Knights of Columbus
About the Knights
The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 by a 29-year-old parish priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, in the basement of St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Connecticut. Today, more than a century later, the Knights of Columbus has become the largest lay organization in the Catholic Church.
The Order has been called "the strong right arm of the Church," and has been praised by popes, presidents and other world leaders, for support of the Church, programs of evangelization and Catholic education, civic involvement and aid to those in need. As recently as 1992, Mother Teresa of Calcutta praised the Knights in a speech on the occasion of her reception of the first Knights of Columbus Gaudium et Spes Award.
Thanks to the inspired work of Father McGivney—as well as that of millions of other Knights over the past century—the Knights of Columbus now stands at its pinnacle of membership, benefits and service. Currently, there are over 1.6 million Knights of Columbus—more than ever before in our Order's history. Together with their families, the Knights are nearly 6 million strong. In addition, from the first local council in New Haven, the Order has grown to more than 12,000 councils in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Panama, the Virgin Islands, Guatemala, Guam and Saipan. Each year, the Order continues this strong growth.
Volunteers & Insurance
As the Order has grown, its benevolence has multiplied. The Order continues to break all previous records for charitable contributions and volunteer service. In the past decade, the Knights donated nearly $1 billion to numerous charitable causes and nearly 400 million hours of volunteer service. In 1999 alone, the Knights donated nearly $109 million and 55 million volunteer hours to charitable causes.
Father McGivney's founding vision for the Order also included establishing a life insurance program to provide for the widows and orphans of deceased members. The Order's insurance program has expanded substantially to serve more effectively the Knights' growing membership. Year after year, the Knights of Columbus has earned the highest possible quality ratings for financial soundness from A.M. Best and Standard & Poor's. The Order provides the highest quality insurance and annuity products to its members, along with many other fraternal benefits.
Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriatism
Knights of Columbus are Catholic gentlemen committed to the exemplification of charity, unity, fraternity, patriotism, and defense of the priesthood. The Order is consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Order is unequivocal in its loyalty to the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth. It is firmly committed to the protection of human life, from conception to natural death, and to the preservation and defense of the family. It was on these bedrock principles that the Order was founded over a century ago and remains true to them today.
If you want to join this great organization of Catholic men, it is likely that there is a local council near you. There you will find brother Knights working to fulfill the central mission of the Order: striving in charitable works; serving the Church and unified in following its teachings; supporting brother Knights in their temporal and spiritual needs; acting for the good of their country; and giving aid to widows, orphans, the sick and the poor. This is Father McGivney's dream, echoing across the century, and living today in the hearts of his brothers and all of those they touch.
The Founder of the Knights of Columbus
Over a century ago, in mid-August of 1890, one of the largest funerals in the history of Waterbury, Connecticut, took place. The throngs who attended were grieving the death, at age 38, of Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus.
Delegations were present from almost every one of the 57 Knights of Columbus councils that had been chartered in the Order's first eight years. The Bishop of Hartford and more than 70 of Connecticut's Catholic priests were joined by many civic leaders. It was reported that every available carriage for miles around had been rented for the great procession.
Father McGivney's funeral was an indication of the love and respect the people felt for this hard-working, holy, parish priest. It also reflected the deep personal appeal that immigrant Catholics immediately found in the Knights of Columbus. Since that time, the Order's growth has never stopped. Today it is the largest society of Catholic men in the world, with 1.6 million members in the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, and several Central American and Caribbean countries.
To mark the Order's hundredth anniversary in 1982, the Knights of Columbus brought the remains of Father McGivney from Waterbury back to St. Mary's Church in New Haven, where he had founded the Order. There he now rests in a setting in which daily Mass is offered for the deceased members and their deceased spouses of the Order and prayers are said in his honor. His cause for canonization is proceeding.
The roots of the Knights of Columbus were planted in the rich soil that was 19th century North America. Out of the melting pot of the 1880's, our Catholic, family, fraternal, service organization emerged as a beacon of hope for masses.
Whether helping the poor, the sick, the orphaned and the widowed, or supporting their Catholic brothers with their practical or spiritual needs, the first Knights of Columbus stood ready to help.
Since 1882, we've been working for the improvement in the lives of our members and our societies. Today, the Knights of Columbus boasts a membership of over 1.6 million strong, and growing!
We invite you to take a tour to learn more about us, our programs and the services offered to our members and their families.
How to Join
Membership in the Knights of Columbus is open to practicing Catholic men in union with the Holy See, who are at least 18 years old. A practicing Catholic is one who lives up to the Commandments of God and the precepts of the Church. Application blanks are available from any member of the Knights of Columbus.Ontario State Council's Website Supreme Council's Website
April 2012 Bulletin: The Knights News