About the Knights

Knights are Catholic men, 18 years of age and older, who are committed to making their community a better place, while supporting their Church. Being a Knight is more than camaraderie; it is being involved with your community; it is supporting your local Catholic Church, while enhancing your own faith; it is about protecting and enhancing your family life.

History

On Oct. 2, 1881, a small 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.

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.

They were Knights of Columbus.

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 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.

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, annuity and long-term care products to its members, along with many other fraternal benefits.

The Supreme Council is the governing body of the Knights of Columbus and is responsible for the development of the organization as a whole. Supreme Council duties include establishing the Order in new regions and setting up regional authorities, defining and advancing its values and goals, undertaking organization-wide initiatives, promoting awareness of the Knights’ mission worldwide, and protecting the families of members through its extensive insurance program. Members working in local, or subordinate councils, however, carry on the majority of the Knights’ beneficial work.

Father McGivney

Father Michael J. McGivney was a 29-year-old assistant pastor at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., when he founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882. Father McGivney’s holiness, devotion to priestly ministry and work to protect family life provide a powerful spiritual influence for Knights, their family members and a growing number of other Catholics.

Father McGivney’s cause for canonization was opened in 1997 by then Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford, Conn. Its diocesan phase has been completed. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican is currently reviewing Father McGivney’s life and works and investigating two reported miracles attributed to his intercession.

The Knights of Columbus has established the Father Michael J. McGivney Guild to provide people with information about his life, works and spirituality. If you are interested in joining the Father McGivney Guild, please visit the Father McGivney Web site.

For information about the Father Michael J. McGivney Guild and Father McGivney’s spiritual influence, faith, legacy, life and cause for canonization visit the Father McGivney Web site.

Activities

Volunteer Service

The Knights’ annual Survey of Fraternal Activity for the year ending Dec. 31, 2011, indicated that, despite a soft economy, total charitable contributions reached $154,651,852 – exceeding the previous year’s total by more than $3.4 million.

The figure includes $29,183,386 donated by the Supreme Council, and $128,901,128 in contributions from state and local councils, assemblies and Squires circles.

Sixty percent of the contributions were for projects at the community level, many involving youth activities. Large donations during the period included $250,000 by Supreme Council and $3,378,000 by state and local councils for Special Olympics as well as $1,593,000 by Supreme Council and $5,950,073 by state and local for the support and promotion of religious vocations.

The survey also indicated that the quantity of volunteer service hours to charitable causes by Knights grew to 70,053,149 – an increase of 797,507 hours compared to 2009. There were more than 418,841 Knights of Columbus blood donations during the year.

Cumulative figures show that during the past decade, the Knights of Columbus has donated $1.406 billion to charity, and provided more than 653 million hours of volunteer service in support of charitable initiatives.

Community Involvement

The history of the Knights of Columbus's involvement in community life is a record of outstanding benevolent achievement. Knights volunteer in a variety of charitable enterprises to serve the people and programs of their communities.

Volunteerism informed by Christian concern is the hallmark of the Knights of Columbus. It results in outstanding contributions of time and talent to the Catholic Church, our communities, families, young people and brother Knights.

Much of the success of the Order's volunteer record can be attributed to the fact that the Supreme Council does not mandate participation in any volunteer initiative. Fraternal and charitable programs arise at the grassroots level to meet the local needs.

As the Order has grown, its benevolence has increased. The Order continues to break all of its previous records for charitable contributions and volunteer service.

Church Support

Supporting the Catholic Church has been a hallmark of the Knights of Columbus since its founding in 1882. From funding the restoration of the facade of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome to operating an usher ministry at a local parish, the Knights of Columbus serves the Church in countless ways. Annually, the Order raises and distributes more than $45 million to Church groups in support of programs at the local, national and international levels. Local Knights and their families donate more than 25 million hours of volunteer time to the Church each year.

Vatican Support

The Knights of Columbus provides support for the Catholic Church in many ways, including the funding of many important Vatican projects.

Church Loan

For more than a century, the Knights of Columbus has provided financing for church development projects.

Support of Vocations

Supporting vocations to the priesthood and religious life is a top priority of the Knights of Columbus.

Culture of Life

Many Knights and their families took part in the 36th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., which marked the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.

Each year, more than 100,000 participants march from the National Mall to the Supreme Court building.

The Supreme Council, which financially supports the March for Life, provided a newly designed sign for participants to carry during this year’s march. The new, two-color sign features “We Choose Life,” along with the Order’s emblem.

Knights in Canada are encouraged to organize pilgrimages to the 2009 March for Life in Ottawa, which will take place May 14 — marking 40 years since the House of Commons adopted the “omnibus bill” that liberalized restrictions on such things as abortion, contraception and homosexual activity.

Keep Christ in Christmas

Each year the Knights of Columbus supports the "Keep Christ in Christmas" campaign to remind people that Christmas is above all else a holy day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. To help deliver the "Keep Christ in Christmas" message, the Order offers a variety of posters and other materials as well as public service announcements (PSAs) for radio and television. Local K of C councils also participate in "Light Up for Christ" ceremonies, in which councils throughout the Order simultaneously illuminate Nativity scenes and Christmas trees on the first Tuesday in December. 

Membership

Catholic men 18 years of age or older who join the Knights belong to a council, or local unit. Many 18 to 22 year olds first join the Knights of Columbus in a college council.

Members who have been in the Knights for one year and have attained Third Degree membership are eligible to join the Fourth Degree Knights.

Degrees

Once a candidate completes the First Degree ceremony on the lesson of charity, he is considered a Knight of Columbus and can participate in all council activities. First Degree members are encouraged to attain the Second and Third Degrees, which teach the lessons of unity and fraternity. Upon taking the Third Degree, a member receives full honors of Knighthood and is "Knighted."

Privileges of Third Degree membership include the ability to serve as a local council officer, and admission to state and Supreme Council business meetings. First and Second Degree members can attend the state and Supreme Council meetings, but they are not allowed in the business sessions.

On February 22, 1900, the first Fourth Degree exemplification or degree ceremony was held in New York City. The Fourth Degree imparts a lesson on the virtue of patriotism. The primary purpose of this degree is to foster the spirit of patriotism in members and the community at large and encourage active Catholic citizenship. Today there are some 300,000 Fourth Degree Knights out of the total 1.6 million member Knights of Columbus.

Local units, called assemblies, draw their members from Knights of Columbus councils. The qualifications for membership in the Fourth Degree are: membership in the Knights for at least one year and being a Third Degree Knight.

A Fourth Degree Knight may become part of the assembly's color corps. These members are recognized widely by their distinctive attire of tuxedo, feathered hat (chapeau), cape and sword. These members regularly take part in civic events such as parades and wreath-laying ceremonies, and at ecclesial functions at Catholic churches. The various colored capes and chapeau feathers denote different officer positions within the Fourth Degree.

FAQ's

What are the requirements?

Membership requirements are that he be a practical Catholic gentleman, who is 18 years of age or older.

What is a practical Catholic?

A practical Catholic is one who is in union with the Holy See and who practices the precepts of the Catholic Church.

What are Degrees?

There are four degrees within the Knights of Columbus. Each degree ceremony imparts a lesson on the Order's core virtues of Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism.

Do I have to purchase Insurance?

No; unlike many fraternal organizations one does not become a member by purchasing insurance. In the Knights of Columbus a man has to be a member before he may avail himself of the insurance benefit. Purchasing insurance is optional, however; the life insurance and long-term care insurance products offered by the Order are not only competitively priced, they are among the most solid and highly rated products available anywhere. Standard & Poor's and A.M. Best, the leading independent agencies that rate insurance companies, give K of C insurance their highest ratings.

How much time is involved?

As a Knight you can choose the projects with which you wish to be involved in within your own community. The Order is dedicated to family life and the many benefits it offers. From insurance to scholarships to service and social activities and programs, all are open to the whole family.

How do I join?

For anyone in the Church of the Nativity Parish, our local membership contact is Mike Gorman. His phone number is (816) 896-2283 and email is kcgormans@att.net or you can use our contact us form. If you are outside the Nativity area you may want to contact your local parish office or use the find a council feature of the Supreme Knights web site.