Supreme Knight Kelly’s five-day trip to Poland and Ukraine includes meetings with Polish president, Church leaders, local Knights and displaced families
Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly has completed his second visit this year to Poland and Ukraine. From Dec. 2-6, he met with government officials, prominent Catholic leaders from both the Latin and Ukrainian Greek rites, local Knights and Ukrainians impacted by the ongoing war in their country.
Throughout his trip, Supreme Knight Kelly’s message was one of solidarity and a commitment of continued support to both refugees in Poland and internally displaced persons in Ukraine. He was able to see several of the on-the-ground humanitarian relief efforts supported and coordinated by the Knights of Columbus.
Within 36 hours of the Russian invasion last February, the Order committed $1.5 million toward humanitarian relief and established the Ukraine Solidarity Fund. Nearly $20 million has been raised so far, and thanks to the more than 9,000 Knights in Poland and Ukraine, the Order has distributed more than 3.2 million pounds of food to those affected by the war.
Supreme Knight Kelly’s trip began on Friday, Dec. 2, with a meeting with Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, archbishop of Warsaw. Later that day, he met with President Andrzej Duda of Poland, where he presented the president and the Polish people with two gifts, including the Knights’ Caritas Award, which depicts the Good Samaritan and recognizes exemplary charity and sacrifice for others. This is the first time the Caritas Award has been awarded to a head of state. While both men recognized that much has been accomplished, they agreed the work must continue for the long term. Supreme Knight Kelly assured the president of the Order’s commitment to ongoing humanitarian relief work.
The supreme knight also presented President Duda with a relic of Blessed Michael McGivney, who founded the Knights in 1882 to care for widows and orphans, for placement in the Presidential Chapel. In doing so, Kelly thanked President Duda for exemplifying the founding principles of the Knights of Columbus.
Following the presidential visit, the supreme knight spent time at the Knights of Columbus Mercy Center in Warsaw, where he met with Ukrainian refugees and assembled care packages.
On Dec. 3, he visited Our Lady of Częstochowa Parish in Radom, Poland, where he participated in a ribbon cutting at the Blessed Michael McGivney House, a new resource center for refugees, alongside church leaders and other leaders from Poland. Knights and Ukrainian volunteers also helped assemble care packages for distribution in Ukraine.
“Less than a week after the invasion began, we were organizing truckloads of supplies which our members brought into Ukraine,” said Supreme Knight Kelly. “We call them K of C Charity Convoys and they continue even today, delivering aid throughout Ukraine, including to those areas most recently reclaimed from Russia — like Kharkiv and Kherson. By Christmas, Knights will have delivered 100,000 care packages to Ukraine.”
On the morning of Sunday, Dec. 4, the supreme knight met with Knights of Columbus leaders from Poland. Prior to Mass at the Archcathedral of Warsaw, he was joined by Polish State Officers and laid a wreath at the tomb of Blessed Cardinal Wyszynski.
He then traveled to Lviv, Ukraine, where he met with Knights of Columbus state officers, including State Deputy Youriy Maletskiy, and district deputies from throughout the country, encouraging them to continue their hard work in their communities. They were hosted by Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, Roman Catholic archbishop of Lviv.
“My message to you is this,” the supreme knight told his brother Knights. “You are not alone. You are doing so much, and we want to walk side-by-side with you. Your brothers are praying for you, continuing to donate resources for your work. You are writing the next chapter in the history of the Knights of Columbus — and you are sending a message to the Church and the world.”
The Supreme Knight continued, “The history of the Knights in the United States was written in times of trial and war: anti-Catholic bigotry and discrimination, two world wars, the Cold War and much hardship. Those Knights rose to meet the challenge. And they made a difference. You are making a difference now. And the Knights are better for it. We are better because of what you are doing.”
The visit continued on Monday, Dec. 5, with several meetings, including with Auxiliary Bishop Edward Kawa, who oversees relief efforts of the archdiocese, and a special ribbon cutting event at the Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital in Lviv, where the Order has donated medical equipment thanks to the Ukraine Solidarity Fund.
He also met with government officials to discuss various proposals for a de-mining project in areas previously held by Russian forces. The need to clear land and waterways of mines, unexploded munitions and improvised explosive devices is essential for the safety of families, as well as the production and transportation of food.
The supreme knight later joined a vespers service with Ukrainian Greek Catholic seminarians. In remarks to the seminarians, Supreme Knight Kelly said, “This is why your willingness to say ‘yes’ to Jesus Christ is so important and so inspiring for me. Because your call to be priests at this moment is a call to be a hero. You must ‘cultivate love’ in a time of hate. And you must proclaim the truth that we are made for God and our hearts are restless until they rest in him.”
He continued, “You are among the most important future leaders of Ukraine because you are carrying and witnessing to the faith. And it’s this witness that grounds your culture and will carry your nation through these dark times. But even more than that, it’s a witness to the whole world that the answer to the problems we face is Jesus Christ.”
The final day of the supreme knight’s visit, Tuesday, Dec. 6, began with a Divine Liturgy with His Beatitude Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk. He also visited the proposed site for a Knights of Columbus modular housing neighborhood in the Briukhovychi settlement of Lviv, developed in partnership with Mudra Spava, the charitable arm of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and greeted women, men and children at several sites where Knights are lending aid.