Knights of Columbus ‘Ladies Program’ recognizes women as key ‘influencers’
Approximately 525 women, a mix of all ages from every state in the country, attended the Knights of Columbus 141st Supreme Convention “Ladies Program” Aug. 1, 2023. | Photo courtesy of the Knights of Columbus
This year the Knights of Columbus held a “Ladies Program” at its 141st Supreme Convention held last week in Orlando, Florida, to unite and affirm the faith of Catholic laywomen whose husbands are members of the Catholic fraternal service organization.
More than 500 women attended the program, which highlighted the sacrifices Knights’ wives make and the key role they play as “women of influence.” This was the second year the Knights of Columbus held a women’s program at its Supreme Convention.
According to Vanessa Kelly, wife of Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, the purpose of the Ladies Program is to give the “most important nonmembers of the order, the ladies, the wives, moms, children of the Knights,” an opportunity to “come together and grow in their faith.”
The event was organized in partnership with the GIVEN Institute, a ministry for Catholic women. According to its website, GIVEN is a Catholic organization dedicated to helping women, especially young women, to “experience the spiritual maternity of the Church.”
Through leadership training, faith formation, and dedicated mentoring, GIVEN’s weeklong programs for young Catholic women ages 21–35 help them better understand and pursue their particular mission and vocation.
Women of influence
“You all truly are influencers who really are making a difference in this world today,” said Sister Mary Gabriel of the Sisters of Life, who emceed the event.
Sister Mary Gabriel highlighted the roles that Knights of Columbus founder Blessed Michael McGivney’s mother and sisters played in helping to form the order.
“As I was praying for each of you in anticipation of this Ladies Program at the convention, it was as if I saw Blessed Michael McGivney smiling and pointing to several women whom he loved especially in his life, his mother, Mary Lynch McGivney, and his four sisters.”
“Father McGivney’s mother was widowed when he, the eldest child, was 20 years old. And she and his sisters remained a close presence throughout his life,” Sister Mary Gabriel said. “This morning we thank the Lord for the witness of these McGivney women, whose love helped form their son and brother and pave the way to the founding of the Knights of Columbus.”
In her keynote address, Catholic author and speaker Rachel Bulman said that Knights’ wives are “an important and integral part of the Knights of Columbus.”
Bulman, who is on GIVEN’s advisory council, talked about how women are the key “influencers” in Catholic families.
“The capacity of a woman’s body is the capacity for life. Whether you have conceived or not, you have the capacity to conceive life,” she went on. “Your ability to recognize life in your husband and allow that to be called out into service of the Knights of Columbus is a gift.”
Bulman called to mind a scene from the biblical TV series “The Chosen” in which Jesus tells Peter’s wife that she was the first to recognize her husband Peter’s potential for greatness.
She then asked the women to close their eyes and picture their husbands.
“You were the first one to see your spouse as God sees him,” she said. “You saw something that was greater than what he thought his capacity was to be. All his sacrifices to become who he is are your sacrifices too. Because you are sacramentally one.”
“A woman of influence,” Bulman said, “is a woman that recognizes the wounds that she has and allows God to redeem them for his good.”
The need for strong marriages
The purpose of the program, said Michele Nuzzo-Naglieri, a representative for the Knights of Columbus, is to recognize the central role that wives of the Knights, in addition to their husbands, play in building up the Church through strong families.
“With the many families that attend the convention, there was a real opportunity for us to set some time aside for the women only and create a program that seeks to nurture them spiritually and emphasize what a gift they are to the Church,” Nuzzo-Naglieri told CNA. “We want to make sure they know how appreciated they are for all that they do, the seen and unseen, to help advance the mission of the Knights of Columbus.”
“A strong family can only begin with a strong marriage in which both husband and wife put God at the center of their lives,” Kelly said in her address to the wives of the order.
“The reason for these projects is simple and profound,” she said. “A relationship with Christ is the greatest gift we can offer the next generation. The Knights of Columbus has a duty to help parents grow in their faith and pass it on to their children.”
Besides playing a core role in passing on the faith to the next generation, Kelly said that the wives of the Knights of Columbus are central to its mission of building up the Church around the world.
“By supporting the order, you’re helping strengthen marriage and family across the world,” Kelly told the women at the program.