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Telling Our Story

6/1/2018

by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

The charity and resilience of the Church in Puerto Rico offer an example for both the form and content of our public discussions

Carl A. Anderson

RECENTLY, I traveled to Puerto Rico to thank many of our brother Knights who did such heroic work in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, to assess the devastation still affecting life on the island and to better understand what further help the Knights of Columbus can provide.

I also visited the island’s Catholic television station to provide financial assistance to help restore its operation. The Order has long recognized that Catholic media is essential to building a greater sense of community among Catholics and to telling our own story — including the tremendous work of so many priests, religious and laity in Puerto Rico.

Over three days, I was able to visit San Juan, Fajardo, Humacao, Caguas, Ponce and Arecibo. Accompanied by our General Agent José Lebrón-Sanabria and State Deputy Miguel Vidal-Lugo, I met with field agents, grand knights, priests, bishops, religious sisters and students. We saw firsthand the damage done to churches, homes, schools, roads, factories and power stations.

On the first day, Archbishop Roberto González Nieves of San Juan told me about the resilience of the people on the island. In a thousand ways, I saw the truth of what he said.

There are many images that will always remain with me: the hundreds of blue tarps still covering the roofs of houses as we flew into San Juan; the island’s delicate rainforest stripped of vegetation in many places; an entire field of solar panels smashed to pieces.

But the most vivid scenes were of people. In Ponce, we visited the Missionaries of Charity home for the elderly. There, as the hurricane approached, the sisters gathered the very elderly who were living alone and those whose families had left the island without them. Now, months later, many remain in the sisters’ care.

In Arecibo, we visited a school and a home for abused girls; the hurricane had ripped off much of the school’s roof while the Daughters of Charity, who maintain the orphanage, sought shelter with the girls in the school’s library. With tears in her eyes, the mother superior accepted a check from the Knights of Columbus to finally repair the building’s roof.

At the heart of this resilience cited by the archbishop is the daily courage that has continued to overcome extraordinary obstacles month after month — whether it be our brother Knights preparing meals and delivering food to thousands, and repairing schools and churches, or religious sisters caring for those who cannot care for themselves.

It is clear that we cannot rely on the mainstream media alone to tell our Catholic story. This is one of the reasons why for decades the Order has supported media sources such as Vatican TV, EWTN News Nightly and Salt & Light Television.

Today, Catholic media — both print and electronic — are essential to building up a sense of community among Catholics. Pope Francis has encouraged all of us to think of our Church as a fraternal community — and there is no better place to begin than in our own community of journalists, commentators and bloggers.

Even when we disagree strongly about issues, there is still a place for charity. Our public discourse should not only be respectful but reflect that these discussions occur among followers of Christ — and that must make them different.

While in the Tower of London awaiting execution, St. Thomas More composed a prayer that begins, “Almighty God, have mercy on all that bear me evil will and would me harm … and make us saved souls in heaven together.”

If Thomas More could offer this prayer for those who had unjustly condemned him to death, then perhaps all of us can do the same in our public discussions.

Vivat Jesus!