The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded in the United States in 1882, it is named in honor of Christopher Columbus. The Knights of Columbus is an Order of the Roman Catholic Church and is dedicated to the principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. Today there are more than 1.7 million members in 14,000 councils, with nearly 200 councils at the university level. Membership is limited to men of 18 years of age and older.
Councils have been chartered in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, the Philippines, Guam, Saipan, Japan, Cuba and most recently in Poland. The Knights’ official junior organization, the Columbian Squires, has over 5,000 Circles.
In the 2007 fraternal year, the Order have US$144,911,781 directly to charity and US$1.1 Billion charitable donations over the past ten years. The Order has performed over 68, 695,768 man hours of voluntary service. For all the work that the Order does coupled with their philanthropic efforts, the Knights of Columbus is often referred to as the “strong right arm of the Church.” The Order’s insurance program has more than $60 Billion of life insurance policies in force and has been given the highest insurance ratings by A.M. Best, Standard & Poor’s and the Insurance Marketplace Standards Association.
The Knights of Columbus was founded by an Irish American Catholic priest, Father Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, Connecticut. In it’s humble beginnings, was a small gathering of men meeting at St. Mary’s parish in 1881, which eventually was incorporated under the laws of Connecticut in 1882. Other councils formed in Connecticut and the Order eventually spread throughout New England and subsequently all over the United States.
The primary motivation for the Order was to be a mutual benefit society. As a parish priest in an immigrant community, McGivney saw what could happen to a family when the breadwinner died and wanted to provide insurance to care for the widows and orphans left behind. McGivney knew of the struggles on a personal level as he had to postpone his seminary studies to provide for his family when his father died. In the late 19th century, Catholics were regularly excluded from labor unions and other organizations that provided social services. In response to all this McGivney wanted to provide an alternative as he believed that Catholicism and fraternalism was a compatible combination and desired to create a society that would encourage men to be proud of their American Catholic heritage. The Order was also founded to demonstrate that American Catholics were patriotic and loyal citizens of the United States.
The Knights of Columbus historically has been involved in political efforts and continues to do so to this day. In the United States, the Order convinced the U.S. Congress in 1954 to add the phrase, “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. The Order has also adopted resolutions advocating a “Culture of Life,” helping to protect the unborn from the abortion, to assist the sick, handicapped, terminally ill and elderly. The Order is vigorously opposed to any governmental actions that in any way promote, legalize and/or finance the performance of abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, assisted suicide and human embryo research. The Order is against any group, nation, territory or individual that in any way encourages, promotes forced contraception, sterilization, population control of any kind and any other activities that lessen the respect for human life.
The Knights of Columbus exists locally in Woodbridge, with many councils including one at our parish, St. Peter’s Council #13896. The Knights at our parish are very involved in many activities and fund raising efforts. Below is a list of their continued contribution to our parish community:
For further information on our local council of knights, please visit their web site at: www.stpeterscouncil.org.