The Knights of Columbus
The Knights of Columbus was founded in New Haven, Connecticut in 1882 in the basement of St. Mary's Catholic Church by Fr. Michael J. McGivney and a handful of Catholic men. The aim of the founder and those first members was to set up a parish-based lay organization that offered insurance benefits. In an era when parish and fraternal societies were popular, Father McGivney felt there should be some way to strengthen the religious faith of his flock and provide financial support for families overwhelmed by illness or the death of the breadwinner. Today we have gown from that one local unit, or Council, to nearly 12,500 councils in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Guatemala, Guam, and Saipan.
Membership is over 1.68 million dues-paying members plus their families--approximately 5 million people total--many of whom are actively involved in volunteer service programs for the Catholic Church, their communities, their families, young people, and one another. The Knights of Columbus, at all levels of the organization, contributed a record high aggregate $130 million to charitable efforts and volunteered more than 61 million hours of personal services to the Catholic Church, community projects and youth programs in 2003. The figures are based on reports of activity received from 73 percent of Knights of Columbus Councils, Fourth Degree Assemblies, Columbian Squires Circles and other jurisdictional entities responding to the Knight's annual Survey of Fraternal Activity. From 1994 to 2004, the Knights gave more than $1.1 billion and volunteered 545 million hours. Independent Sector estimates that the dollar value of a volunteer hour in 2003 was $17.19. Using that figure, 545 million hours of volunteer service was worth $9.3 billion!
While participation in the insurance programs of the Knights of Columbus is not required for members, low-cost high-quality insurance is a prized benefit of belonging to the Knights. The early system of fraternal benefits has grown into a top-quality life insurance society, offering a variety of policy plans to members and their families. Both A.M. Best Co. and Standard and Poors rate the Knights of Columbus insurance with their highest designations in the United States.
The Knights of Columbus, the world's largest organization of Catholic Men and their families, has been called, "the strong right arm of the Church," and has been cited by popes, presidents, and other world leaders for support of the Church, for programs of evangelization and Catholic education, for civic involvement and aid to those in need.
"Protecting Families for Generations," is a motto that captures the Knight's adherence to the legacy of its founder and fidelity to his vision.
All the good works we do are informed by our four core principles:
Charity - Our Catholic faith teaches us to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Members of the Knights of Columbus show love for their neighbors by conducting food drives and donating the food to local soup kitchens and food pantries, by volunteering at Special Olympics, and by supporting, both spiritually and materially, mothers who choose life for their babies. Knights recognize that our mission, and our faith in God, compels us to action. There is no better way to experience love and compassion than by helping those in need, a call we answer every day.
Unity – None of us is as good as all of us. Members of the Knights of Columbus all know that – together – we can accomplish far more than any of us could individually. So we stick together…we support one another. That doesn’t mean that we always agree or that there is never a difference of opinion. It does mean that – as a Knight of Columbus – you can count on the support and encouragement of your brother Knights as you work to make life better in your parish and community.
Fraternity – The Venerable Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, in large part, to provide assistance to the widows and children left behind when the family breadwinner died – often prematurely. The Order’s top-rated insurance program continues to do this today, as do individual Knights, who last year gave more than 10 million hours of their time to assist sick and/or disabled members and their families. In the Knights of Columbus, we watch out for and take care of one another.
Patriotism – Members of the Knights of Columbus, be they Americans, Canadians, Mexicans, Cubans, Filipinos, Poles, or Dominicans, are patriotic citizens. We are proud of our devotion to God and country, and believe in standing up for both. Whether it’s in public or private, the Knights remind the world that Catholics support their nations and are amongst the greatest citizens.
KofC Membership Benefits
To become a Knight, you must be 18 years old, male, and be a practicing Catholic in full communion with the Holy See. If you are interested in becoming a Knight, please contact Chancellor Steve Suess, on our Contact Us page.
Columbia Magazine--Free subscription to the Order's monthly magazine examining issues of concern to Knights, Catholics, and families.
Knights of Columbus Rosary--Blessed by the Supreme Chaplain, presented during the First Degree Exemplification to each new member.
Daily Mass of Remembrance at St. Mary's Church--Mass for deceased members and their wives, and deceased members of the Squires program, at the birthplace of the Order.
Insurance--Portfolio of top-quality life insurance, long-term care, and annuity products available for members and their families.
Family Fraternal Benefit--For eligible families; (a) pays $1,500 for the child who dies before the age of 61 days; (b) Pays $750 for the child who is stillborn at least 20 weeks after conception; (c) Offers guaranteed-issue insurance up to $5,000 to any child under age 18.
Orphan Benefit--$80 monthly allotment for orphans of eligible families; up to $7,000 in college scholarships available.
Member/Spouse Fraternal Benefit--Accidental death coverage for member and spouse at no cost.
Widow Benefits--(a)Continues to be covered under the Member/Spouse Fraternal Benefit; (b) May purchase life insurance, long-term care insurance, or annuities up to one year after the insured member's death; (c) Receives a free lifetime subscription to Columbia; (d) Eligible with her children for scholarships, student loans, etc.
Scholarships--Scholarship programs for higher education available to members, their spouses, and children.
Leadership Development--Opportunity to build personal leadership skills, public speaking ability, organizational skills, etc.
Fourth Degree--Eligibility to join the "Patriotic Degree."
Honorary Life Membership--at age 70 with 25 years of membership.
Membership Card--Entitles participation in all Catholic, fraternal, and social activities in over 14,000 councils throughout the world.
Activities--Family/Youth/Religious/Social/Athletic--Participation in a variety of programs and activities conducted by local councils.