The Knights of Columbus was officially founded March 29, 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 men’s organization in the Catholic Church with more than 1.7 million members and more than 13,000 councils throughout North American, Central America, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe.
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.
On March 15, 2008 Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree recognizing the heroic virtue of Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. The pope’s declaration significantly advances the priest’s process toward sainthood and gives the parish priest the distinction of “Venerable Servant of God.” If canonized, Father McGivney would be the first American born priest to be so honored.
Volunteer, Service, and Insurance
As the Order has grown, its benevolence has multiplied. The Order continues to break all previous records for charitable contributions and volunteer service. Since it founding, the Knights donated billions of dollars to numerous charitable causes and millions of hours of volunteer service.
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 Patriotism
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.