Perhaps no one was more prepared for whatever was to come in the country than Andrew T. Walther. He knew suffering, he knew faith. He was convicted and determined and also humble enough to know that everything didn’t depend on him. He knew God had him in the world for a reason, and he was going to be faithful to his call. That call including being a husband and father and an advocate — a warrior, really — for the unborn and victims of religious persecution in a particular way. My friend Andrew fought ISIS genocide! I did wonder more than once if that was how he would to die — a martyr for God and freedom and humanity. But on All Saints Day, November 1, complications from leukemia took him. On the Friday before that Sunday, the last day he was talking, before he was put on a ventilator, he was working to help people in Nigeria. He never stopped loving those within his reach. He was always working to help.
He was a longtime laborer in the vineyards of civil society at the Knights of Columbus, a key collaborator with its head, Carl Anderson. And he had recently taken a job as the president of news at EWTN, the global Catholic network. The Knights were founded by Father Michael McGivney, who, in the last days of Andrew’s life on earth, was beatified, a key step on the road to canonization in the Catholic Church. Andrew was working for EWTN, also founded by a holy, larger-than-life trailblazer, Mother Angelica, who may one day be on the same road. Andrew was a humble servant who didn’t need or want his name in the news. So it feels odd to be bringing this tribute together. We were good friends, so my conversations with him were almost entirely off the record. “You don’t know me,” he used to say when discussing something confidential. But thanks be to God, I did know him. Because I know you can be a good man of virtue and courage in the world today, operating in the upper levels of decision-making in the Church and politics, too. I watched him do it. And he accomplished some great things, including his beautiful young family. He was a human being God was making perfect. May we all live this way.
This feature brings together some people from different aspects of his public life. No words can really do Andrew’s life justice, but I pray it gives a taste. For the record. For truth and inspiration and encouragement and challenge. God be good to you, Andrew. He certainly was by letting us be a part of your life — including all who are only meeting you for the first time in this memorial feature. Consider this as a small thank you to God
— Kathryn Jean Lopez, senior fellow, National Review Institute, editor-at-large at National Review, and author of A Year with the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living.
John L. Allen Jr.
I first met Andrew Walther when he was a precocious 17-year-old student and I was a newbie teacher at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., back in the early 1990s. He was a brainiac type, with a hint of nerdiness — he seemed to like wearing ties for debate tournaments a little too much, and his overall vibe just screamed “Young Republican” — but more than anything else, what impressed me was his intelligence, his keen sense of humor, and his loyalty to his friends.
This, I remember thinking to myself at the time, is a kid going good places.
Flash forward more than 20 years later, when I was asked by the Boston Globe to join its new online Catholic platform, Crux. By that time, Andrew was with the Knights of Columbus and was interested in partnering with Crux to promote our coverage of anti-Christian persecution. When Crux went independent a few months later — which is a polite way of saying, when the Globe dumped us — the Knights were a natural partner, and Andrew and I worked closely to make it happen.
Over the next few years, Andrew and I spoke regularly, although he never attempted to influence our editorial decisions. Mostly, he was interested in briefing me on his efforts to light a fire under the issue of religious freedom and anti-Christian violence, so much so that I’m convinced there are untold scores of Christians in bad neighborhoods around the world today who will never know Andrew, but who owe their lives and livelihoods to him.
Yes, we had our disagreements. I’m a moderate and “both/and” guy by nature, and Andrew was a bit more of a K Street political street fighter. As an advocate, he often thought in terms of friends and enemies; as a reporter, I think in terms of cultivating sources on all sides. But none of that really mattered much, because Andrew Walther was an extraordinary man, a devoted husband and father, and a relentless crusader for the things he cared about, and I relished every moment I had with him before he left us far too soon.
Right now, Americans are obsessed with politics. Andrew’s passing is a reminder of the difference between the ephemeral and the eternal, of how his class and character will endure long after we forget all about Maricopa County and the difference between mail-in and drop-off demographics . . . though, to be clear, the Andrew I knew would be as dialed in as anyone, and even though he’s beyond all that now, I suspect found a way to peel a corner of his eye from the beatific vision to track the ongoing electoral drama.
Requiescat in pace, my friend, and Arrivederci!
— John L. Allen Jr. is the editor and president of Crux and a senior Vatican analyst for CNN.
I met Andrew Walther in 2003 when he was the driving force behind the Tilma of Tepeyac Tour — the pilgrimage of a piece of Saint Juan Diego’s tilma to more than 20 U.S. cities. Two years earlier, I dedicated the Knights of Columbus to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and so it was only natural that the Knights would partner with him in that unique opportunity for evangelization. It was my first encounter with the vision and determination of Andrew Walther, and thankfully it was not the last.
Two years later, Andrew joined the Supreme Council staff, and over the following 15 years Andrew was the key man in our communications efforts. His work with the Knights was much more than a job, however — for him it was a vocation and an avenue to serve and advance the Catholic Church which he loved so faithfully.
Throughout his time at the Knights, Andrew was one of my closest collaborators, and I came to highly value his counsel. He was a man totally committed to the Catholic Church, with a keen intellect and ability to see the big picture. When I reflect on my time as Supreme Knight, there is scarcely an initiative to which Andrew was not a major contributor. Promoting devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe through conferences, a book, a documentary film, and events that gathered many tens of thousands in Phoenix and Los Angeles. Supervising groundbreaking polling that shows a growing consensus against abortion in America. Leading our catechetical site at World Youth Day in Madrid. And these projects are just the tip of the iceberg.
Andrew deserves much credit for another initiative — a years-long effort to which he was totally dedicated: the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East. When the world witnessed the brutality against Christians perpetrated by ISIS, many were concerned and moved to prayer. So was Andrew. But equally, Andrew was moved to action. He spearheaded our efforts to bring relief to suffering Christians in the Middle East. To date, those efforts have resulted in more than $25 million in relief to Iraq and Syria. He influenced U.S. foreign policy during the Obama and Trump administrations alike. In Andrew, Christian leaders in the Middle East saw a friend, and I pray that they will continue to benefit from his intercession even now.
Andrew leaves behind his beautiful wife, Maureen, and four young children, whom he loved dearly. They should always be proud of their husband and father whose years on earth were too few, but whose achievements could fill many lifetimes.
Blessed Michael McGivney, pray for Andrew and his family!
— Carl Anderson is the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus.
I first met Andrew decades ago when he led the Guadalupe tilma pilgrimage across America — which was an amazing pastoral success, especially among Hispanic Catholics. I was immediately intrigued: Who was this California Catholic guy who came up with this idea and made it possible on a meager budget?
Once he was working at the Knights, we became good friends. What an adventure of a friendship! We traveled many places, and perhaps now he knows just how many people he helped on some of his missions. It’s telling to see how devastated leaders in the Middle East, Nigeria, and elsewhere are at the news of his death. He made a tremendous impact on lives in his short life.
He was always a good, loyal friend and happy warrior, and I used to jokingly tell him that he was the anti-Forrest Gump: always behind historical events for the Church, but never on camera. “Let’s keep it under the cone,” he would joke back.
He was always discreet with his personal life, so I barely made it to his wedding and almost by chance attended the baptism of his first child at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. “I thought I told you!” he would say. At his peaceful home in Connecticut, I would admire his profound devotion to Maureen and to his kids. He was a warrior, but above all, he was a dedicated family man. When Father John Paul Walker, O.P., told the National Catholic Register that, on witnessing Walther’s steadfast love for his wife of ten years and his kids, “the image it really conjured up for me was Saint Joseph,” I felt he stole my line. Yes. Andrew modeled his heart to the one of Saint Joseph, the ultimate man’s man. Some lines of my favorite prayer to Saint Joseph come to mind: “model of zeal, of constant work, of silent faithfulness, of paternal kindness . . .” Rest in peace dear brother, and wait for me in Heaven. In the meantime, we will honor you and your loved ones by continuing the fight.
Andrew was an extraordinarily inspirational figure who found his special mission in his embrace of religious liberty and the protection of Christians from persecution and genocide. He was unique in his bringing both passion and immense organizational skills to saving thousands of lives and preserving Christianity in Iraq and was bringing the same laser focus to the plight of Christians in Nigeria at the time of his death. His legacy will live on in his many friends and admirers and in those who may not have ever met him but whose lives he lifted up. May he rest in peace
I had known Andrew Walther for a number of years before he officially joined EWTN News as our news president and COO in June, and I had often said to friends and colleagues that it must have been fun to work with him. With his arrival at EWTN, I had the genuine privilege of discovering that for myself. Spending the next months working closely with him, I saw firsthand not just his extraordinary gifts as a leader and genuinely brilliant strategic mind, but also someone who was prayerful, kind, and thoughtful. He was also a loving husband and father as well as a patient friend. For the last months of his life, he endured the Cross, but he did so with the virtues of hope and fortitude, never losing his joy and humor.
He was also one of the most multi-faceted and brilliant of my friends. A classicist by training, he peppered our frequent texts with references to Roman writers as well as Greek philosophers. One day, it might be a mention of the late Roman Republic, but the next he would also refer to a Church Father. Always, the references were germane to our conversation or a trenchant comment on the most pressing issues and crises of our time. He looked back for the lessons of history but then always applied them to today and to the future.
Would that we had been blessed with his presence and steady guidance for many years, but his labors and vision nevertheless imparted a legacy that will endure for a very long time. I will always treasure the time I was granted to know him. Like so many others around the world and especially throughout the Church, I am a better person for his friendship, and I will miss him greatly.
— Matthew Bunson is executive editor and Washington bureau chief for EWTN News.
I first met Andrew Walther in the latter half of 2012. At the time, I was the secretary for the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. A short time after my nomination, I welcomed Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, to the commission’s headquarters in Rome. Anderson was very interested in Latin America, and particularly inspired by the apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in America” and by his devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
It was to “la Guadalupana” that Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the commission’s president, and I had decided to entrust all the work of our Pontifical Commission. It was at that meeting with Anderson that we decided that the Pontifical Commission and the Knights of Columbus would organize together an international congress, with inter-American participation, to relaunch the perspective of “Ecclesia in America.”
Anderson sent his trusted collaborator Andrew Walther to work together with our commission, which meant making frequent trips to our offices in Rome to organize this important event, which took place December 9-12, 2012. This celebration went on to become a yearly tradition during the pontificate of Pope Francis. It was in that joint effort that I began to appreciate Andrew Walther and form bonds of friendship and communion with him.
A year after that Congress, a “Pilgrimage and Encounter at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe” in Mexico City took place. In this and on other occasions, Andrew Walther was always close to me, effectively collaborating on the organization of these events, as well as on their media coverage. Meanwhile, Andrew participated in almost every one of those December 12 Eucharistic celebrations honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Our meetings weren’t always work-related — we shared many a good meal in Roman restaurants, too. We were able to grow in friendship and share together what we had in common: a dedication to serving the Church and the See of Peter. We did so frequently, in intense conversations marked by mutual sincerity where we debated situations that we didn’t always see eye to eye on. He was a loyal friend, who always impressed us with a profound sense of belonging to Christ and to the communion of the Church, as well as a fervent devotion to Mary — particularly Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I remember well the time that Andrew came to our offices to introduce us to his new wife, Maureen, glowing with her always-discreet presence and the joy of sacramental and conjugal grace. One extraordinary moment was when I got to participate in the baptism of his first son, Frederick, celebrated by our dear friend Monsignor Eduardo Chavez at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City in the presence of just a handful of close friends. Afterwards, year after year, Andrew and Maureen would show up at our offices in Rome to introduce their two other children. We didn’t get to know the fourth, since he was born in May of 2020.
Our last two meetings were very significant. In February 2020, I got to see Andrew and Carl Anderson, who had come for a press conference marking 100 years of the Knights’ presence in Rome. But most of all, I cannot forget the gift of Andrew’s presence at the 50th golden wedding anniversary celebration for my wife Lídice and me on June 27, 2019, celebrated by Pope Francis at the Altar of the Confession in Saint Peter’s.
I eventually found out about his illness, which he suffered with serenity, integrity, and Christian hope, made worse in a time when hospitals were full of COVID-19 patients. I pictured him worried about his wife and children, whom he loved so much, offering his life to the Lord for them and for the Church. I accompanied him with my meager prayers.
Andrew’s was a life dedicated to Christ’s Church, in profound communion, on a way to holiness. And since I knew him well, I have the certainty that now he is in heaven, at home and in the glory of God.
— Guzmán Carriquiry is the Uruguayan ambassador to the Holy See and former secretary of the Holy See’s Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
Translated by Pablo Kay, editor in chief of Angelus News.
The first time I met Andrew Walther, he was holding a large cross that bore a saint’s relic at the crux. “What do you think of it?” he asked with satisfaction. I nodded my approval, not quite sure what to make of this new employee in the Communications Department at the Knights of Columbus headquarters. We were in a Catholic workplace, and many of us had rosary beads and holy cards at our desks, but this outsized show of devotion was unusual even here.
This image of Andrew has come to mind often in the days since his untimely passing. Like the reliquary cross he held on his first day at the Knights, Andrew was a bit larger than life and full of devotion as well as surprises. You would think that a professional man with a reputation for insightful commentary and strategic thought, who could hold his own among secular media stars, would be more circumspect about his faith, expressing it on an intellectual level rather than a boldly devotional one. But there he was, ecstatic that he had acquired a long-sought relic and placed it in an appropriate vessel for veneration.
Andrew was Catholic in the full sense, from inside out and from outside in. His intellectual endeavors supported his devotional life and vice versa. In the course of a conversation, he could be serious, thoughtful and insightful, and then turn quickly to uproarious laughter over some ironic weakness of human nature or comic play on words, often at his own expense. In 15 years of working with him on various projects, I always came away better informed and impressed by the depth of his commitment. Christians in the Middle East, especially, are better off because of his steadfast work on their behalf.
He died the day after the founder of the Knights of Columbus, Father Michael McGivney, was beatified in Connecticut. It is my fervent prayer that Blessed Michael will welcome Andrew into the heavenly realm, and watch over his family on earth.
— Brian Caulfield is editor of Fathers for Good, a site sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.
Barbara L. Carvalho
Many of us make a difference in the lives of our family and friends; some make a difference in our communities where we live, work, and worship; but few leave their footprints on the world. Andrew Walther was one of those few.
I was introduced to Andrew when the Knights of Columbus wanted to survey Americans and, in particular, American Catholics. A man of uncompromising faith, he was also a scholar and a scientist. He wanted to understand public opinion, untainted, in all its raw reality as best as we could measure. His idea was that in a world that seemed so polarized on so many life-defining issues of the day, there was an American consensus, a human consensus, on what is fair, moral, and just. And he was right.
The issues he chose were about our moral character as a nation: abortion, assisted suicide, immigration, trust in our democratic and religious institutions, ethical conduct in business and government, and faith in God, among other topics. He wanted to explore the nuances in public opinion and identify what people really believed rather than the binary poles that so often make the headlines. The result was a more balanced narrative of American opinion on a host of issues, especially abortion. He enlightened the public conversation and paved the way for policy discussions and change.
When we were working on projects, Andrew would almost always call at 7:30 a.m. . . . his time. I only knew which continent he was on or time zone he was in by the hour it was in New York. His energy and resolve seemed to have no bounds. And I likely didn’t even know the half of it.
I will miss our talks . . . his ideas and insights, his breadth and depth of knowledge, his humor and wit. Through his faith, his words (of which he had many), his principled deeds, and tireless actions, the world is a better place for so many that he lived.
— Barbara L. Carvalho is the director of The Marist Poll at Marist College.
In the final week of his life, I spoke to Andrew Walther probably every day, about as frequently as we spoke over the prior seven years.
He had called me at 8:45 the Friday morning before his death on Sunday, November 1, but I was on a Zoom call. I texted him something that evening, hoping to prompt him to call me back. He wrote: “I am being intubated and sedated.” Those were his final words to me. I responded: “I am praying.”
Since his passing, I have discovered that he was in regular touch with any number of people that final week, and I have the sense that this was simply the continuation of his ongoing level of contact with them as it had been with me.
To be a close friend with Andrew was to be in regular — very regular — contact with him. And it was never boring.
Andrew liked people who were a bit different. He found value in certain people that others were quick to dismiss or limit. He liked characters who had something to contribute.
He needed to talk things through and think out loud with others in order to find good ideas. Humor, anecdotes, and the little things in life were helpful in this mix.
I recently heard someone explain that to be happy and healthy, we need to feel that our presence in the world is important and prized by others. I need to know that someone else “delights” in my very existence.
Like a kind of hound of heaven, Andrew gave many of us to know that he took delight in being close and working out our lives together. Only God is always aware of me and watchful over me, but my friend showed me a human model of this. I am in his debt.
— Joseph Cullen is a senior communications specialist at the Knights of Columbus.
Jeanette De Melo
In the turbulent and often thankless media environment that exists today, Andrew Walther stood out for his constancy, his clarity, and his confidence. I knew Andrew from the many ways our professional lives crisscrossed over the last 15 years. He and I started jobs in 2005 that helped launch our career paths within the Catholic communications world: he for the Knights of Columbus and I for the Archdiocese of Denver. I don’t remember the first time we met, working in our communications roles for those respective institutions, but I do remember frequent alliance in telling the good news of the works of the Catholic Church and collaboration on projects designed to build what John Paul II coined as a culture of life and a civilization of love.
By the time, I came to lead the National Catholic Register, Andrew was in a senior communications position at the Knights. Andrew’s was not a myopic vision of the Church, stuck in typical politicized polarization. His was a global view of Catholicism, and he recognized the need for the greatest of solidarity as the world was turning cold to Christianity. I saw that vision firsthand in his work to foster Ecclesia in America, which is the renewal of Catholicism in the Americas characterized by personal encounter with Jesus Christ and Catholics becoming vibrant personal witnesses to Christ’s presence in society. And probably most uniquely, I saw that vision in Andrew’s dogged dedication to the persecuted Christians of the Middle East and Africa, so many of whom have joined in mourning him.
When it was announced last spring that Andrew would head EWTN News, and in that role oversee me and the National Catholic Register, I knew Andrew would be bringing his encyclopedic knowledge, a vast Rolodex, and his incredible strategic abilities. But what I didn’t realize was just how much I would come to appreciate his constancy, clarity, and confidence. This has been a very difficult, overwhelming year, and Andrew quickly became a pillar for me in my work. While the characteristics of constancy, clarity, and confidence could come from his experience or his education or his God-given intellect, in the work of the last few months, I saw that his anchor was faith, hope, and charity. Grounded in that way, there was nothing too big for him — even sickness.
Days before he died, neither of us knowing how sick he was, we were talking about a problem at work, and he made a great suggestion for the Register, and at the end of that conversation, I felt the urge to thank him for his leadership and for stretching me a bit. As I said that “thank you” it was a little awkward because Andrew never wanted conversation to center on him personally. But since then, I’ve thanked God countless times that in my last conversation with Andrew Walther I let him know my gratitude for him. Andrew’s pastor, Father John Paul Walker, called Andrew a Saint Joseph figure in his comments for the Register’s obituary, and indeed he was. His quiet strength was a gift to the Church, and his calm presence is sorely missed. I pray he rests now in Christ’s peace and that his life’s work continues to bear fruit in the lives of those he touched.
— Jeanette De Melo is editor in chief of the National Catholic Register.
Andrew Walther wore many hats. In addition to being a devoted husband and loving father, he was a gifted writer and storyteller, an energetic networker, and a savvy international coalition-builder. My first encounter with him was as a fierce advocate for persecuted Christians. I watched with increasing admiration as he touched the lives and hearts of Christians and other religious minorities and shared their stories from the battlegrounds of Syria and Northern Iraq. He introduced me to the plight of the Coptic communities of Egypt, and to Muslim leaders in Indonesia who fear for the survival of their beliefs and ways of life. He was a voice crying out in the wilderness against the slaughter of Christians, Muslims, and Animists in Nigeria and in the surrounding countries in the Sahel Region of West Africa. Our last call was in late October when he cheerfully connected me with Bishop Michael Kukah of the Diocese of Sokoto in Northern Nigeria. The bishop knew him well. He was their champion.
Andrew’s death is a profound loss to religious-liberty advocates around the world. Advocating for persecuted Christians is neither easy nor popular. It cuts against a narrative that reports the killings, but studiously avoids both naming the victims and assigning responsibility for the ways in which atrocities destroy and displace entire communities. Andrew was a warrior-strategist. He knew how and when to name names and assign responsibility. I am proud to have served with him. He will be sorely missed. He is with God. My prayers are for his wife, Maureen, and his four young children. May he rest forever in God’s peace.
— Robert A. Destro is Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL).
Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan
Isn’t it a blessing that we can celebrate Andrew Walther’s life, even as we mourn his absence in our lives in the way we are accustomed? We weep for Maureen and their children. If they could only know what we know — that he loved them with all of the love the Trinity pours into us in the Christian life. It’s fitting he was a Knight of Columbus — his virtue and courage outlives him because it was otherworldly. His devotion to the persecuted must be our mission now. The Christian who refuses to hide his faith, even to the point of death, is so close to Jesus on the cross. We must be there with them. Andrew was until his final moments. Thanks be to God for that. This is the Christian way. May we stay on it until our dying days.
— Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan is archbishop of New York and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for Religious Liberty.
The first meeting I had with Andrew was about how to help persecuted Christians in the Middle East, in particular ISIS victims in Iraq. It was the first of many conversations on the subject that spanned several years. My last conversation with Andrew, a few days before his death, was about helping Christians in the Middle East. This was his life’s work, and he did it until none labored more tirelessly on their behalf.
In 2016, the U.S. Congress and the Department of State declared that Christians, Yazidis, and others in Iraq and Syria had suffered genocide at the hands of ISIS. It may be that no person did more behind the scenes to make this happen than Andrew. The following year, with the genocide recognition official, Andrew once again worked without any sign of fatigue to see that emergency humanitarian relief was delivered to these same communities. This resulted in Vice President Pence’s October 2017 announcement that aid to ISIS victims would be sent by the United States. Andrew stopped at nothing so that those devastated communities could survive in the Middle East.
Until his death, Andrew worked to get the U.S. government, the Catholic Church, and his fellow citizens to help his persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East. When I last spoke to him, a few days before his death, he was doing everything he could to see that Christians whose homes had been damaged in a blast would be restored before winter. He told me that despite illness, he never missed a day of work.
Andrew ran the race. He will be missed by those who knew him and by countless survivors who never met him. He died as he lived, in the service of others. He died on the Feast of Saints.
— Andrew Doran is a senior adviser in the office of policy planning at the U.S. Department of State and was previously a cofounder of In Defense of Christians.
For a long time, I only knew Andrew Walther casually, because of the family he wisely married into, who were mainstays of the Catholic parish where my family was received into the Church. But when we moved back to New Haven three years ago, he became a friend, whose combination of gifts became more impressive, and seemed more unusual, the more time I got to spend with him.
Above all, what was distinctive about Andrew was his mixture of worldly wisdom and practical competence with intellectual seriousness and real religious zeal. One of the unfortunate features of our era is how often those gifts are separated — the smartest people don’t know how to get things done in the real world, the most pious Christians are naïve about how institutions work, and people of both intellect and faith end up living inside bubbles and giving in to paranoia or hysteria when events come along to prick them.
In Andrew, you had a different kind of model: a happy warrior who fought for the most righteous and difficult causes without losing his sense of humor or perspective, a man of the world who wasn’t a cynic or a posturer, a father and husband and friend whose reassuring normalcy and obvious common sense demonstrated that Catholics can go into the world with wisdom as well as innocence, and achieve important things without compromising their faith.
On any issue or cause or institution that his work touched, Andrew would be the first person I would think of when it came to either knowing what was really going, or actually making something happen. I took for granted, in getting to know him, that our friendship would only deepen, and that I would be able to think of him that way for many issues over many years, for decades yet to come.
So, his loss is a tragedy for everyone who might have benefited from that work — but one tempered by the knowledge that he already did so much, for so many, in the days that God gave to him to do it.
— Ross Douthat is a columnist for the New York Times.
To Andrew’s children: I was fortunate to know your dad. He was a very good man, and I loved him. He not only helped me do my job, but he taught me a lot of things. He was patient and kind, but also persistent. He was very smart, but always listened to what other people had to say. He was a teacher who was eager to be taught by others.
Here’s the thing I remember most about your dad: When he decided the right thing to do, he worked very hard to figure out how to do it. And then he did it, usually with great success.
To me, the best example of this shows how truly Catholic he was. As you know, his work with the Knights of Columbus involved communicating the values of the Knights to the world. Those values, of course, are those of the Catholic Church. For example, God created each of us in his image and likeness, and he loves every one of us. God wants us to love him too, but not because someone makes us. He wants us to love him freely.
Your dad understood this very well. This is why he worked so hard in Iraq to protect Christians, but also Yezidis, Mandeans, Muslims, and others who were being forced, with great cruelty and suffering, to believe in something they did not want to believe. Your dad knew that was very, very wrong. So he figured out how to do something about it. As a result, thousands of people today can find God, and love and worship him as he wishes to be loved and worshiped: in freedom.
Thank you for sharing your father with us.
— Thomas F. Farr is president of the Religious Freedom Institute.
Alberto M. Fernandez
The last time I saw Andrew Walther was a year ago in Budapest for Thanksgiving. It was at the end of the Second International Conference on Christian Persecution, organized by the Hungarian government. This was an important event, gathering people concerned about persecuted Christians worldwide, with the presence of many from the Middle East and Africa who are experiencing this persecution — probably the worst since the days of the great Roman persecutions — firsthand.
The conference ended Thanksgiving Day, and Andrew gathered all of us stranded Americans far away from home for a holiday meal at a lively local restaurant, the Carpathia. Also included were a couple of Iraqi Christians waiting for their flight home. A good time was had by all, and at the end of the evening, he quietly made sure that we covered the tab for our Iraqi friends. This was Andrew: discreet, smart, and sensitive to the needs of others.
We spoke regularly, mostly on the phone, and sometimes met for coffee when he would venture to Washington, D.C. Sometimes it was about government operations or the media, but mostly the discussion was about how to help the Christians of the Middle East. I had some head knowledge about these things, but the great passion and the creativity was all on Andrew’s part: “How about if we were to start some kind of initiative to help Middle East Christian communicators; is that doable? How could that work? What about this angle?”
His was a life lived — boldly but serenely — for others, for his family, his faith, and for the persecuted. Like Saint Joseph, Andrew was “a worker,” and his devotion to charity and humanity vividly embodied Saint Paul’s heartening words to the Colossians, that “whatsoever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that you shall receive of the Lord the reward of inheritance.”
— Ambassador (ret.) Alberto M. Fernandez is vice president of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) in Washington, D.C.
I recall before my first day at the Knights of Columbus, my dad saying, “Tell Walther I said hello.” That came as a comfort that my soon-to-be colleague and I could share some small talk — and I figured it would mostly be about politics, given the work in which my dad is.
While that turned out to be true, the talk wasn’t “small.” He and I would discuss — sometimes for hours — the state of the Church, American politics, history, and even the Indiana Jones films. The obscure references I made, he got. So for me, he was easy to talk to. But he was also someone I admired listening to. He had a deep wealth of knowledge that, from my perspective, would take me 20 lifetimes to fully grasp. And when we worked on projects together, it felt good if I could make him proud. In some way, I felt like a student, and he was a teacher.
What I most admired about him was not only his ability to stand my antics (I would sometimes play the ukulele right outside his door . . . if he hated it, he never let on), but his tenacity and perseverance to do what was right, especially for aiding persecuted Christians around the world. It was a calling that he continued to pursue even after it officially became U.S. policy. He was ready for the fight and wouldn’t stop until the task was done.
That’s why I thought he would beat leukemia. That he wouldn’t let it take him or distract him from his work. I prayed daily for Blessed Michael McGivney’s intercession to give Andrew a miracle, so he could be with his family.
Sadly, it was not to be. But as one of my friends told me, perhaps he can do “more good up there” than here. Although it doesn’t feel that way right now, if we truly believe in God’s will, I believe he is in heaven working, as always, behind the scenes to help others in need in more ways than I’ll ever comprehend.
May he rest in peace.
— Andy Fowler is a content producer for the Knights of Columbus.
Father Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P.
Since the evening of All Saints Day, when Andrew Walther fell asleep in the Lord, tributes to his virtue have flooded Catholic media. Each remembrance has been equally joyful and sorrowful. This comes as no surprise. Mixed emotions are typical of contact with the cross. Andrew’s death enfolds us in the mysterium crucis.
His “Josephite heart” has been mentioned by many in appreciation for his life. As a man of faith and justice, Andrew took seriously “even the most basic tasks entrusted to him by God, opening himself up for greater responsibilities.” I cannot think of a more fitting comparison for Andrew. For many, he was a living icon of Saint Joseph. Our paths crossed only a handful of times, but on each occasion, I was struck by how, like the husband of Mary, Andrew exercised his Christian paternity in silent strength. This was his Christian vocation. Through bold action accompanied by few words, Andrew loved and protected those placed by God under his care. Primary among these were his wife and children, who received his first and most intense devotion. During our very first meeting, Andrew proudly showed me a picture of his children.
On subsequent meetings, Andrew brought to my attention the plight of others whom he was protecting, namely the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. As a Knight of Columbus, Andrew perfected a chivalrous task: Knights protect the weak. For Andrew, however, protecting Christian refugees — as well as their clergy and institutions — was less a duty of chivalry and more a demand of charity. With a Josephite heart, Andrew loved in today’s Christian refugees the Christ who was himself poor and rejected. As Saint Joseph protected his family while in flight from Herod, Andrew protected his wider Christian family while in flight from similar danger.
It is a mystery when a man dies so young. Yet as the grace of Saint Joseph teaches us, some missions do not require an abundance of years to complete.
— Father Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P., is prior at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.
The Lord took Andrew to Himself on All Saints Day, in time to join the great heavenly celebration, but also, I think, as a sign and signal for us, his family and friends left behind. His death day stands as one of the fingerprints of God in our lives, helping us to see Him and His Providence in the otherwise unfathomable loss of a great friend and father.
Andrew was a family man, friend, and fighter for the most vulnerable. He was a man almost constantly on the move — ready to “spend and be spent” in order to serve God and protect and defend the most vulnerable. When I think of Andrew, I think of quick coffees at Grand Central Station, and longer sandwiches at Union Station in D.C. There were meetings and phone calls — short and long — from locations around the world. He was short on small talk and long on substance.
He was a man who had the courage of his convictions. Andrew was passionate about the defense of the persecuted Christians and played an enormous role in securing international attention, priority, and physical care for them. He advocated tirelessly and traveled constantly to secure the U.S. State Department policy that ISIS was committing genocide against Christians in Syria and Iraq. Not content with policy statements alone, Andrew was then a critical actor in marshaling millions of dollars and personally overseeing their use to rebuild homes and provide immediate necessities for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. This, too, required time and travel to dangerous locations — time away from his beloved family, and travel to dangerous locations. He never flinched regarding the danger to himself. His concern, at these moments, was rather for his family, should something ever befall him.
I will miss my friend, and our many conversations, always laced with humor, aware of our limitations, but ready to face the reality of the situation and do our best to find a pathway forward. In his final weeks, we hatched and discussed more than one big project and plan.
We discussed grave challenges, but we never lost our joy or hope in the confidence that sometime, somewhere, all will be well.
Andrew is now in that place where all is well. He has fought the good fight, run the race, and, I believe, found the prize for which he strove throughout his entire life. His gain is our loss, but as I turn my prayers to Andrew for the repose of his soul, I find myself consoled and supported, since Andrew will, I believe, find himself even busier in heaven than he was here on earth.
— Anna Halpine is the founder of the World Youth Alliance.
On November 1, All Saints Day, Andrew Walther, a beloved supporter and friend of the Religious Freedom Institute, passed away at age 45. Formerly vice president for communications and strategic planning for the Knights of Columbus, Andrew was named president and COO of EWTN News this past May.
There will be many tributes to Andrew for his multiple gifts and achievements, but I want to highlight his extraordinary dedication and accomplishments in aiding in both word and deed the decimated Christian populations of Iraq and Syria. Andrew was on point for providing over $20 million of assistance from the Knights of Columbus to persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria. Indeed, the Knights played the central role in rebuilding the ISIS-destroyed Iraq town of Karamles on the Nineveh Plain.
Andrew also played a major role in heading up the Knights’ effort to document genocide against Christians and other minorities in Iraq — documentation which was essential in pushing forward the decision of Secretary of State Kerry to declare in March 2016 that ISIS had, indeed, committed genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities.
Between 2016 and 2020, I spoke dozens of times, and at great length, with Andrew about how to secure much-needed assistance from the U.S. government, the U.N., other countries, the Knights, and other private organizations, for the victims of genocide in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. The work was often frustrating, but Andrew possessed a remarkable ability to strategize and persevere, and he was indefatigable in his efforts to make a difference. Clearly, Andrew never forgot that those Christian mothers and fathers in Iraq loved and cared for their children just as he loved and cared for his young family of four.
Andrew was smart, strategic, dedicated, hardworking, a dedicated husband and father, and spiritually grounded. It was a great privilege for me and my colleagues at the Religious Freedom Institute to work side by side with Andrew these past years to defend and help those who have suffered so greatly for their faith in God.
Rest in peace, dear friend.
— Kent Hill is a senior fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute.
I was privileged to be there at the beginning of Andrew Walther’s career at the National Catholic Register, whose obit quotes me saying, “His smile telegraphed who he was: It told you he was highly competent, friendly, and circumstances that stressed others out only mildly bemused him.”
I saw that from our first meeting. I still vividly remember interviewing and hiring Walther on a walk near the Long Island Sound in New Haven. I had brought him on as a freelance news writer for the Register and wanted to make him more regular. We set up the appointment to meet not far from his apartment, and he was explaining how the New Haven Harbor worked.
He was one of those people who seem to know everything, but he was never a “know-it-all.” His smile was too friendly for that. The Register met him when he was organizing a mammoth national tour for a California organization, and despite what must have been a complicated, time-consuming, and frustrating job, he had started to write stories on the side for us.
He had a great “nose for news” and understood the Register’s mission so well so that I would use him as an example. “We are interested in the intersection between the Church and culture, between what Jesus first taught and how we live today,” I would tell them. “Look at Andrew Walther’s stories.”
I met him again and again over the years in his capacity with the Knights of Columbus. He kept his twinkling eyes and wry laugh to the end — using them to keep disparate elements together at the service of Jesus Christ’s continuing story.
— Tom Hoopes, writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., was the executive editor of the National Catholic Register from 1999 to 2009.
Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart
What can I say about my friend, the late Andrew Walther, that brave Knight of Columbus whom the Lord was good enough to put in my path, and whom the Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, was wise enough to appoint to accompany me and take care of myself at this particularly difficult and critical stage of my apostolic mission in this war-ravaged Syria?
I met my dear Brother Andrew in Philadelphia in August 2015, on the occasion of the Knights of Columbus’s 133rd Supreme Convention and since then, we had stayed close to each other until the day he was called home to the Lord, after a life of dedication and service to the Church, both in his own prosperous country and in mine mired in misery. During this time, I had the joy of meeting him in the United States at least six times, not to mention the hundreds of emails we had exchanged. His courtesy, dedication, and generosity revealed to me what sets the Knights of Columbus apart and revealed the secret of their unparalleled success.
What touched me most about Andrew was his closeness to our Church and his continued concern for Christians in Syria. He helped me a lot in my task and encouraged me to persevere in my hard mission in the midst of my people. Every two or three weeks he wrote to me to ask for news of our faithful and to be reassured about us. I felt he was like one of us. Our concerns bothered him and our joys were his — that is why he did so much so that we might be helped and relieved, both politically and materially. We are all indebted to him here in Aleppo for the many grants he helped us secure for those most in need among the war-torn Christian community.
I must admit that we owe a great deal, my Church and I, to the Knights of Columbus, who often, thanks to the recommendations of Andrew, and approved by the Supreme Knight and his venerable Council, have never ceased to help us. How could I not love him and how can I forget him today? His memory will be forever marked in my memory, and the Lord will not fail to answer the prayers that I offer for his soul’s peaceful rest and the well-being of his family whom he loved so much.
— Archbishop Jean-Clément Jeanbart is the Melkite Catholic archbishop of Aleppo. Translated by Father Patrick Mary Briscoe, O.P., deputy senior editor, Aleteia
Father Benedict Kiely
Andrew was a mover and shaker, but always for the good. Meeting him for the first time in early 2015 after my first visit to Iraq, I realized he was a powerful intellect. As we got to know each other over the years, I discovered a great intellect, humor — and what I call a “passion for the persecuted.”
Andrew in his last months deepened his faith and became a man of peace — I think Andrew was a Knight in the old-fashioned sense — a man of faith, family, and country. A man of inspiration and friendship, a man who in defense of the persecuted discovered his mission for life.
— Father Benedict Kiely is the founder of Nasarean.org.
Patrick E. Kelly
A man’s work says much about his life. So it is with Andrew Walther, who with his lovely wife, Maureen, recently published The Illustrated History of the Knights of Columbus. The subtitle of the book is, A Story of Faith, Leadership and Service, and while he applied these words to the Knights, they also describe Andrew to a T. He will be missed by the thousands who knew him; he will be remembered for the tens of thousands more whose lives he touched.
To know Andrew was to know his heart for others, formed by his strong Catholic faith. Our Lord furnished him with many talents, and he made the most of them. In recent years, he especially devoted himself to advocating for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. At a time when few were focused on their plight, Andrew stepped into the breach and organized the efforts of the Knights of Columbus to help them reclaim their homes and rebuild their lives — an effort that has since raised more than $25 million. Always a realist in the art of the possible, he worked tirelessly to move the levers of power in Washington, leading to many victories for persecuted believers, particularly in Iraq and Syria. He considered his service on their behalf a special vocation, and to paraphrase Saint Ignatius, he pursued it with an invincible courage.
Thank you, Brother Andrew, for your witness of faith, leadership, and service. “May the Angels lead you into Paradise; may the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.”
— Patrick E. Kelly is deputy supreme knight at the Knights of Columbus.
Father Roger J. Landry
Andrew Walther made those around him better.
He was a courageous man who made others bolder.
He was a brilliant man, rich in practical wisdom, who made others smarter and more strategic.
He was a humble man content to do things behind the scenes who taught others to do things for the cause rather than for credit.
He was a leader comfortable in guiding from the front, the back, or the side.
He was a faithful man, whose love for God and the Church made him strive to rectify the Church’s weaknesses and prosper her mission.
He was his brothers’ keeper, even those persecuted in far-off lands, and inspired others to similar solicitude.
His work for and among the heroic Christians of the Middle East, Nigeria, and elsewhere gave him a heroism in ordinary life, seen not only in his intrepid perseverance never to give up for the causes he was shepherding but also in the focus he brought to his fight against leukemia. He asked questions. He studied. He prayed. He found reasons for hope, however small, and tenaciously pursued them.
He suffered with the manliness worthy of a Knight the painful side-effects of his medicines without complaint or self-pity. He resolutely refused to let life be “taken” from him, but freely continued to “give” his life to the end (John 10:18), caring for his wife and young children of whom he was so proud, advancing the work of EWTN News, building the Institute for Ancient and Threatened Christianity. That Christian and personal maturity is one of the reasons why he was able to accomplish so much in 45 years.
I will deeply miss our occasional dinners, frequent phone calls, and unforgettable collaboration on different projects for the Church or in defense of persecuted Christians. I’m so grateful I had the chance to know him on earth, and I pray that we’ll have a chance to get together again for a banquet without end.
Jennie Bradley Lichter
I knew the first time I met Andrew Walther that he was a kindred spirit and a force to be reckoned with. We had been connected by email a couple of different ways shortly after I joined the White House domestic-policy team and took up a portfolio that included several issues of interest to him, and we got together at the earliest opportunity. We talked for a long time that first time, while I furiously took notes to try to capture the fast-paced barrage of good ideas and interesting observations that he was sharing.
That day launched an ongoing conversation with Andrew that I can hardly believe is now over. Searching my emails for his name, I have to laugh at how many messages I have from him titled “Connecting you.” Andrew was a great connecter of people, and I am in his debt for the many ways in which my work — and my faith — benefited from the work and the faith of folks he sent my way. The world really is full of good people trying to accomplish good things, and Andrew seemed to know just about all of them.
I also seem to have a lot of emails from Andrew titled “Congrats” or “Thank you.” How many times do we intend to send someone an affirming note and then never get around to it? Andrew got around to it. He took the time to share a word of encouragement or to say a quick hello. He knew how to be a friend, and he extended that hand of friendship generously even to folks such as me, a late addition to his enormous corps of friends and admirers. I am resolved, in his honor, to do more of that myself.
From what I can tell, Andrew accomplished more good and made an impact on more people in his shortened life than many who are given twice as many years. His legacy of faith, friendship, and unflagging energy for fighting the good fight will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life. I am so grateful to have known him.
— Jennie Bradley Lichter is the deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
I don’t have many pictures of Andrew Walther. What I do have is a bunch of pictures where I know he was in the room, but he was off to the side somewhere; maybe his arm is in the frame. Although he was always at or near the center of the action, rarely was he the face of it. It was his sweet spot, and it was from there that he could do so much good for so many people.
I was blessed to see that up close. I was in the policy office of the Knights of Columbus, so our responsibilities had us working together regularly. We really became close, however, when we worked together on the Knights’ effort to convince our government to recognize the genocide that Christians and other religious minorities were experiencing at the hands of ISIS.
Through that process, I gained what I had thought would be a lifelong friend. He was always busy but always made himself available to lend a hand, to think through a problem, to make a connection, or to have a cup of coffee or a beer. When I learned that he was sick, I just thought that it was a temporary setback on his way to more and greater success.
Having seen all the good he did for the Church and for our country, and knowing well the kind, funny, and brilliant man he was, and the young family he left behind, I took his death pretty hard. It happened to come, however, just as I joined a project to continue building on successes he helped create on behalf of the brutalized communities for whom he was an advocate and defender — successes that would not have been possible without him. I know for a fact that the good for which he gave so much of himself continues — a community that was in danger of disappearing survives and is rebuilding. I also trust that it is part of God’s good purposes that we lost him when we did — and am sure that he will continue his good work, only now as an intercessor.
— Scott Lloyd is an attorney who resides in Virginia with his wife, Annie, and their eight children.
Francis X. Maier
In the decade or so of our friendship, Andrew proved himself as a great friend and a great lay witness to Jesus Christ. Andrew had endless energy. I envied him for his analytical skill, his endurance, and his policy smarts. He was a tireless networker. He always had three or four projects going, and every one of them would be ingenious. He especially loved the Christians of the Middle East and was passionately committed to helping them any way he could.
His service to the Knights and EWTN will be very hard to replace, because very few people can manage a life of high intelligence and genuine personal humility at the same time. But Andrew did — and he did it with a wonderful sense of humor and a preference to be the guy behind the scenes.
All these things made Andrew admirable; but what will always stay in my memory is the love he bore for his wife, his children, and his Catholic faith. They were his core. He was the kind of man who made other men better by knowing him. And having known him, I’ll always be grateful.
— Francis X. Maier is a senior fellow of Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and a senior research associate of Constitutional Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
Bishop Gregory John Mansour
I never had to explain much to Andrew Walther about Lebanon. He was a man who studied the world, but more important, he “got it.” He urged me to work with him and others in promoting the 100th anniversary of this country. We did, but it seemed that the world was looking elsewhere.
Why did Andrew feel as strongly as I did about Lebanon? Because he knew that the Maronite patriarch, who at Lebanon’s formation included in his delegation a Muslim mufti, and several others, and intentionally went to visit Versailles after the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1919, to establish the boundaries and define the purpose of this new country. It was to be a Muslim-Christian refuge, a shelter for all those fleeing troubles in the area.
Lebanon is still the same today, even though it is much more fragile than it ever was.
Saint Pope John Paul also “got” Lebanon. He called an entire synod of the Church for this one small country. He included in the synod the clergy, religious, and laity of the six Catholic Churches present in Lebanon, and he invited the several Orthodox communities, as well as the Sunni, Shiite, and Druze communities as observers. He called Lebanon “more than a country, a message.”
The saintly pope and Andrew, the saintly layman, both knew that if Lebanon would fail, the world may fail. Both men invested in Lebanon’s success, and although no one can predict how, or if, Lebanon will succeed, at least both men knew it was worth the investment.
Andrew, I will miss you. Thank you for your passion and love for what is good and noble in this world. I loved our common work advocating for persecuted Christians, and I loved how you always “got it.”
Maureen and children, you had wonderful husband and father. My heartfelt condolences and prayers.
Family and friends of Andrew, we shared the grace and blessing of knowing, working with, and loving him. Let us thank God that a man like Andrew once lived. And let us pray that his soul may now rest in peace.
— Bishop Gregory John Mansour is the bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn.
Sister John Mary, S.V.
Mother Agnes and I had the blessing to meet Andrew and Maureen in November 2013 in Mexico City while attending a conference on the New Evangelization co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. As they had recently become new parents, Andrew and Maureen had arranged to have their newborn son, Frederick, baptized at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Gathering together with several of Andrew’s fellow Knights, we watched with joy as their friend Cardinal Marc Ouellette welcomed little Frederick into the family of the Catholic Church. It was deeply inspiring to see this beautiful young couple, filled with love and blessed with new life, passing on their deeply held Catholic faith to another generation. I will never forget the dramatic moment when, at the end of the baptismal rite, the cardinal lifted up their son and turned toward the miraculous image of Our Lady’s tilma. This modern-day “presentation in the temple” is an image I have often held in my heart over the years — the life of Christ coming into a soul in the very same place where, 500 years before, the Blessed Mother appeared and brought the life of Christ to millions in the New World.
I give thanks to God for the faith that Andrew inspired in all those whose lives he touched — from his wife and children, family and friends, co-workers at the Knights of Columbus, to the young people who attended World Youth Day Madrid in which Andrew coordinated the Knights’ events, to the Christians of the Middle East whose plight became better known through his work. The Sisters of Life now pray that he has heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master.”
— Sister John Mary, S.V., is the vicar of the Sisters of Life.
Those of us who knew and loved Andrew Walther as a friend and colleague also knew him as a loving husband and father. A breakfast or dinner meeting didn’t go without stories from the home front and an acknowledgement of missing his wife, Maureen, and his children.
Andrew understood the sacrifices his family made due to his work and travel, and, in turn, those of us who heard and saw the love he had for his family understood the sacrifices Andrew made so that a Christian in Syria might live to see another day; or for the unborn child that she might take her first breath outside the womb; or that a Catholic in America might be able to express his views in the public square.
To achieve such worthy goals, Andrew was a builder, not in the traditional sense, but certainly in the literal sense. He worked tirelessly and behind the scenes to build institutions that served a higher calling . . . the highest calling. Whether preserving Christianity, defending life, evangelizing the path to eternal life, or sharing not just facts but truth, Andrew understood how to frame the issues, build the coalitions, and achieve lasting outcomes.
But the greatest institution Andrew helped to build — and the one in which he took the greatest pride — was his family. He was proud that he and Maureen co-authored a book on not only the history of the Knights of Columbus, but really, the history of Catholicism in America and the fight for religious liberty. He was proud of his young children and their potential, firmly believing that the work he undertook would ensure a better life and better world for them.
He did all this with humility, humor, and the firmest of a faith that he shared and strengthened in all who knew him.
— Ed McFadden is a communications executive based in Washington, D.C.
Stephen M. Rasche
In a world of people giving speeches, Andrew was a quiet doer, giving his all, every day, on behalf of the persecuted. So much of the effective work done in service of the displaced and persecuted Christians and Yazidis of Iraq and Syria came directly as the result of his tireless and selfless efforts.
In the darkest times of the ISIS war, he was a central driving force in making sure that the plight of these innocents would not be forgotten. He had not been asked to do this, he did not do it as part of any career advancement or assignment, he did this work simply because he believed he was called to serve in this cause.
Of course, he was right in this. When I think back on so many of the shared frustrations and obstacles and failures we had to move past over the last five years, I was always struck by how hopeful and forward-looking Andrew remained. There was no problem without some sort of solution if we just kept the faith and kept moving forward.
He loved the East, its churches and its people. He always worked to understand their point of view, what it was to be in their shoes. And the people there knew it, and loved him in return for it.
I do not think it is mere coincidence that he passed from us on All Saints Day. We spoke daily throughout his illness, and to his very last days, his first concern was always in his work of service to others, with his personal situation so often a seeming afterthought, just one more thing to be worked through. We will all miss him beyond words.
— Stephen M. Rasche is the vice chancellor of Catholic University in Erbil, and co-founder with Andrew Walther of the Institute for Ancient and Threatened Christianity. He is the author of The Disappearing People: The Tragic Fate of Christians in the Middle East.
There are some people who leave their mark on the world because of their professional excellence and others for their excellence of character. Andrew Walther was both. His ability to think strategically, to write effectively, and to bring people together were extraordinary. Anything I was engaged in, from international religious freedom to evangelization in the U.S., was made better by his counsel. He was also a friend in the way that only a truly virtuous person can be. His generosity knew no bounds. I think there was nothing he liked more than to do someone a good turn, to provide for some need. It explains his extraordinary devotion to protecting Christians in the Middle East and his unwavering loyalty as a friend. It is an honor to have been one of them. I will miss him greatly.
— Jonathan Reyes is the senior vice president of evangelization and faith formation for the Knights of Columbus.
Reverend Eugene Rivers
My dear brother, Andrew T. Walther, was a devoted husband and father, which in this decadent age matters enormously. He was a man for whom his Christian faith was a matter of principle, life and death. During his 15-year tenure at the Knights of Columbus he was able to expand the image of the KOC into the broader ecumenical and interfaith world.
Andrew was a serious intellectual, not in the narrow academic sense of the word. He knew that in an almost Niebuhrian sense, one should resist the temptation to make the perfect the enemy of the possible. He understood intuitively the importance of philosophic and political collaboration between the black churches, global black Pentecostalism, and the Roman Catholic Church on questions of religious freedom, life, and family. Andrew fought fiercely and fearlessly, though always shrewdly, to defend the principle of religious freedom both in the U.S. and internationally. He brought the same skill and devotion to the issue of the sanctity of life at every stage of human development. Of equal importance is his work as the protection of the Christian mandate for marriage and human sexuality.
On the vexing question of race, Andrew saw the substantive importance of the moral witness of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. for the future. He stressed the importance for the country of recovering the idea of the beloved community as the baseline moral and conceptual framework for any rational discussion of issues such as white supremacy. King’s concept of love, based in the teachings of Jesus, had to be the precondition for any public discourse regarding the history of slavery and Jim Crow in the totalitarian South and how it manifests itself in the present.
We thank God for the witness of this faithful son of the church, our brother, Andrew T. Walther. And we pray for his family in their loss.
— Reverend Eugene Rivers is the Pastor of the Azusa Christian Community in Boston, Mass.
Monsignor James P. Shea
In the early hours of All Souls Day, I received word of the untimely death of Andrew Walther. The sadness of this news filled my whole day, ebbing and flowing through all the cares and concerns at hand in my work at the University of Mary. His memory was very present to me in the late afternoon, poignant as I offered one of the campus Masses for the Faithful Departed for our students, and afterwards I had a quiet moment to think about Andrew.
He was a Catholic layman of substance, a servant with an apostolic heart, and a devoted husband and father to four small children. I always thought he was much older than me but, it turns out, we were the same age. I mention that not to suggest that he looked old, but as a way of noting that Andrew moved through the world with what I would call the charisma of competence. It’s one thing to love the Lord with your whole heart and to want to serve Him. That was true of him, no doubt. But he was also uncommonly effective in his service, and that’s because he was steady and mature in his discipleship.
We would meet in the most unexpected places, small as the Catholic world in this country really is, and he was most often in the company of big personalities. In the midst of grand conversation and bold planning sessions about sweeping strategy, Andrew would listen quietly, and sometimes the tremor of a smile would pass over his lips. He was unfailingly thoughtful, canny, and discreet. In other words, he was just the friend we all needed in order ever to get anything done.
Sometimes sincere people wonder how the Church succeeds in doing so much genuine good in the world, what with so much human frailty and even disorder at every level. Well, it’s because we have more than our fair share of faithful, unsung heroes such as Andrew Walther, advancing the cause of Christ behind the scenes. Today we have one less, at least in this world. I’ll sure miss seeing him.
— Monsignor James Shea is the president of the University of Mary.
Andrew was the White Knight — for the persecuted Middle Eastern Christians and no less for those of us in the battle against Western indifference to their dire plight. As traumatized Iraqi Christian and Yazidi survivors of ISIS’s genocide languished without hope in makeshift church shelters, far from their homes, Andrew pivoted into action. He immediately became indispensable to the cause of their survival. He gave his all to help them live and to help them rebuild their Nineveh communities. He understood his work as a historic mission, one to preserve a continuous, but endangered, 2,000-year-old Christian presence in the cradle of Christianity. He once told me that he felt God gave him this mission. He certainly acted as if He did. Andrew, mild-mannered and behind the scenes, was determined, tireless, and stunningly effective.
As vice president of communications at the Knights of Columbus, Andrew played a central role in that organization’s extensive effort to raise millions of dollars in humanitarian funds on behalf of these Christian communities. This was at a time when the U.S. and U.N. aid funding, and even that of most of the large Catholic and secular charities, bypassed the Nineveh Christians. After ISIS had been defeated, Andrew traveled to the region, recognized the need for housing and village reconstruction, and took up the challenge to raise even more millions to do that. It was one of his smart fundraising ads about the ISIS survivors, placed in the Washington press and on prime-time cable television, that led me to that first meeting with him at his New Haven office. There we discussed the need for advocacy for the Iraqi Christians to shift U.S. policy to end the shameful discrimination against needy Middle Eastern Christians. Again, Andrew embraced the challenge and became a leader in raising public awareness and in moving the government to act.
Andrew seemed to always walk into Washington strategy meetings with a quiet smile and a twinkle in his eye, and, as we learned, this meant he had an action plan: Launching a petition campaign, holding a press conference, organizing a White House event or a congressional hearing, or placing an op-ed, he was indefatigable. There simply would not have been U.S. recognition of genocide against the Middle Eastern Christians without Andrew. On their behalf, he was unsurpassed in conjuring up a grass-roots campaign and prompting key Washington officials to speak out. Within a few weeks in early 2016, he directed the fact-finding report Genocide Against Christians, that proved determinative in turning around the secretary of state, persuading him to include Nineveh’s Christians in the U.S. genocide designation against ISIS. This designation alone offered a measure of justice to these targeted Iraqi and Syrian religious communities and was the basis for later U.S. aid programs that gave them critical support and hope for a future in their homeland.
I will always cherish the experience of having had Andrew as a colleague and am blessed to have had him as my friend.
— Nina Shea is the director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute.
Matthew St. John
Andrew Walther was the most industrious person I have ever met in my life. I am confident that I could live another 200 years and not come across someone who works with the singular focus, dedication, and inexhaustible energy that Andrew harnessed and poured out for the Church.
Though God granted Andrew only 45 years on this earth, Andrew managed to squeeze at least 90 years of accomplishment into that small window. And — if I’m being honest — it was probably closer to 135.
It wasn’t just the six or seven 18- to 20-hour days he would put in week after week. Other people work long hours, too. It wasn’t just that he was smart. Plenty of people are. It was that his mind worked in a way that simply wasn’t normal. He was wired differently. He was piercing. He was creative. He had an intellectual resilience and a determination that would simply not allow him to concede or conclude what seemed obvious or foregone to everyone else.
In Andrew’s mind, there was no problem that couldn’t be solved by thinking way, way outside the box, and by giving a level of effort that seemed equal parts impossible and insane.
Whether he was helping to re-evangelize America with the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe or lobbying our government and awakening our consciences to the genocide of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Andrew could simply not be stopped.
He left everything, every ounce on the field. He never took a break. Never mailed it in. Ever.
May his memory be a blessing to his beloved wife, Maureen, their children, his siblings, friends, and colleagues. And may we be inspired to give just some of the energy that he’s no longer able to.
— Matthew St. John is a former longtime employee of Andrew Walther.
William J. Thorn
I first met Andrew in a seminar for American journalists on the structure of the Vatican toward the end of Pope John Paul II’s papacy. The more skeptical among the journalists raised penetrating questions about declaring saints, and of course, the issue of abortion. Some of the official answers met with snorts of disbelief, but in all, a healthy curiosity was the dominant tone.
At that time, I was teaching in the newly created communication program at the Pontifical Gregorian University and Andrew was a Register correspondent working in Rome. The more we discussed the coverage of the Church, the more our professional relationship grew. By the end of the seminar, we decided to go to dinner together, which led to a 30-plus-year friendship that blended professional journalism with personal friendship and led to mutual work on Church and media in World Youth Days, frequent phone conversations about breaking-news stories, and the possible establishment of a journalism program at the Catholic University of Iraq. Our friendship even included a day with our wives and his sons at the Wisconsin state fair eating brats and drinking beer.
I always found Andrew’s broad-gauged liberal education at play in his witty retorts and arguments as we sparred about current events. Andrew was, in my view, a true visionary in Catholic media and the shifting norms and practices of journalism, someone who understood the tectonic plates that form their fundamental foundation. His mental file cabinet provided instant information about the activities, writing, and positions of a wide variety of public figures. It did not surprise me that he decided to learn Aramaic as part of his ongoing efforts to support and assist the Christian community in Iraq, a work in which he took a major leading role. We also delighted in sharing meals in Rome which always meant discussing the latest news and gossip. Andrew, in sum, was a role model for anyone who is serious about Catholic journalism.
— William J. Thorn is associate professor of journalism and media studies at the Institute for Catholic Media at Marquette University.
Andrew Walther lived a life full of light — one of unbridled optimism and boundless energy. That energy and joie de vivre came from love. He never stopped, until God called him back after His mission for him was finished. Andrew lived every day as if it would be his last.
Every day had a purpose. Every meeting, every call, every written word was done with the spirit of being on a bandwagon with a purpose driving toward something. That “something” — could be as big as a U.S. foreign-policy determination on the genocide of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, to as big as ensuring that a little child in a distant land had a meal to eat. Everything was big, because it was for God. Andrew was incredibly intelligent and well-read. He was a domestic- and foreign-policy wonk and a genius at strategic communications. His knowledge base was vast — from history to local politics. Andrew had incredible intellectual curiosity and never stopped learning about issues. He learned so he could do.
Andrew worked tirelessly to make change through coalition-building, media, policy advocacy, fundraising, dialogue, data-gathering, and academic research publications.
While at the Knights of Columbus, he led on so many fronts. Christians in the Middle East was the most notable, in recent years, but he never moved far from the most important issue to him, the plight of the unborn child and the pro-life movement around the world. Andrew also worked on other critical issues as well, including religious freedom. He grasped the depth of the issue and the complexity of it. As the space for religious freedom appeared to be shrinking, Andrew drew attention to those suffering, and again, did something about it — from the rise of Christian persecution in Nigeria; to China, and the persecution of Buddhists, Christians, and the concentration camps established and atrocities committed towards Uyghur Muslims, he worked with others to seek justice.
He saw the faces of those persecuted. He would be a voice for the voiceless and a laborer for them.
In the darkness of his physical absence, today, his light, God’s light shines through even brighter.
May his beautiful wife, Maureen, and their little angels always know their father impacted generations.
— Erin Walsh is the deputy assistant to the president and senior director for African Affairs at the National Security Council and the White House.
Dr. Andrew Wang
Many years later, Andrew and I realized that not only were we at the same papal audience for our nuptial blessings, we were seated a row apart on the same flight to Spain for our honeymoons. Two days before Andrew went into the emergency room, he had invited us over for dinner (he made a mean rack of ribs), and with our kids chasing down the Walther chickens in the woods surrounding his house in the background, Andrew told us that he had finally chased down pictures of that audience we were both at ten years ago as a gift to my family. This is the Andrew I knew — a generous man who went out of his way to make the world around him a brighter place, whether that be for his immediate friends and family, the domestic Church, or Christian strangers in the Middle East. His public record as a servant of God speaks for itself. In the last months of his life, I had the great privilege of working with Andrew to fight to defend the Church during one of the darkest times in modern history. In the last hours of his life, I witnessed Andrew fight until the end. I watched him accept his Cross. Let Andrew’s example of stalwart faith, relentless work ethic, deep empathy, witty humor, and love of the true, the beautiful, and the good continue to be an example for us all.
— Andrew Wang is assistant professor in Internal Medicine (Rheumatology) Immunobiology at Yale’s School of Medicine Center.
There is a memorial fund set up for the Institute of Ancient and Threatened Christians, which Andrew Walther founded with Stephen Rasche to continue his work for the persecuted.
The book Andrew and Maureen Walther wrote together, The Knights of Columbus: An Illustrated History, can be purchased here.