THE Knights of Columbus Fraternal Association of the Philippines (KCFAPI) celebrated its 50th anniversary last September 13. A mutual benefit association, it was established in 1958 to serve primarily its members through an exclusive insurance system that has grown from a thirty-thousand-peso start-up to a multibillion-peso enterprise that it is today.
A Jesuit priest, Fr. George J. Willmann, started this with the intention of concretizing the social teachings of the Church right from one of the most volatile segment of the temporal order—the business community. Aside from the institution of an insurance system, he also inspired the founding of some 200 or so credit cooperatives in the 60s nationwide.
Armed with Christian principles, KCFAPI has expanded itself to even owning and operating banks, life and non-life insurance companies, real estate ventures, among others. Along the way, it has graduated over a hundred priests scholars, a hundred more career professionals, various charitable work, relief and rehabilitation programs to calamity victims, and housing for the poor, to name but a few.
But Christianizing economics has been one of its trademarks. KCFAPI has retroactively and progressively heeded the call of the Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Economy issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in 1998, which states: “While the entire Church (clergy, religious, and laity) has the mission to renew every aspect of human life in accordance with the Gospel, it is the specific vocation of lay people to renew the temporal order, including economics. Hence they have to renew economic life with the values of the Gospel and of the Kingdom of God, which are authentically human values, such as integrity, justice, equity, service, preferential option for the poor, responsible stewardship.
“They fulfill their vocation best by assuming a prophetic role in word and deed. In word, for example by encouraging business leaders to adhere to the principles that truly promote the economic good of all (such as those that we have explained above); in deed, by faithfully practicing in their own business life those same principles, courageously resisting the pressures of an unbalanced economic structure to succumb to its evil demands.”
Surprisingly, however, Christianizing the social or temporal order is not popular among the popularly religious.