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About the Knights

About the Knights of Columbus

Founded by Father Michael J. McGivney, curate at St. Mary's parish in New Haven, Connecticut, the Knights of Columbus was chartered on March 29, 1882, in the State of Connecticut.

As the priest explained to a small group of men at a meeting in the basement of St. Mary's Church in October 1881, his purpose in calling them together was manifold: to help Catholic men remain steadfast in their faith through mutual encouragement: to promote closer ties of fraternity among them: and to set up an elementary system of insurance so that the widows and children of members in the group who might die would not find themselves in dire financial straits.

The founder and first officers of the fledgling organization chose the name "Knights of Columbus" because they felt that, as a Catholic group, it should relate to Christopher Columbus, the Catholic discoverer of America. This would emphasize that it was a Catholic who discovered, explored, and colonized the North American continent. At the same time "Knights" would signify that the membership embodied knightly ideals of spirituality and service to Church, country and fellowman.

By the end of 1897 the Order was thoroughly rooted in New England, along the upper Atlantic seaboard and into Canada. Within the next eight years it branched out from Quebec to California, and from Florida to Washington.

From such promising beginnings Father McGivney's original group has blossomed into an international society of more than 1.5 million Catholic men in nearly 10,000 councils who have dedicated themselves to the ideals of Columbianism: Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism.

Today members of the Order are found in the United States, Canada, Poland, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Panama, Cuba, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. They belong to many races and speak many different languages. They are diverse, yet they are one. Their diversity spells creativity: their unity spells strength.

The Knights' creativity is manifested in numerous programs and projects directed to the benefit of their fellowman. Their strength assures that these programs are operated effectively and brought to positive conclusions.

A major sign of the Order's active concern for the future of the Church and the spread of the Gospel is the establishment of the Supreme Council Vocations Program, now operating in all jurisdictions and already showing promise of success in helping turn around the decline in the number of candidates to the priestly and religious life.

The Knights of Columbus have a long and enviable tradition of aid to Catholic education. As early as 1904 the Order endowed a chair in American history at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. and later provided an endowment of $500,000 for graduate fellowships there which still reaps benefits today. The million-dollar "Father Michael J. McGivney Memorial Fund for New Initiatives in Catholic Education" established in 1980 is devoted to fostering improvements through research and development.

"Don't keep the Faith--spread it!" long has been a guiding principle of the Knights of Columbus. Almost $1 million is budgeted annually by the Order for various projects of the Catholic Advertising Program.

The Knights of Columbus funded the construction of the campanile or Knights' Tower at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The bells for the tower were donated by the Order as well. In keeping with the commitment to Our Lady's Shrine, the Order established the "Luke E. Hart Memorial Fund" in 1979 in the amount of $500,000. Earnings are used to promote Marian devotion and to preserve the beauty of the basilica in perpetuity.

And it was the leadership of the Knights which finally succeeded in having the words "under God" inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag.

From These Men They Call Knights