General News

Support in Difficulties

Posted on May 02, 2024 in: General News

Support in Difficulties

In its journey through Poland and Ukraine, the Order’s pilgrim icon of St. Joseph has inspired pro-life charity and consoled families affected by war

By Karolina Świder and Tomasz Adamski



On Saturday, April 27, Bishop Damian Bryl of Kalisz presided over a solemn Mass at the St. Joseph Sanctuary in Kalisz, Poland, to mark the culmination of the pilgrimage of the Knights of Columbus icon of St. Joseph in Poland and Ukraine.

The icon;was announced;as the centerpiece of the Order’s;current Pilgrim Icon Program;in November 2021, during the year of St. Joseph proclaimed by Pope Francis, as a way to encourage devotion to the patron saint of the Universal Church. Created (or “written”) by artist Élizabeth Bergeron based on a drawing by Alexandre Sobolev, the original icon resides at the Canada’s National Shrine of St. Joseph in Montréal. Several copies began traveling around Poland in October 2022.

In less than two years, the icons have had an impressive reach, visiting more than 180 parishes and touching the hearts of nearly 150,000 people participating in prayer services and other events, such as conferences and film screenings.

In Poland, the icon pilgrimage inspired Knights to new pro-life charity work; in Ukraine, where the icon was brought within a few miles of the front line, it brought comfort to Ukrainians in the midst of war.

Delivering the homily at the culminating Mass, Bishop Bryl encouraged Knights to follow St. Joseph’s example of fatherhood in order to draw closer to God the Father. “We also discover God’s fatherhood through one who holds a special place in the mission of Jesus, namely St. Joseph,” he said. “Joseph in his fatherhood reveals to us the fatherhood of God.”


The pilgrimage of the icon of St. Joseph in Poland was initiated at Jasna Góra Monastery in;Częstochowa on Oct. 8, 2022.

During the opening ceremony, Grand Knight Michał Bartoszko of St. Michael the Archangel Council 16105 in Wrocław, emphasized the importance of St. Joseph for men: “The future of humanity lies in the family — as St. John Paul II said, but the figure of St. Joseph is especially great for us men. He shows how we should behave, what our family life should look like, what our personal life should look like.”

“St. Joseph is an unrivaled model of masculinity, especially important today, when it is in a clear crisis,” said Krzysztof Sietczyński, state advocate and coordinator of the icon tour. “He was a man of action who trusted God unconditionally and without any reservations. But what I think is most important for the modern man is that he was a model of responsibility, a quality often lacking in the modern world and today’s men.”

The St. Joseph icon pilgrimage was accompanied by a new state council pro-life program, called;Życie Mam;(Life of Moms),;aimed at supporting maternity homes throughout Poland.

St. Joseph cared for the Holy Family, explained Poland State Deputy Krzysztof Zuba, “offering both material and emotional security, and protected and shielded them from danger. This role is echoed in the Litany of St. Joseph — its invocation ‘Support in difficulties’ inspired us to ensure that the pilgrimage also included a supportive aspect.”

Thanks to a successful fundraising campaign and the support of the Supreme Council, the program has gathered and donated approximately $125,000 to support maternity homes run by Catholic organizations.


In the near future, the pro-life program will extend to another initiative: The Knights will take special care of the first stationary hospice for children in the Kielce region, which is operated the Caritas of the Kielce Diocese. Its coordinator, Angelika Steciak, and her husband Michał, a member of St. John Bosco Council 16266 in Rembieszyce, received the;International Family of the Year Award;in 2021.

In Ukraine, the St. Joseph icon pilgrimage fell during a dreadful time. Only a few months after the Pilgrim Icon Program was officially launched, Russian troops invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, 2022. Still, the St. Joseph icon visited more than 30 parishes over several months.

“During this time, people particularly seek St. Joseph’s intercession, especially for soldiers-defenders, considering his courage in following God’s providence as a model to emulate,” said Mykola Mostovyak, state advocate and the coordinator of the icon tour in Ukraine.

This is not the first time the help of St. Joseph has been invoked in times of war. Polish priests imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp in World War II entrusted themselves to St. Joseph, praying a novena for their liberation, which came April 29, 1945 — a story told in the K of C documentary;Our Liberator: St. Joseph and the Priests of Dachau. Every year, the Church in Poland celebrates this date as the Day of Martyrdom of the Polish Clergy, and it is a traditional day of pilgrimage to Kalisz, site of the oldest Polish shrine dedicated to St. Joseph.

Father Ihor Makar, a member of Lubomyr Husar Council 18244 in Zelenivka, brought the icon to several parishes in southern Ukraine, including one close to the front lines, less than 4 miles from the Dnipro River.

St. Joseph’s intercession as head of the Holy Family is very much needed in Ukraine, the priest said. The war is wreaking havoc on families — and not only due to the death of husband and fathers. Separation, combined with a constant feeling of peril, causes people to close themselves off, and they become unable to take care of their marriages and relationships.

“Families are suffering as men have gone to fight and women are left with children,” said Father Makar. “And it carries a certain danger — men are dying there, and children become orphans, women become widows. But there’s another significant issue: Husbands struggle with the psychological pressures of war. When they call home, they often end up arguing over the phone. … We prayed to St. Joseph that he would look after those families that are now undergoing various trials.”

The St. Joseph icon pilgrimage was extremely important to the Knights in Ukraine, Mostovyak affirmed: “The physical presence of the saint’s image [itself] ... is a powerful symbol of faith and a reminder of God’s presence during these difficult times.”;


Karolina Świder and Tomasz Adamski write from Kraków, Poland.