Addressing more than 2,000 Knights of Columbus Tuesday afternoon, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly urged the assembled to stand strong as men of faith amid new challenges facing the Catholic Church today. 

In his speech to Knights, along with several cardinals, bishops, priests, and religious at the 141st Supreme Convention at Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida, Kelly emphasized the need for Catholic men to continue standing for the faith and for the weak and vulnerable.

In the face of what he called “new anti-Catholic bigotry,” Kelly said that Catholic men “have a duty to protect families,” most especially the widowed and orphaned.

Recalling the Knights’ principles of “first in faith and charity,” Kelly highlighted the order’s efforts in response to post-Dobbs attacks on unborn life, support for those affected by the war in Ukraine, and response to a growing “epidemic of loneliness” that has particularly impacted young men in America.

Inviting men to greatness

Kelly pointed out a 2023 study from the U.S. Surgeon General that “reported that we are living through an epidemic of loneliness and isolation.”

“I submit that the Knights of Columbus offers a cure,” Kelly said. “In this time of loneliness, we offer fraternity. In this era of isolation, we extend the hand of friendship. And in a world that offers apathy and anger, we invite men to lives of meaning and mission.”

“In this age of mediocrity, the Knights of Columbus invites men to greatness: to sacrifice themselves for the good of others; to commit to a higher call with a band of brothers; and to stand strong in the breach, side by side, instead of being swept away by the culture, one at a time,” he said.

Supporting Ukraine

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Kelly emphasized the Knights of Columbus’ support for Ukrainians impacted by the ongoing war and pledged the Knights’ continued support. 

“Within 36 hours of Russia’s invasion, we established the Ukraine Solidarity Fund,” Kelly said. “Eighteen months later, we have raised over $21 million. I cannot think of another time in our history when so many gave so much, so fast.”

He thanked all the Knights who have been a part of the order’s relief efforts in Ukraine, calling them “the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.” 

“Ukraine is becoming a nation of heroes,” Kelly said.

Addressing Ukrainians whose lives have been upturned and devastated by the war, Kelly said: “You are not alone. We are with you. And the Knights of Columbus are not going anywhere.”

‘Stand for the truth because it’s right’ 

Recalling the recent Dodgers scandal, in which the Los Angeles Major League Baseball team honored an anti-Catholic hate group called the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with a “community hero award,” Kelly said that Catholic men are called to defend the faith even more vigorously in the face of such bigotry.

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“I was shocked to see a professional baseball team honor an anti-Catholic hate group that masquerades as nuns,” Kelly said. “This group mocks Our Lord and Our Lady in the foulest ways. And they insult the courageous women religious who have dedicated their lives to prayer and service. I can think of no more blatant example of the new anti-Catholic bigotry.”

While Catholics have taken criticism for their work upholding religious freedom and the sanctity of life, Kelly urged the Knights to never back down from defending the truth of the Catholic faith. 

“There is nothing hateful about the sanctity of marriage, the reality of biological sex, or the humanity of the unborn child,” he said. “And the Knights of Columbus will never apologize for defending the truth.”

“We stand for the truth because it’s right — even when it leads to ridicule and scorn,” Kelly said.

Standing for life

Kelly acknowledged that “the fight for life is far from over” and that struggle has even grown in importance with new efforts to undermine the right to life in states across the country.

“Life will be on the ballot in many states over the next two years,” Kelly said.

“This November,” he went on, “Ohio will vote on whether to put the so-called right to abortion into its constitution. Radical activists are already pouring millions of dollars into this battle. They think it will be the beginning of the end of the pro-life movement. But we will prove them wrong.” 

Highlighting the Knights’ Aid and Support After Pregnancy Program, Kelly shared how the Knights have supported pregnant and parenting mothers since the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Through the program and other efforts, the Knights have donated 1,745 ultrasound machines and raised $6 million for pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes across the country.

Rather than backing down from the fight for life after the overturn of Roe, Kelly urged Knights to stand stronger on the life issue than ever before.

Kelly said that the Knights remain dedicated to not only making abortion illegal but also unthinkable. He mentioned the Knights’ efforts to reach younger generations with the pro-life message, pointing out how the order teamed with the Sisters of Life to put on the first-ever “Life Fest,” which took place in January the morning of the national March for Life and was attended by more than 4,000 youth.

Our goal is the same,” he said, “win more hearts, change more minds, and enshrine the right to life in the laws of the land.”

“Think back to where we were, just a few years ago. The powers that be said Roe was settled law. They said it would never be overturned. But the pro-life movement kept the faith. And we carried the day,” Kelly said. “Since the end of Roe, nearly half of our states have taken new steps to protect life. And as I stand before you today, 14 states have ended abortion altogether — and more are on the way.”