As the world's largest Catholic fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus must play a prominent role in evangelizing the contemporary world, said Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange, Calif.

"Certainly, there is a clear and demanding need today for the New Evangelization," he stressed.

Bishop Brown delivered his homily at the Aug. 7 opening Mass of the 130th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Anaheim, Calif.

The convention drew approximately 2,000 participants from across the country and around the world, including 12 cardinals and more than 70 bishops, archbishops and abbots. 

Bishop Brown called to mind the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas.

Our Lady has a special significance to the Knights, who renewed their dedication to her during their meeting. The Knights also co-sponsored an Aug. 5 Guadalupe Celebration with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which drew about 100,000 participants.

The bishop explained that Mary's appearance to St. Juan Diego as a woman of mixed race led millions to turn towards Christianity.

"She embraces every culture, ethnic group, nationality and race," he said, and her message is still important for us today.

"Now, five centuries later, we have our own disturbing times," Bishop Brown noted, listing off the challenges presented by to the Church by "a growing secularism, attacks on the value and the gift of human life, attempts to redefine traditional marriage and a serious curtailment of our religious rights."

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These threats emphasize the need for the New Evangelization in today's world, he said, adding that this New Evangelization "calls us to faith, instills hope and fills us with love."

"I'm confident the members of our order will be in the front ranks of the evangelizers," the bishop said.

Pointing to St. Juan Diego's willingness to convey the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he stressed that "the success of the New Evangelization will depend on our laity and their involvement."

"As laity, your lives will act as witness to our faith," he told the conference participants.

In working to do this, the faithful can confidently seek the support of Our Lady of Guadalupe, "the first evangelizer of our hemisphere," who five hundred years ago "opened the door of faith … and does so now," Bishop Brown said.

"Mary said yes to God," he explained. "Our job is to say yes to the New Evangelization."