It is both an honor and a thrill for me as a pastor to see men of St. Thomas a Becket Parish establish a Council of the Knights of Columbus here. This comes just at the time when I've been really discovering the Catholic Women's League for the first time. The League has been here in this Parish for over 30 years, and I've been here for 11 of those, but have been slow to really grasp the true nature of this amazing women's organization. Without being related in any way, the League and the Knights have a deep kinship in their purpose, objectives, and meaning.
In early 2004 I was mandated by my bishop to serve for five years as Spiritual Advisor to the Archdiocesan Council of the CWL in Montreal. From my very first contact with these women, I was deeply impressed by the quality of their sisterhood, the depth of their love for God, the intensity of their caring for all women and their lives, the warmth of their love for priests, bishops, and deacons, and the strength of their loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church and affection for all Christians and Christian churches. I have been in such awe of these ladies these past 20 months that I wonder that all Catholic women are not members of the League.
My understanding of the workings of the League and my admiration for the women who persevere through the difficulties of life as active members and who dedicate their time, effort, and generosity in service to the life, activity, work, and vitality of the League have only increased with every convention I have attended at the diocesan level twice, and the provincial level once, and at the national level twice. The CWL magazine The League is a high quality witness to the vitality of this organization of Canadian women, and there's a lot more out there than can be reported in the magazine at any given time.
My greatest surprise, which must be because I'm really slow on the uptake, was to discover that the main purpose of the League is the spiritual development of its members. Wow! Where have I been all these years? Every parish and pastor that has a CWL Council may very well consider themselves blessed, and be eager to work more closely with the Executive - especially the President and the Chairperson for Spiritual Development - for the growth of the Council and for the good of all the Catholic women in the parish and of all women in society.
Similarly, the Knights of Columbus have as their main purpose the spiritual and the human development of their members, the srengthening of men for the sake of their wives and families through solidarity at the Council, provincial, national, and international levels, the defense of the clergy and the Church, and the protection of life and the defenseless among us. The Knights were founded in Connecticut almost 200 years ago by a simple and poor parish priest with a few of his leading men for the purpose of coming to the aid of their men who were defenseless immigrants, hard put by poverty and prejudice to find gainful employment, shelter, and food for their families. Life is still hard, even though we are surrounded by affluence, and there are still many men, at all stages of life, who find themselves hard put and alone.
More than ever before, both women and men have a need for the support of their peers and elders, in a venue where they can rely on the integrity and loyalty of others to be there for them, and where they can find the opportunity to use and develop their own abilities and gifts in a way that will help their peers in turn and have a good impact on society at large. These two magnificent organizations deserve our support and are worthy of the trust of younger generations. With the help of their pastors, the elder generation can find within themselves the trust to allow the younger ones to share in the leadership and perhaps take us where we would not think to go.
We were young once and took the opportunity to shape our organizations as we thought best. Now it's time for the young to do so in their turn. First, though, we need to go out to the young and walk with them in the current conditions of their lives at home, work, and school, and in their neighborhoods. As Jesus asked in telling the story of the Good Samaritan, "Which of these three made himself a neighbor to the man in need?" We wlll find joy and inspiration in spending a lot of time in prayer before the Lord, that He may show us how we might creatively find ways to make ourselves a neighbor for the women and men of today.
The CWL theme for this year is "Companions on the Journey." As these younger women and men find in us companions on their journey, they in turn will discover our best kept secrets: that they have a fraternal organization which they can make their own. Women have the Catholic Women's League of Canada, and men have the Knights of Columbus. Young men under 18 also have the Squires of the Knights of Columbus, and the CWL is contemplating a gathering of young women under 18. Contact your local parish council of the CWL or the K of C. Allow the strength of these brothers and sisters to give you a lift and provide you with an opportunity to discover the best in yourself, and have the deep satisfaction of making a difference in your own life and in the lives of those around you.