Lay Catholics have key role in church’s mission in today’s world, says top Knight

By Mark Zimmermann | OSV News

Addressing the John Carroll Society at its April 13 annual awards dinner in Washington, Supreme Knight Patrick E. Kelly underscored something that Pope Francis once told him, that the laity have a co-responsibility along with the clergy for the mission of the Catholic Church in today’s world.

“As laypeople, we’ve been given an essential role, not in church governance, but in advancing her mission. The Gospel makes that crystal clear. And the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the laity provides a framework for living out our calling,” Kelly said.

The Knights of Columbus leader — who was the guest speaker and was one of five recipients of the John Carroll Society Medal at the dinner — emphasized three main duties that laypeople have in carrying out the Church’s mission.

“First, we are called to evangelize, inspiring people to love and follow Jesus,” he said. “Second, we are called to conform the temporal world to reflect God’s law and his desire for human flourishing. And third and finally, we are called to mercy and charity, showing the love of Jesus Christ to those around us, especially the suffering.”

Supreme Knight Patrick E. Kelly of the Knights of Columbus speaks at the John Carroll Society’s 38th annual awards dinner April 13, 2024, at the Four Seasons Hotel In Washington. (OSV News photo/Christopher Newkumet, courtesy John Carroll Society)

The John Carroll Society, founded in 1951, includes nearly 850 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington who work in professions and businesses in the metropolitan area and assist the archbishop of Washington in charitable and community projects. They also participate in spiritual, intellectual and social activities together.

In his talk, Kelly said the need for lay Catholics to take part in the church’s evangelization is “especially urgent in our time.”

“We’ve all heard the numbers,” he said, noting that one-tenth of Americans are now ex-Catholics, and a majority of U.S. Hispanics are no longer Catholic. “And for many of us, these aren’t just statistics — they’re personal experiences. I imagine that almost everyone in this room has family members who have left the faith — siblings, children and grandchildren. Clearly, evangelization is urgently needed.”

The Supreme Knight noted that “we aren’t living in normal times. All of us are called to be missionaries in a society that often views religion, at best, as a matter of private opinion — or at worst, as an enemy of the public good. This requires that we live out our mission constantly — not only on Sundays, and not just at dinners like this, but at all times, in all places, and with all the people that we meet.”

Pope Benedict XVI, he said, encouraged the importance of laypeople forming themselves in the faith and forming relationships to bring faith to life.

In addition to daily prayer, forming oneself in the faith involves studying the faith, not just to deepen one’s intellectual understanding of God, Kelly said. “It’s about encountering Christ in the Word of God and the wisdom of the Church. Self-formation is really transformation, because our goal is not just knowledge – our goal is to become more like Christ.”

Reflecting on Pope Benedict’s goal of forming relationships centered on faith, Kelly noted, “In the workplace and in our communities — and even in our families — we often fall into transactional relationships. But Christ doesn’t want us to get something from others.

“Much more profoundly, he wants us to give something to them, while asking nothing in return. In short, he wants us to love as he loves. … It’s a simple thing, yet it’s very rare, especially here in Washington. In a town and time where people generally look out for themselves, the best way to evangelize is to look out for others.”

Concluding his talk, Kelly said, “In this era of fading faith and rising secularism, and in this town of politics and power, let us commit ourselves to the personal work of evangelization. And let’s use the gifts that Christ has given to each of us to build up his kingdom, fulfilling the call that we equally share, yet is even more uniquely our own.”

In addition to Kelly, the other recipients of the John Carroll Society Medal at the dinner were Kevin Baine, one of the nation’s leading First Amendment attorneys; Andrew N. Cook, a lawyer and past president of the John Carroll Society; Colleen Mudlaff, the executive director of the Gregorian University Foundation who earlier served as the executive director of the John Carroll Society; and Marcus Washington, the president of the Washington Jesuit Academy.

At the dinner, Msgr. Peter Vaghi — longtime chaplain of the John Carroll Society and pastor of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Maryland — gave the opening prayer, and Cardinal Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, gave the closing prayer.

The more than 200 guests at the dinner included John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice of the United States.
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Mark Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Author: OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.

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