When our fifth child came to our family through adoption, I became passionate about helping every little unplanned life come into the world. So for years as a busy working mother, I tried unsuccessfully to find time to volunteer at my local pregnancy support center. Thankfully, I finally found my niche at a center with the help of the Knights of Columbus. Our facility was a fortunate recipient of one of over 950 ultrasound machines the organization has donated to pro-life pregnancy centers around the country. I am the fortunate radiologist who reads the scans of the lively kicking babies or the tiny embryos with their fluttering hearts. Although I donate my expertise, I would be of no use without that expensive piece of equipment.
I don’t think it’s possible to estimate with any certainty how many lives have been saved by the hundreds of ultrasound machines the Knights have donated to centers like ours. I’m guessing it’s at least many thousands. There is something so endearing about the little embryos in the grainy black and white images, a vulnerability that tugs at the hearts of their mothers. I’ve seen many times the change in a young woman’s face as she realizes this is no alien invader, but a little son or daughter, a son or daughter whose chance at life has just grown exponentially.
This ultrasound machine program is only a tiny part of the life-saving work of the Knights of Columbus, founded in 1882 by Father McGivney. The pro-life work of the Knights would make a lot of sense to a priest who felt so deeply for the struggles of the Irish immigrants with their large, cheerful families and their empty cupboards. His idea was to form a lay organization of Catholic men who could help each other and the poor of the parish, as well as provide for the families of deceased members.
The mutual-aid organization he founded at a small parish has grown to be enormously influential on a global level. Comprising a handful of men at the beginning, the Knights now number nearly 2 million and are active in many countries. They are one of the most generous charities in the country, having donated $1.62 billion to various causes over the past decade. In fact, 2017 was a record-setting year for the Knights, who donated $185.6 million and over 75 million hours of service worldwide. They support the Special Olympics, provide wheelchairs for the disabled, coats for poor children, and contribute heavily after natural disasters across the world, just to name a few of their many charitable initiatives.
Recently the Knights of Columbus have been pouring their time and assets into helping the victims of Christian genocide in the Middle East. Without the shelter, food, clothing, and medical care they’ve provided to the persecuted, it is doubtful whether Christianity would have survived in Iraq. Their 280-page report on the atrocities perpetrated against Christians was instrumental in having the U.S. State Department recognize the events as an ongoing genocide. The Knights are currently raising funds to rebuild Karamles, an Iraqi town that was razed by ISIS, and with their help, Christians are slowly returning home as the town is rising from the ruins.
The insurance system established by Father McGivney in 1882 is now a top-rated insurance program that provides a safety net for members and their families. The company has been recognized for the last five years as one of the world’s most ethical companies, and members can be sure that the organization always works in ways that build up society and the Church. Their Asset Advisors give Catholics access to an investment team that thinks not only about profit, but also about abiding by Catholic moral principles when planning investment strategies.
Considering all this, ultrasound machines may seem like small stuff. But every time I get my weekly stack of ultrasound images and imagine the lovely babies that will be coming into the world in a few short months, I think gratefully of the Knights for lending life a hand. After all, lending life a hand is what the Knights do better than anyone.