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How this Mother Teresa documentary sheds new light on a beloved saint

September 5, 2022 Catholic News Agency 2
Mother Teresa in the year 1980. / L’Osservatore Romano.

Rome Newsroom, Sep 5, 2022 / 06:40 am (CNA).

The so-called “definitive movie” about Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be in theaters in October. It sheds new light on — and delivers powerful images of — the life of this venerated Albanian-Kosovar nun.

Sept. 5 is the feast day of the St. Teresa of Kolkata. She died on Sept. 5, 1997, and was beatified only six years later, on Oct. 19, 2003.

John Paul II proclaimed her blessed in 2003, only six years after her death. Her life inspired thousands of books. Her life, witness, and legacy have been studied and written about in depth.

Pope Francis canonized Mother Teresa on Sept. 4, 2016. 

For this reason, it doesn’t seem easy to add anything to the many biographies and stories about Mother Teresa of Calcutta. But the film “No Greater Love”, produced by the Knights of Columbus, achieves this feat. 

The film premiere took place in Rome on Aug. 29, while on Aug. 31, there was a press conference about the movie. 

Divided into chapters that tell the salient moments of Mother Teresa’s life, the film is fragmented with interviews with missionaries, members of the order she founded, and biographers of Mother Teresa. 

“Mother Teresa” is not only a reflection on the life of the saint but also gives a general perspective of the great work that the Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa do all over the world, in Brazil, in the fields on the border between Mexico and the United States, in the Philippines.

The story of Mother Teresa is well-documented. Born in Skopje to an Albanian-Kosovar family, a minority of the minorities in the Balkan region, she soon felt the missionary impulse, entered the Missionary Nuns of Our Lady of Loreto, and left for India, where she began to work as a teacher. 

After witnessing the shocking impact of local suffering in the streets of Calcutta after some riots, she realized her mission was, first and foremost, to be with the poor. 

Indeed, with the poorest of the poor.

From this vocation was born a work that has touched the entire world. It spread from the slums of Calcutta (Kolkata) to the Bronx, helping those stricken with another kind of poverty: marginalized AIDS patients, who, at the end of the previous century, was at first treated like lepers at the time of Jesus.

Eventually, her vital work was recognized by the world. In 1979, Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize, and in Oslo, she delivered a touching speech in which she labeled the nations that legalize abortion as “the poorest nations.” 

Mother Teresa’s friendship with Saint John Paul II bore many fruits, including a house of the Missionaries of Charity right in the Vatican, where they are today. 

Part of this saint’s enduring legacy is her spirituality, her struggle with the “dark night of the soul.” 

What is powerful in the film is, above all, the images. The producers had full access to the Missionaries of Charity’s archive, finding unpublished or little-known footage, including that of Mother Teresa acting as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist.

Patrick Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, emphasized that the film was born “thanks to the relationship of trust between the Knights of Columbus and the Missionaries of Charity.”

After all, Virgil Dechant, the predecessor of Kelly’s predecessor as Supreme Knight, was a personal friend of Mother Teresa. They collaborated, sharing the mutual value of charity, at the foundations of the Knight of Columbus, considering that “charity is the fundamental principle of the Knights of Columbus.”

In a letter sent to Kelly, Pope Francis thanked for initiatives that “help, in a creative way, to make zeal for evangelization accessible especially to the younger generations.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, talked about his friendship with Mother Teresa. Although he asked her to send nuns to his diocese on two different occasions “to bring healing and consolation,” Mother Teresa always fulfilled the requests.

Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, the postulator of the cause of the canonization of Mother Teresa, stressed that the film helps to remember the great work and vocation of the saint. 

The movie’s message is that “Calcutta is everywhere” — because there are those in need everywhere: “There is a work of charity yet to be done.”

Sister Myriam Therese, regional superior of the Missionaries of Charity, said it was “nice to see people who changed their lives because they were affected by God’s love” and that Mother Teresa was “a carrier of that love.”

Finally, David Naglieri, the movie’s director, underlined that “they did not want only a biography, we wanted to show her radical call, but also to show how the mission of Mother Teresa continues.”


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Urgent appeal from Supreme Knight: Start this novena on Christmas Eve for persecuted Christians

December 23, 2021 Catholic News Agency 1
Patrick Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, delivers his first Supreme Knight’s Report during the organization’s 139th Annual Convention, Aug. 3, 2021. Credit: Knights of Columbus/screenshot. / null

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 23, 2021 / 16:40 pm (CNA).

The head of the Knights of Columbus is asking for the order’s members to consider “a last-minute Christmas gift”: saying a nine-day novena, starting Christmas Eve, on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world.

“In recent weeks, there have been threats of attacks made against Christians and Christian churches in more than a few parts of the world,” Supreme Knight Patrick E. Kelly wrote in an email.

“A friend of the Knights, Bishop Stephen Dami Mamza of the Diocese of Yola, Nigeria, was recently interviewed about the increased threats and violence. When asked if he had a message for Christians around the world, he said simply, ‘we want you to support us with your prayers … without your prayers we may not be able to survive.’”

The Novena For Persecuted Christians begins on Dec. 24 and concludes on Jan. 1, which coincides the World Day of Prayer for Peace.

In recent years Bishop Mamza’s Yola Diocese in northeastern Nigeria has been a flashpoint for suicide bombings and other attacks against Christians by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. Mamza said in a November interview that the persecution of Christians in his country is “more intense now than ever.”

In Nigeria as a whole, at least 60,000 Christians have been killed in the past two decades. An estimated 3,462 Christians were killed in Nigeria in the first 200 days of 2021, or 17 per day, according to a new study.


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Knights of Columbus announce icon of St. Joseph as prayer program’s centerpiece

November 9, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
The Knights of Columbus announced the selection of this icon of St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus as the centerpiece of this year’s KofC prayer program. / Courtesy of Knights of Columbus

CNA Staff, Nov 9, 2021 / 16:14 pm (CNA).

As the state deputies of the Knights of Columbus gathered for their semi-annual meeting last weekend in Nashville, Tennessee, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly encouraged the order’s leaders to grow in faith, expand the Order’s membership, and advance the Knight’s mission.

Kelly also introduced the Order’s new pilgrim icon prayer program, which features an icon of St. Joseph holding the child Jesus from St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Canada. 

The Knights of Columbus (KofC) is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, with more than two million members in 16,000 councils worldwide. 

The pilgrim icon prayer program is a longstanding tradition for the KofC, in which every few years a new icon of a saint is selected to inspire the Knights and their communities. The icon is distributed to each of the Knight’s more than 75 jurisdictions and travels from council to council.

Councils at parishes will use the icon as centerpieces for “rosary-based” prayer services, a press release said. Our Lady of Guadalupe was the first icon during the conception of the program in 1979. Since the initiation of the program, almost 175,000 council and parish prayer services have been held with about 22 million participants.

Past images commissioned by the council have been icons of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Częstochowa, Our Lady of Pochaiv, Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Charity, Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians, and the Holy Family.

Following a Votive Mass in honor of St. Joseph on Saturday, Nov. 6 celebrated by Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Kelly announced the featuring of the St. Joseph icon, which is inspired by Pope Francis’ Apostolic letter, Patris Corde. Pope Francis’s letter announced the year of St. Joseph that stretches from Dec. 8, 2020 to Dec 8, 2021. 

Kelly, who received a private audience with Pope Francis last month, said that the Holy Father was grateful that the Knights chose St. Joseph to be “a central focus of our spiritual efforts.”

Kelly was accompanied at the meeting by his predecessor, Past Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, as well as Lori.

The choice for the newly commissioned icon of St. Joseph is no surprise, as Kelly has advocated for devotion to the saint since his installation as the Supreme Knight. 

During his June installation, Kelly consecrated his administration to St. Joseph. “The example of St. Joseph teaches us how to be Knights of the Eucharist. He was the guardian of the first tabernacle — beginning with Mary herself when she bore Christ in her womb, and then in the home where he and Mary lived with Jesus,” he said at his installation address.

Also, in October, the Knights released a new documentary on St. Joseph, inspired by Pope Francis’s declaration of the Year of St. Joseph.

The Knights of Columbus's pilgrim icon prayer program is a longstanding tradition, in which every few years a new icon of a saint is selected to inspire the Knights and their communities. This year, the Knights have chosen an icon of St. Joseph holding the child Jesus from St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Canada. Jeffrey Bruno, Courtesy of the Knights of Columbus.
The Knights of Columbus’s pilgrim icon prayer program is a longstanding tradition, in which every few years a new icon of a saint is selected to inspire the Knights and their communities. This year, the Knights have chosen an icon of St. Joseph holding the child Jesus from St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Canada. Jeffrey Bruno, Courtesy of the Knights of Columbus.

During his address on Saturday, Kelly encouraged Knights and their communities to again entrust themselves to St. Joseph. Kelly implored the men to “give thanks to God for the gift of his fatherly example and ask St. Joseph to be a father to us” as we seek to “grow in our own imitation of St. Joseph’s quiet strength, integrity, and fidelity.” 

Lori said that St. Joseph’s obedient faith and trustworthiness are “two virtues [that] ought to stand out in us as Knights of Columbus, and especially in us who are leaders among our brother Knights in the Order.”

“St. Joseph’s vocation to foster the earthly life of Jesus is, of course, unique, but all of us have been called to the obedience of faith,” Lori added. “Father McGivney envisioned his Knights, above all, as men of obedient faith, who, with their wives and children, would live their vocation to the fullest.”

“In choosing Joseph to care with a father’s love for the Incarnate Son of God, the Eternal Father recognized in St. Joseph a man of utmost integrity, a man who perhaps had no idea what God had in mind for him but nonetheless went about his daily life and work with honesty and reliability,” he said.

“A lot of men, especially young men, are looking for meaning and answers,” he said. “We offer both — a life of service and a life of meaning. Don’t just encourage men to adopt our initiatives; explain to them why our initiatives matter, and how the Knights can help them be the kind of men God is calling them to be,” he said.

Speaking of the Knight’s founder, Blessed Michael McGivney, Kelly told the state deputies on Friday, Nov. 5 that McGivney was a “man of action.” He said that McGivney “rose to meet the struggles” of his parishioners and community “head on,” and that by establishing the Knights of Columbus, he “gave men a place to stand as brothers, bound together in charity, unity, and fraternity.”

Kelly implored the Knights to fulfil the mission that McGivney started in his time. Kelly also called on the men to expand the Order’s membership by growing “deeper, as men of faith.”

On Nov. 7, at the meeting’s closing session, Kelly presented four Knights with the St. Michael Award for exemplary service to the Order. 

The four recipients were: former director of chaplains for the KofC, Augustinian Father John Grace; former Supreme Warden George W. Hanna; Supreme Master Dennis Stoddard; and Col. Charles “Chuck” Gallina (USMC-Ret.), the supreme knight’s advisor for military and veterans affairs.


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Knights of Columbus highlight charitable work, faith formation at annual meeting

August 3, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Patrick Kelly, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, delivers his first Supreme Knight’s Report during the organization’s 139th Annual Convention, Aug. 3, 2021. Credit: Knights of Columbus/screenshot.

Hartford, Conn., Aug 3, 2021 / 19:55 pm (CNA).

Patrick Kelly, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, highlighted the group’s charitable work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, announced plans to support faith formation initiatives, and lauded the group’s newly-beatified founder in a speech Tuesday. 

“Make no mistake: Now is a time for Knights. The past 18 months have amplified old challenges and given rise to new ones. They face our families, our faith, and our culture as a whole,” Kelly said during the Aug. 3 virtual address. 

Being a Knight means “a life of faith in action, a life of boldness in brotherhood, a life worth living. Catholic men are looking for nothing less. In the Knights of Columbus, they will find it,” Kelly said. 

The Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, has over 2 million members in 16,000 councils worldwide. The order was founded in 1882 by a Connecticut parish priest, Blessed Michael McGivney. Initially, the organization was intended to assist widows and their families upon the deaths of their husbands. 

Fr. McGivney was beatified Oct. 31, with Pope Francis praising his “zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel” which “made him an outstanding witness of Christian solidarity and fraternal assistance.” 

“These words are a powerful validation of our Founder’s vision and of our own work. They remind us that Father McGivney’s life is an inspiration to the Church and to the world,” Kelly commented. 

Kelly’s speech follows the opening Mass of the Knights’ 139th annual convention, held at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, where Blessed McGivney is buried. The Knights normally convene in-person each year, but 2021 marks the second year in a row that the meeting has been held virtually.

Kelly succeeded Carl Anderson as Supreme Knight in March. The new Supreme Knight praised his predecessor’s leadership, noting that in Anderson’s 20 years of leadership, the group gained more than 400,000 members, charitable donations rose by more than 60%, and the order expanded to Europe and mainland Asia.

Kelly pointed to Pope Francis’ declaration of a Year of St. Joseph, and highlighted the pope’s call to imitate the “creative courage” of Christ’s foster father. 

“In St. Joseph, we see our mission and mandate. Guard the family. Guard the truth. He led through service and creative courage. So must we. It is the only way to overcome the hurdles facing our families, the Church and our culture,” he said. 

Kelly announced that the Knights will, this fall, debut on network TV a documentary on St. Joseph, which he said will explore why St. Joseph is the ideal model for Catholic men. 

In particular, Kelly lauded St. Joseph in his role as “Guardian of the Truth”— in his case, guardian of The Truth Himself, Jesus Christ. 

“We, too, must defend this truth,” Kelly said.  

“We live in a time of bigotry and intolerance. Key truths — about life, marriage, the nature of the family, and the meaning of freedom — are increasingly denied and even vilified. Yet, this makes our commitment to truth all the more important. Now is the time to inspire our fellow Catholics to stand for what’s right. St. Joseph is our guide. Let us pray for his intercession. And let us make his creative courage our own, for the sake of the family, and the truth.”

Kelly said the Knights will continue to be a sign of unity by standing for the truth. 

“I have long admired the Order’s impact on men. As a Navy JAG officer for many years, I saw young men who had the courage to serve their country, but who nonetheless made poor decisions and got into trouble. My job was to represent them at courts-martial. Many lacked strong families or strong father figures. And too few had a living and real faith. This made a lasting impression on me and I came to appreciate that one of the best things about the Knights is that we can help fill this void.”

Kelly said that the truth is grounded in the Eucharist, and said the Knights are called to have a special reverence for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Kelly announced that the Knights are and will continue to be major sponsors of the US bishops’ planned Eucharistic revival, set to take place over the next few years. 

“As supreme knight, I will prioritize new initiatives to strengthen the faith of men, and the faith of our families. I firmly believe that, more and more, our success as an Order will be judged by this standard,” he said. 

“Our growth depends on empowering men to be the husbands and fathers that God wants us to be. It is harder than ever, and for that reason, we must push forward as never before. It will require creative courage.”

In the past year, the Knights have provided more than $150 million in donations and more than 47 million hours of hands-on volunteer service, he said. 

Some notable charitable projects include support for Special Olympics, scholarships for seminarians, and funds to rebuild churches in the Middle East and other aid for persecuted Christians both there and in countries like Nigeria. 

In addition to financial aid, the Knights of Columbus have in the past advocated for persecuted Christians before the U.S. government, sending researchers to Iraq in 2016 to compile a 300-page report on the crimes of the Islamic State against Christians in the country.

The Knights announced a new initiative in mid-2020 to report on Christian persecution in Nigeria, where at least 60,000 Christians have been killed in the past two decades. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and the demographics overall are almost evenly split between Christians and Muslims.

The Knights are also working on a shrine to St. Kateri Tekakwitha in Gallup, New Mexico, and in July, Knights in South Dakota led a pilgrimage to the burial site of Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk, a revered Lakota medicine man and Catholic. 

In discussing the Knights’ charitable work, Kelly focused strongly on the Knights’ response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This was not our first pandemic. Father McGivney died during a pandemic less than a decade after our founding. A century ago, the Knights of Columbus confronted the Spanish Flu and emerged even stronger,” Kelly noted.

“This pandemic will be no different. Our duty was clear from the start. When loss and suffering struck our parishes and communities, the Knights responded, with service and sacrifice.”

In sum, Knights donated nearly $7.7 million to community and parish projects, Kelly said, as well as 1.2 million pounds of food, and almost a quarter million pints of blood. Through the Knights’ life insurance programs, the organization paid more than $524 million in death benefits, of which approximately $35 million was related to COVID. 

Kelly highlighted several projects undertaken by local chapters during the pandemic, including donations to the Little Sisters of the Poor, and donations of truckloads of food worth more than $335,000 to the Acoma, Navajo, and Zuni nations in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.

He also highlighted the Knights’ pro-life activities, including sponsoring numerous Marches for Life across North America. Kelly also highlighted the Knights’ Ultrasound Initiative, which since 2009 has placed more than 1,400 ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers. 

In terms of policy goals, Kelly reiterated the Knights’ strong support for the Hyde Amendment, federal policy since 1976 that prohibits funding of most elective abortions in Medicaid. This summer, the appropriations committee of the US House of Representatives advanced a funding bill without including the usual prohibitions on abortion funding.

At the time, Kelly called the elimination of Hyde “an extreme measure” that “is not what most Americans want and is out of step with our democracy. We urge Congress to preserve provisions like the bipartisan Hyde Amendment that ban the use of taxpayer funding for abortions and affirm the desire of the American public.”

Kelly also urged prayers for a favorable decision in an upcoming Supreme Court case over Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, which if allowed to come into force could open the door for states to ban abortion before the age of viability.

The Knights’ life insurance program has $116 billion in life insurance in force. Its asset advisors program provides Catholic social teaching-compliant investment services to individuals and institutions and manages over $26 billion in assets.

In 2019, the organization launched the Knights of Columbus Charitable Fund, whereby donors can set aside money to benefit charities aligned with Catholic teaching. Last year, the Charitable Fund enabled donors to grant more than $1.9 million to charities around the world.

Kelly urged all Knights to pray for Blessed McGivney’s intercession. He also urged prayers to Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and of the Knights. 

The Knights’ virtual convention continues Wednesday, beginning with an awards session and culminating with a memorial Mass. 

A message from Pope Francis, read during the opening Mass, included the pope’s gratitude for the Knights’ “unfailing support of our Christian brothers and sisters experiencing persecution for the sake of the Gospel,” as well as their “manifold charitable activities” during the COVID-19 pandemic.