Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly calls Knights of Columbus to uphold dignity of life

Patrick Kelly Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly delivers his first in-person annual report since assuming office in 2021 on Aug. 2, 2022, at the Knights of Columbus' annual convention held in Nashville, Tennessee. | Photo courtesy of Tamino Petelinšek/Knights of Columbus

Patrick Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said in his annual report on Tuesday that the organization is doubling down on its efforts to protect life from conception to natural death as part of its dedication to serving those on the most outer margins of society. 

Noting that there are many calls for the Knights’ support, Kelly said that “one opportunity looms especially large,” identifying it as ending abortion.

Knights for life

Kelly, who gave his speech at the organization’s national convention in Nashville, Tennessee’s Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center Aug. 2, spent a significant portion of his speech calling the Knights to fight for the unborn, especially following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

Kelly praised the March for Life that takes place in Washington D.C. each year and in cities across the nation, calling for respect for the unborn. “Roe is overturned but we have more work to do,” he said. “We will continue to march for life until abortion is unthinkable.”

Another way the Knights are standing up for the unborn is through its ultrasound initiative, through which they have donated 1,566 ultrasounds to pro-life pregnancy centers, Kelly said. 

Kelly noted that the end of Roe doesn’t equate the end of abortion. Many states will expand protections of the life-ending procedure, he said. “They will double down on a culture of death,” he said. “So we must push forward with a message of life.”

“Let’s take up the cause in Springfield and Sacramento. Let’s oppose abortion in places like Albany, while supporting pro-life laws in Austin and Atlanta. And while we push for change in places like Washington state, let’s keep up the pressure on Washington D.C.,” he said.

One of the ways to engage in the fight for legislative protections for life is to support pro-life marches, he said. Kelly emphasized that the March for Life in Washington D.C. is a “major priority” for the Knights. 

In addition to changing the law, he said, hearts and minds must also be changed. The Knights can play a role in pointing pregnant mothers in fear toward life, he said. 

“The best thing we can do is redouble our support for pregnancy resource centers,” he added.

Those centers help mothers choose life each day and support new parents in giving their children a better life, he said.

“We must ensure that pregnancy resource centers have everything they need,” he said. “To start, we’ll place even more ultrasound machines, so more mothers can see their unborn children.”

Kelly then took aim at “one of the latest lies” which claims that pro-lifers don’t care about the well-being of children after their birth. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said, adding that the Knights have partnered with pro-life pregnancy centers to provide many resources, but that “now is the time to do even more.”

Doing more includes the Knights’ new initiative Aid and Support After Pregnancy, he said, in which the Supreme Council encourages local councils to increase donations to pro-life pregnancy centers. ASAP entails a 20% donation match from the Supreme Council.

Protecting families and religious freedom through faith

Kelly said that there are other challenges that need to be addressed in society. “We see it in the denial of human dignity. We see it in the blatant attempts to redefine the human person — and to push this radical agenda on our children,” he said. Kelly also said that religious freedom is at risk.

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The Knights are called to trust in God and step into the breach to face these challenges head on, he said. Being a Knight “means drawing closer to the person of Jesus Christ, our King.”

Kelly said that the Knights have pledged $1 million to the U.S. bishops’ National Eucharistic Revival. Kelly added that evangelization is “one of my top priorities,” and there is a “special urgency” for it today.

Noting a crisis of faith in the Church, Kelly announced a discipleship and evangelization initiative that was piloted in Tennessee. Kelly told CNA Sunday that the initiative includes training for councils on how to evangelize, speak about the faith, and bring people in. 

Outreach to a new demographic

Kelly said the Knights are taking strides to engage more Hispanics in the organization. 

There are already many Hispanic Knights, he said, but he believes the Knights should have many more. The Knights are “intentionally cultivating” Latino leaders within the organization in order to achieve this goal, he said. 

Ukraine

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Concluding his speech with the Knights’ efforts in Ukraine, Kelly said that the Knights have over 19,000 members within the Eastern European country.

He noted that “many of our brother knights are on the frontlines even now.” 

At least two members of the Knights have died in battle: Petro Popovych of Council 15804 in Kolomiya, and Oleh Vorobiov of Council 17651 in Lviv.

“We pray for their families. We commend their souls to the Lord, “ Kelly said. 

Kelly said that through the order’s Ukraine Solidarity Fund, it has raised almost $19 million in relief efforts. The Knights have also set up K of C Charity Convoys which ship humanitarian aid from Poland to Ukraine, he said. 

Crediting the efforts of the Knights in Poland, the order has also set up K of C Mercy Centers which provide both material and spiritual support, Kelly said. Kelly visited Ukraine and said that “I will always remember what I saw. And I will never forget the courage I saw in Ukrainian Knights.”

In closing, Kelly noted that “the days ahead will be difficult.” However, he encouraged all to praise God and ask him for help as Blessed Michael McGivney did. 

“And the Lord who has brought us this far will carry us further still,” he said. “As together we step into the breach. Vivat Iesus!”

Shortly before Kelly’s speech, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, read a July 23 letter sent from Cardinal Pietro Parolin on behalf of Pope Francis.

The letter addressed to Kelly praised the Knights’ efforts to foster Eucharistic adoration, their defense of marriage and family, their upholding of the dignity of human life, and their efforts in support of Ukraine and of persecuted Christians in Africa and the Middle East.