen Christ in this highly secular world, in which we are still called to ‘walk on the water’,” knowing that Jesus “is there saying ‘don’t be afraid, don’t doubt’.”
Archbishop Wuerl finished the homily by praying to Our Lady of Guadalupe, asking her to “allow us to be ministers of the New Evangelization, our brother's keeper.”
The 128th Supreme Convention is being held in Washington, D.C., August 3-5. The nation’s capital previously hosted Supreme Conventions in 1932, 1985, 1993 and 2003.