ST. LOUIS, MO. — A family from Austin, Texas, that has shown special care for the homeless was named the Knights of Columbus International Family of the Year for 2017 during the Knights’ 135th annual international convention Aug. 1 - 3 in St. Louis.
The Knights also pledged to raise $2 million to assist families in returning to their homes in Karamdes, a mostly Christian town on the Ninevah Plain in Iraq. Knights CEO Carl Anderson announced their pledge at the convention.
In 2014, the Islamic State removed hundreds of families of religious minorities from their homes in Karamdes. Just over two years later, the town, also known as Karemlash, was liberated.
“The terrorists desecrated churches and graves and looted and destroyed homes,” Anderson said in his annual report. “Now we will ensure that hundreds of Christian families driven from their homes can return to these two locations and help to ensure a pluralistic future for Iraq.”
The Knights are following the example of the Hungarian government, whose new spending bill allowed for $2 million to be sent to the Archdiocese of Irbil in Iraq, assisting with the rebuilding of a Christian community near Mosul, Iraq.
Families who were previously displaced from their homes were able to return to their homeland because of the government of Hungary. This example served as proof to the Knights of the impact of returning families to their homes.
The cost of resettling one family is around $2,000, the amount the Knights are encouraging councils, parishes and individuals to donate.
“These Christian communities are a priceless treasure for the church,” Anderson said to the Knights attending the convention. “They have every right to live.”
The Knights have actively sought to provide humanitarian aid to Christians in Iraq, as well as Syria and the surrounding areas, donating over $13 million.
International Family of the Year Larry and Beth Odom and their 10 children typically carry supplies with them when they go out to give to those in need they encounter. When fire destroyed the home of a single mom and her four children, the Odoms took them into their home for five months.
“Larry and Beth have taught their children to serve selflessly,” said the application nominating the Odoms for the award. “Serving others is, for them, a privilege, not a burden.”
“It’s a lesson I learned from my parents,” Larry said in an Aug. 3 statement. “I remember on more than one occasion, people stayed with us when I was a boy.”
Larry, an engineer for Silicon laboratories, has been a Knight for 10 years. Beth teaches for a homeschool co-op and serves on the bishop’s Committee for Homeschooling in the Diocese of Austin.
Larry described the award as humbling and a tremendous honour.
“We’re happy for the recognition and excited and happy to be able to serve,” he said.
Other awards given during the convention to Knights of Columbus councils included recognition for community service, fundraisers, and family and church activities:
The church activities award was won by Winnipeg St. John Brebeuf Council 1107 for its Nativity float in a local parade. For the past five years the council has led the effort to design and construct a unique Christ-centred float for the local Santa Claus parade. Each year, a council member opens his farm’s heated shop where Knights from local councils and assemblies, in addition to local families, work together for hundreds of hours. This year, they constructed an illuminated Nativity float led by a group of 35 Knights. The council won the prize for best float in the parade.
With files from Catholic News Service