‘Christ Gives Us the Heart of a Father’
Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly speaks at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs as pilgrims gather for the New York State Eucharistic Congress
By Cecilia Engbert
Nearly 8,500 people attended the New York State Eucharistic Congress at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville, New York, Oct. 20-22, held as part of the National Eucharistic Revival and in anticipation of the National Eucharistic Congress in July 2024.
The pilgrims, including many Knights of Columbus and their families throughout New York, attended Mass, took part in Eucharistic adoration and participated in a Eucharistic procession on the shrine grounds. The shrine is built on the site where three Jesuit missionaries — Sts. Isaac Jogues, René Goupil and John Lalande — were martyred in the 1600s; St. Kateri Tekakwitha was born in the same village about 10 years later.
The congress also featured keynote remarks from Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly and other well-known speakers. The supreme knight’s talk on “The Eucharistic Heart of a Father,” delivered Saturday afternoon, outlined how the modern crisis of the family can only be remedied if fathers believe in Jesus and intentionally meet him in the Eucharist.
“The lack of strong, principled, Catholic men is undermining marriages and pushing children away from the faith,” the supreme knight said. “To be blunt, the family is faltering, and society is feeling the effects. … If we hope to raise up a new generation of Christ-centered men, we must renew our love for Christ in the Eucharist.”
As a father of three young girls, Supreme Knight Kelly said he is personally concerned about the crisis of fatherhood and its impact on children. He expressed concern that at least of quarter of American children are growing up without a father in their home — and many more are growing up with a father who is physically present but emotionally absent.
“The consequences could hardly be more clear, or more devastating,” he said. “A bad father is a major cause of increased poverty, crime, substance abuse, suicide and so many other heartbreaking outcomes. And as more families break apart, and more children grow up without a father in the home, the cycle repeats itself. … Why is this happening? What is to blame? And most of all, how can we reverse this trend and rebuild the family?”
The answer to these questions, he said, lies in the connection between faith and family.
“The family is at the heart of our faith. And it’s essential to our understanding of God,” he said. “Without good fathers and strong families, our children will be searching for meaning in all the wrong places. They desperately need the community and joy that only come from strong family bonds.”
Fathers, in particular, play an essential role in the faith formation of their children, revealing to them the love of God the Father. And to do that, he said, they need Christ in the Eucharist.
“The Eucharist helps us become true fathers,” the supreme knight said. “This is the crux of my message today. … In the Eucharist, Christ gives us the heart of a father, by connecting us to the heart of his Father.”
Supreme Director Carmine Musumeci, a past state deputy of New York and the shrine’s president, was moved to see thousands of people in Auriesville for the Eucharistic Congress.
Considered one of the holiest sites in North America, the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs is especially important to Knights in New York, who have made annual pilgrimages there since 1938. In 2015, the New York State Council contributed $100,000 to the renovate the shrine, which had fallen into disrepair; the Supreme Council donated another $500,000 to the restoration project.
“The Knights have been involved in the shrine here for almost 80 years,” said Musumeci. “There was a tear in my eye today to see the Coliseum [Church] filled again. It’s all about the Eucharist; that’s what brought us here together. And I think it’s a sign of things to come.”
Bishop Gerardo Colacicco, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York, said the state bishops were grateful to the New York Knights who helped make the the New York Eucharistic Congress possible.
“The Knights of Columbus have been a tremendous support of our efforts to put this Congress together,” Bishop Colacicco said. “We’re going to have a wonderful revival in Indianapolis for the entire country in 2024. Events like this that are happening throughout the nation are setting the stage for that.”
Supreme Knight Kelly concluded his keynote remarks by emphasizing that all men need a community, whether through the Knights of Columbus or elsewhere, to strengthen them as they strive to embody sacrificial love and fulfill their mission as disciples.
“Christ himself formed a band of men to carry out his mission,” he said. “The Apostles didn’t choose one another, but they certainly needed one another. And so do we.”
“Yes, the crisis of fatherhood is big and growing worse, but Christ in the Eucharist is so much more powerful,” he concluded. “Only he can save our families and society. And all we need to do, as men and as fathers, is say ‘yes’ to our heavenly Father and make his heart our own.”
Read Supreme Knight Kelly’s full speech here.
CECILIA ENGBERT writes for the Knights of Columbus communications department.