National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

The Knights’ Trail Leads to Life

BY Joseph Pronechen

September 21-27, 2008 Issue | Posted 9/16/08 at 11:43 AM


“A People of Life and for Life — Vote Pro-Life.” That wise and inspiring saying placed next to a picture of an innocent baby is the heart of the Knights of Columbus’ new pro-life initiative.

Magnified on a highway billboard, the message can’t be missed. During the Knights of Columbus convention in Quebec City this past August, nobody driving along five major thoroughfares could miss these billboards. They are actually one of four visual media the Knights are using to get this message out. The other three are pamphlets, posters and banners.

The pamphlet came first. “From it, we got the idea to do the billboard and banner,” says Patrick Kelly, K of C vice president for public policy. “The whole idea was to have one piece of literature you could put in someone’s hand that explained to them in very compelling but simple terms why we’re pro-life, why it’s important to stand up for life, and then how they could stand up for life.”

“The theme … is simple: Become informed and get involved,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson wrote in his letter accompanying the pamphlets, which were sent to more than 10,000 Knights’ councils in the United States and more than 2,000 in Canada.

Kelly had the pamphlets mailed to every diocesan respect-life coordinator in the country, too. The goal was to reach as many receptive hearts and minds as possible. Quickly, requests began rolling in for hundreds or thousands more from respect-life offices as well as Knights’ councils.

“The response we got back from the directors was so positive,” he says. “We realized there isn’t a lot of digestible literature out there.”

When the pamphlet arrived on the desk of Sister Jane Boos of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, director of the Office for Social Concerns in the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., she looked it over to see if it would be user-friendly to all the people she works with. Her verdict: Excellent.

“It incorporates information about building a culture of life with actions on how to get involved,” explains Sister Jane. “I liked the combination of education and action. It quotes Pope Benedict XVI and uses culture of life [language] from John Paul II.”

She ordered 300 to give to the pro-life chairs in all 164 parishes during the diocesan Day of Prayer Sept. 6, and she hopes to have the pamphlets available at the diocesan Respect Life Mass in October. Because her office includes Hispanic ministry, she’s obtained the pamphlets in Spanish for their October gathering with Bishop George Lucas.

“My dad was a Grand Knight,” adds Sister Jane, “and the Knights have been so supportive of the pro-life work of our office. So I am very grateful to them for the many ways they support the dignity of the human person.”

Looking Beyond the Election

In Waterford, Mich., Grand Knight Dennis Dopke of St. Perpetua Council 13600 immediately shared the pamphlet with his pastor at St. Perpetua Church, Father Jack Baker. Now his council is anxiously awaiting their order of 750 to share with the parishioners.

“We figured we’d have more people’s attention by inserting them into the Sunday bulletin,” says Dopke.

Available in English, Spanish and French, the pamphlet is simple and clear about why everyone should be pro-life. It sketches five ways to put the culture of life into motion with specific actions: Volunteer, educate, advocate, donate and pray.

The billboard is equally arresting. There’s that peaceful baby sleeping and the powerful message: “A People of Life and for Life — Vote Pro-Life.”

“The message is, you need to inform your conscience and vote pro-life,” says Kelly. “That’s standard equipment for any serious Catholic.”

Nine Words, One Hope

While some councils are well known for their “Keeping Christ in Christmas” billboards, this is the first time the Supreme Council has all the artwork and graphics ready for every local and state council that wishes to sponsor a billboard. It’s a trickle-down effect, says Kelly: The councils know their local roads where billboards will be most visible. “The ideal,” he adds, “is if the local councils would adopt an intersection.”

The posters, which all councils received for parish display, come in two versions. They repeat the simple, all-encompassing pro-life message of the billboard. So do the 15-by-5 banners.

In fact, Labor Day proved a banner weekend for the St. Juan Diego council’s display in Pontiac, Mich. Grand Knight Jack Meinhart explains how Knights lined 2,000 crosses in military fashion in front of St. Vincent de Paul Church, which is located on Woodward Avenue, the main thoroughfare encircling the city. Each cross represented two children aborted each day. Rising above this impressive display was the banner, announcing like a nine-word mini-novena,A People of Life and for Life — Vote Pro-Life.”

The prominent location and timing coincided with the city’s annual Arts, Beats & Eats Festival that attracts well over 1 million people.

“You have 40,000 cars a day passing by that sign,” says Meinhart. “It’s being viewed by a lot of people — definitely going to be over a million. The Knights are going to continue this right-to-life project every year, because it’s a time not too far from any elections, and it’s going to wake people up for the right to life.”

Staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.

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