The Knights of Columbus: a unique
means of evangelization on college campuses
I was born a man, but I chose to become a Knight. I
made this choice because I realized that if I were going to take my
faith seriously, I needed to commit to it in a way that would help
support my faith, and would also provide me with a means to live an
appropriate Christian witness for others.
As an undergraduate student at Harvard University, I
became a leader in campus ministry. I was privileged to serve with other
students and have the support of gifted and dedicated chaplains in
renewing the life of the Church on that campus.
We hoped to bring more students into the community of
the Church through an authentic witness to the Gospel. We encouraged men
to practice traditional devotions and the prayers of the Church
such as lectio divina,
liturgy of the hours, and the
Rosary. We offered weekly faith study groups, which allowed students to
reflect on readings from Sacred Scripture and the lives of the saints.
We offered Eucharistic adoration and encouraged more frequent devotion
to the sacraments, including the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
In all things, our hope was to bring students to
Christ, to encourage a mature commitment to the faith that would serve
students as they grew into adulthood.
However, campus ministry is not like baking a cake.
It's not simply a matter of having all of the essential ingredients
present to ensure success. University campuses have unique pastoral
needs, and God works through the hearts of men in subtle and different
We noticed that, though many more students became
involved in campus ministry activities when these additional
opportunities for devotion were offered, many men fulfilled their weekly
obligation by Mass attendance on Sunday. They lived an isolated and
compartmentalized faith, which did not ground them in the life of the
We discovered that many men looked for a sense of
fraternity within the Church. They sought the fellowship of other men
elsewhere through athletics, other student organizations and,
regrettably, in Harvard's "final clubs", which often encouraged binge
drinking and the exploitation of women.
What was needed was a fraternity of Catholic men
dedicated to challenging and supporting each other in the Catholic
faith, a public witness to the Gospel, and service to the community
through corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Our hope was to help the
men of Harvard to become the men God wants them to be. As it is written
in Proverbs, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another".
While there are more than 200 college councils, the
oldest college in the United States was not in that number. In fact,
despite its roots in educating Protestant ministers, in general, God was
not often a noticeable presence on campus.
And while there was much to be had in terms of the
Campus Ministry at Harvard University, there was no Knights of Columbus
Having heard of the Venerable Servant of God Fr
Michael McGivney and of the Knights from my grandfather, who was also my
godfather and an excellent example for me in my own faith, I found the
vision of focus on living out the faith practically to be very useful
both personally and in terms of helping to evangelize a secular college
It occurred to me that the Knights of Columbus might
provide an opportunity to reach people who might not take their faith to
the next level, because the goal as Knights was a very practical living
out of the faith.
The organization strives
to make men the best Catholics they could be
people known as Christ's followers by the way we loved one another. That
practical witness of charity captured not only my own imagination, but
that of dozens of my peers, and together, we were able to form a council
made up of students at Harvard.
As Grand Knight, my
first program was one of spiritual formation, we asked our members to
attend Mass together weekly, and adopted a nursing home, Vernon Hall,
literally on the campus's doorstep, but completely forgotten by the
other service groups on campus. In addition, we engaged in our work
there and elsewhere in many team-building exercises, creating a group of
men who worked well together whatever the charitable mission at hand.
Since then, the Knights
at Harvard have continued their work at Vernon Hall, expanding it to
include physical maintenance on the building, visiting with residents,
and helping in whatever other ways present themselves. At the same time,
the council has sponsored a white ribbon campaign to raise awareness
about the harms of pornography, while also directly engaging in
catechetical outreach through a smaller, more intensive study of the
Catholic faith by members of the council.
I had grown up for most of my life in the
pontificate of Pope John Paul II, whose leadership and work with youth
was groundbreaking. It was he who had called the laity to greater work
in their sphere of influence, and that message always struck me. It was
for that reason that we named the council for him.
continuation of those themes and his encyclicals on charity gave even
more direction to my motivation
to better and evangelize my world through the witness of charity.
So, upon graduating, I
realized that my life would be best spent
and most rewarding
in service to Christ and his Church.
That led me to take a
job as college council coordinator for the Knights of Columbus, where I
was able to continue to bring young men to live out their faith through
a daily witness to charity, a unity with their Church, and fraternity
with each other.
Whether helping organize
events for our members and others at World Youth Day, or bringing the
activities and active Catholicism of the Knights to a new college
campus, the Knights of Columbus has given me the chance to live out my
faith, to share my faith, and bring others to an experience of faith
that I can concretely see
through the activities of our college Knights, through the vocations
produced through the program, through the many people helped by those
energetic young men, entering adulthood with a sense of faith, a sense
of service, a sense of being "their brother's keeper".