History of the Order
On October 2, 1881, a group of men met in the basement of St. Mary’s Church on Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut. Called together by their 29-year-old parish priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, these men formed a fraternal society that would one day become the world’s largest Catholic family fraternal service organization. This was the beginning of the Knights of Columbus.
They sought strength in solidarity, and security through unity of purpose and devotion to a holy cause: They vowed to be defenders of their country, their families, and their faith. These men were bound together by the ideal of Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of the Americas, the one whose hand brought Christianity to the New World. Their efforts came to fruition with the incorporation of the Knights of Columbus on March 29, 1882, as a fraternal benefit society.
The Knights of Columbus was formed to render financial aid to members and their families. Mutual aid and assistance are offered to sick, disabled, and needy members and their families. Social and intellectual fellowship is promoted among members and their families through educational, charitable, religious, social welfare, war relief, and public relief works.
Father McGivney’s founding vision for the Order also included 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. The Order has also helped families obtain economic security and stability through its annuity and long-term care programs, along with many other fraternal benefits. In addition, it has contributed time and energy worldwide to service in communities.
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. Father Michael J. McGivney’s cause for sainthood is also being investigated by the Vatican.
The Knights of Columbus has grown from several members in one council to more than 15,000 councils and 1.9 million members throughout the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Guatemala, Guam, Saipan, Lithuania, Ukraine, and South Korea.
Father Michael J. McGivney