Michał and Angelika Steciak, of Rembieszyce, Poland, found fulfillment when they adopted a Down baby.
The Knights of Columbus, at their Supreme Convention last week, designated a Polish family taking care of children with disabilities as its 2021 International Family of the Year.
Michał and Angelika Steciak, of Rembieszyce, Poland, have been married since 2011. Unable to have children of their own, they decided to adopt a baby boy last year who, they were told, had a “genetic defect.”
The boy, Piotr (Peter), has Down syndrome. Angelika learned that if his biological mother had known the boy had genetic defects, she would have aborted him.
“The Steciak family was the 10th family in line to adopt this little boy, but the other nine candidate-couples gave up when they found out about the child’s health condition and refused to even see him,” a press release from the Knights of Columbus said. “Today, 19-month-old Peter is being raised by a loving family, which recently also adopted a second child: 11-month-old Mary, now his little sister.”
The family is “deeply involved in the life of the Church,” the Knights said, and lead numerous social and volunteer initiatives. Together they run the Angels’ Village Foundation, which helps, among others, children with disabilities and the elderly.
Michał Steciak, 34, is a member of the Knights of Columbus council in Rembieszyce, which is east of Częstochowa. He is a therapist, organist, and a tenor. Together with Angelika, he runs a children’s choir at church. He has appeared in a few episodes of The Voice of Poland – a popular TV talent show.
Honors for life, faith and family
Last week’s convention was also the first for new Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, who presided over the gathering, held in New Haven, Connecticut, and worldwide through the internet. Delivering the annual report, he 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, Fr. Michael J. McGivney.
Besides Family of the Year, the Knights also honored councils throughout the world with international service awards recognizing outstanding programs in the categories of Faith, Family, Community and Life. This year they additionally recognized the council that excelled in the Leave No Neighbor Behind initiative. As pandemic challenges continued, these awardees worked to live out the four principles of the Knights: Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism.
In the Faith category, the Knights recognized the Monroe Council 1266 in Monroe, Michigan. Organized by Knights, Catholic men are creating a brotherhood and environment where they take responsibility for learning, living, strengthening and sharing the faith by hosting a men’s prayer breakfast.
In the Life category, the Divine Word Council 7331 of Techny, Illinois, was recognized as one of the main organizers and route marshals for the March for Life in Chicago. In 2020, along with the Archdiocese of Chicago and WeDignify, nearly 50 Knights helped organize a “Drive for Life” through the cities of Mundelein and Chicago, drawing more than 1,100 vehicles from Illinois and nearby states.
Our Lady of Fatima Council 9636, Las Pinas, Metro Manila, in the Philippines’ Luzon South region, was recognized in the Family category. When pandemic restrictions limited the ability for people to gather, Council 9636 developed a plan to maintain community and foster the faith of families. Over 250 people have participated in the more than 40 virtual family prayer nights that are still occurring.
The Saint Cecilia Council 7395 of Claremore, Oklahoma, received recognition in the Community category. This council organized 30 members and 10 nonmembers to help the Benedictine monks of Clear Creek Abbey, providing the funds and 3,200 hours of labor to rebuild a suspension bridge; build a gravel sifter used to maintain the abbey roads; construct and install roll cages for their tractors; and host a luncheon for 500 people. The council also surprised a priest of the abbey with a new car to help him travel and begin a new monastery.
The Leave No Neighbor Behind Award went to the Saint Bonaventure Council 7432 of Calgary, Alberta. When the pandemic necessitated parish closures, Council 7432 jumped into action to help their pastor transition parish activities to a virtual format. The council organized 106 members and 168 nonmembers to provide 4,159 volunteer hours toward this effort. Activities also included bringing Communion to people at home and other worship activities that greatly helped the parish resume operations. In addition, the council raised nearly $7,000 to support St. Vincent de Paul and other charities during the pandemic.