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 Order shows how the foresight of Father Michael J. McGivney, whose cause for sainthood is being investigated 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 14,000 councils and 1.8 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 and Saipan.
On March 29, 1882, the Connecticut state legislature officially chartered the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal benefit society founded by Father Michael J. McGivney with a group of parishioners in the basement of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven.
Throughout its history, the Knights of Columbus has been an effective advocate and defender of civil and religious rights for all. The Knights pioneered service to U.S. troops with the Army Hut program in the Mexican Campaign and World War I. This program would serve in later years as a model for the creation of the USO. The Knights published books on the contributions of racial minorities in the 1920s and defended Catholic education when the state of Oregon attempted to ban religious schools, the organization focused U.S. and international attention on the persecution of Catholics in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s, and helped pioneer nationwide blood drives in the 1940s. In the 1950s, it was the Knights who spearheaded the movement to add of the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance – and the organization continues to defend the presence of those words today.
Since 1975, the Knights of Columbus has funded the broadcast of the midnight Mass celebrated annually by the Pope, and in the 1980s the Knights contributed to the restoration of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
In 2001, the Knights were among the first groups to respond to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, providing $1 million in checks for emergency funds to the families of emergency responders killed in the attacks. In 2005, the Knights donated more than $10 million and hundreds of thousands of man hours to hurricane relief in the wake of Katrina and Rita. In the past decade, the Knights of Columbus has donated more than $1 billion and nearly 600 million hours to charitable causes.