Messages For Our Times  







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Excerpt from: "These Men Called Knights", KofC Brochure


"[Pope] John Paul II once said: "Many times in the past, and again today, you have given expression to your solidarity with the mission of the pope. I see in your support further proof - if further proof were ever necessary - of your awareness that the Knights of Columbus highly value their vocation to be part of the evangelization effort of the church.


 The Vision of Father McGivney


   Led by the quiet, unassuming curate of St. Mary's Parish in New Haven, Conn., a small group of men established the Knights of Columbus in the church basement early in the spring of 1882. The priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, saw clearly that both Catholic’s and the Church faced serious problems in the last half of the nineteenth century such as anti-Catholicism and ethnic prejudice; under-employment; lack of social stance and early loss of the breadwinner.


   To resolve those problems Father McGivney conceived the idea of an organization of Catholic men who would band together:


  • To aid one another in times of sickness or death, by means of a simple insurance plan, so that their wives and children would not face abject poverty.
  • To strengthen themselves and each other in the Faith.
  • To strengthen families and family life.
  • To be a strong pillar of support for their priests and bishops.
  • To be of service to the Church and community by coming to the aid of those most in need in society.


   They called themselves Knights of Columbus - Knights to emphasize chivalry's ideals of charity and support for Church and state, and Columbus as a reminder that Catholics had been the backbone and bulwark of America's growth and greatness from the very beginning.


   The State of Connecticut officially chartered the Order on March 29 It's founder, Father McGivney, and those first Knights dreamed of the day when there would be a council in every parish in Connecticut. Little could they know that their small group would grow into a global organization of more than 1.6 [now >1.8] million members in nearly 12,000 [now >14,000] local councils in 13 countries: the United States, Canada, the Phillippines, Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Cuba, Virgin Islands, Guam and Saipan.

   In the years since 1882 the Knights of Columbus has become one of the largest and strongest life insurance companies in North America with more than $53 billion of insurance in force. More than $5 billion in new insurance is sold annually and last year the Order paid $145 million in death benefits to the families of deceased members and $329 million in dividends to insurance members.

The Principles of the Order

   Charity is the first principle of the Order. Knights are followers of Christ and men of faith. As St. James reminds us, "faith without works is dead." Therefore, as Knights we are committed to charity, easing the plight of those less fortunate.

   Unity is the second principle of the Knights of Columbus. In unity there is strength. Existing in an environment that was openly hostile to Catholics, the founders of the Order relied on the strength of unity to remain steadfast in the Faith while claiming their rightful place in society. Today the Order uses that strength to speak out for religiously-grounded moral values in a culture that has forsaken them.

   Fraternity is the third principle of Order. In 19th century America, life insurance was beyond the financial reach of many poor Catholics, and social services did not exist. Through the Knights of Columbus men were able to band together as brothers to help one another in times of distress, sickness and death.


   Patriotism is the principle of the Fourth Degree. One of the reasons the Order was founded was to emphasize that Catholics are proud citizens of their countries.  Today Fourth Degree Knights in full regalia, the visible arem of the Order, serve to weiness to the values of devotion to God and country, the bedrock of patriotism.


What the Order Stands for Today


   By their deeds shall you know them. The Knights of Columbus is very much a grassroots organization. The international body does not dictate the charitable programs and activities of local councils. Rather, local councils develop the programs they believe will best serve the needs of their communities.

   Those needs are met under the umbrella of the "Surge With… Service" program. It has five core areas: Church, community, council, family and youth. Within this framework, state and local councils decide how best to direct their efforts.

   Funds raised by the state and local councils remain with them for distribution in the ways the members feel best."

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