DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Fraternity, unity, charity, patriotism, and the protection of all life — these are among the many values of the 138-year-old organization, the Knights of Columbus.
Knights from the Long Island Chapter of Brooklyn and Queens filled the pews at the annual Pro Vita Mass, held Jan. 25 at St. James Cathedral Basilica in Downtown Brooklyn.
These men, women and their families gathered in service and gratitude for the gift of human life, from conception until natural death.
The Mass, typically held after the March for Life in Washington D.C., was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros, and co-celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, Vicar General; Father Michael Gelfant, pastor of St. Finbar in Bensonhurst; and numerous other Knights of Columbus council and parish chaplains from around the diocese.
“We come to celebrate with the Knights and their commitment to the protection of life, especially of the most vulnerable—the child in a mother’s womb,” said Bishop Cisneros in his homily. “In our prayers, we repent for the neglect of our elderly and our most valued treasures, our children.
“And as we come to pray in reparations for the sins of our world, we also come to proclaim light and the kingdom of God around us—that is our hope, what lifts and unites us together. Were you filled with joy as you saw all the young people at the March for Life? That is our fulfillment…the light of Christ is always present around us if only we take the time to look.”
As a tradition, local Knights chapters were honored with awards recognizing their cumulative work and contributions to the pro-life movement. This year, two councils were honored for raising around $30,000 total to purchase ultrasound machines for local pregnancy and women’s resource centers, still to be determined, in Brooklyn and Queens.
One of two Bishop Thomas Vose Daily Pro Vita Awards was presented to past Grand Knight Steven M. Cirone, and members of Greenpoint’s Lexington Council #293. The award was named after the late Brooklyn Bishop Daily, who served as the supreme chaplain for the Knights of Columbus and was a strong voice in the pro-life movement.
(At last year’s Mass, the Basilica also named its newest knights council: the Bishop Thomas Vose Daily Knight of Columbus Council No. 17000.)
The second Pro Vita award was presented to the Monsignor Francis Dillon Knights Council #5872 in Whitestone, serving the parishes of St. Luke’s and Holy Trinity.
“When women may think there is no hope, there are certainly people praying and advocating for them,” said Anthony Belviso, Deputy Grand Knight. “Even us men want to become a hope that women can rely on.”
Father Gelfant, who was a past Grand Knight at St. Finbar’s, and is now the Associate State Chaplain for the New York State Council Knights of Columbus, said that every council or chapter raised between $15,000 and $20,000 over the last year.
“The Supreme Council matches the funds, and the [machines] get purchased sent to centers around the nation, most of them right here in New York,” he said. “We want to show women that there is an alternative…we have proven facts that the majority of women who see their child in their womb, on that screen, decide not to abort.”
Last summer, through charity events, fundraising and donations, the Knights of Columbus as an organization raised enough to purchase 1,000 ultrasound machines nationwide. The machines are 4D technology, allowing mothers to clearly see the face–and dignity–of their child.
“The souls that will be saved are well beyond value,” said Father Gelfant.
Father Manuel de Jesus Rodriguez, the pastor of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in Jamaica, Queens, was also honored with the Father Michael J. McGivney Medal for Life. Father Rodriguez has held a pro-life Mass and prayer walk to a local abortion clinic on the last Saturday of each month for the past six years.
He is also known for organizing the “Caminata Por La Vida,” or “Walk for Life,” to a parish and abortion clinic in Manhattan.
“It’s about the urgency of valuing life… to highlight it as a gift, and to support those who promote it—especially in light of the crazy atmosphere we live in, which disrespects the dignity of life in all its manifestations,” Father Rodriguez told The Tablet.
“What keeps me going is my faith and commitment to the Lord, as well as to this community. This [award] recognizes what we have achieved together. Here at this parish, you can see and touch faith with your hand.”