History of the Knights
The Knights of Columbus is a charitable, fraternal organization of Catholic men, 18 or older. The main characteristics are charity both in terms of dollars and time, unity, fraternity and patriotism.
The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest lay Catholic family service organization. As their forebears did more than a century ago, today's Knights and their families stand shoulder to shoulder in support of one another. Through their charity and the examples of their lives, they stand in service to all as witnesses to the Good News of the Gospel.
Although the Order is a "can-do" organization, its scopes and the role it plays on the world stage surprise people. They are amazed to learn that in the year 2017 Knights the world over combined to give more than 75.6 million hours of volunteer service and more than $185,652,989 to a wide range of Church, community and charitable activities and programs. This was a record in both categories dating from the time statistics were first kept in 1977.
Thanks to the efforts of Father Michael J. McGivney, assistant pastor of St. Mary's Church in New Haven and some of his parishioners, the Connecticut state legislature on March 29, 1882, officially chartered the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal benefit society. The Order is still true to its founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity.
The Knights 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.
The history of the Oder shows how the foresight of Father Michael J. McGivney, whose cause for sainthood has lead to his beatification by the Vatican, brought about what has become the world's foremost Catholic fraternal benefit society. The Order has helped families obtain economic security and stability through its life insurance, annuity and long-term care programs, and has contributed time and energy worldwide to service in communities.
The Knights of Columbus has grown from several members in one council to more than 15,100 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.
Examples of what the Knights do - day in and day out - abound. For example, the Order funds the satellite uplinks necessary to broadcast papal messages and ceremonies, especially at Christmas and Easter, throughout the world. The Knights paid the cost of the restoration of facade of St. Peter's Basilica. The Order financed the restoration of the Maderno Atrium which leads to the Holy Door that is opened by the pope at the beginning of a Holy Year - the most recent being Jubilee 2000 held to usher in the third Christian millennium.
The Holy Father also receives each year a contribution from the Order for his personal charities. The contribution comes from the interest earned on the $20 million Vicarius Christi (Vicar of Christ) fund. Each year the interest earned from this fund is presented to the pope. Since it was established in 1982 nearly $30 million has been provided to His Holiness.
The World Youth Days celebrated by the Holy Father every two years since 1987 have benefited from major funding and participation by the Order. At the World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002 the Reconciliation site in Duc in Altum Park was sponsored by a $1 million gift from the Knights of Columbus.