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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. 

Father McGivney dedicated his life to the spiritual and physical welfare of others, creating the Knights of Columbus to provide insurance for the protection of widows and orphans, and the spiritual benefit of its members and families. Today, a growing number of schools, medical centers and social service agencies named for him associate their work with his charisma, and the Knights of Columbus insures the lives of more than 1.2 million men, women and children.

But beyond charitable works, Father McGivney wanted each Knight's heart and mind attuned to greater love of God and his Son, both within the Church and within the family. That is his spiritual legacy.

Through the Knights, Father McGivney sought to form young Catholic men into good spouses and fathers. He has become known as Apostle to the Young and Defender of Christian Family Life. He saw strong families as the foundation of his parish, of the Church and of society at large. He was convinced that the Catholic layman had a unique role in influencing society and promoting the values found in what Pope John Paul II has since named the Culture of Life and Civilization of Love. Father McGivney did not use the vocabulary of the 21st century, but he espoused the same Gospel values that Catholics affirm today.

Increasingly, Church leaders realize that part of Father McGivney's spiritual genius is that nearly a century before the Second Vatican Council addressed the important role of the laity in the Church, Father McGivney built a way for laymen to make a substantial and enduring contribution to their parishes, communities and physical and spiritual security of their families. And he saw that by doing so one parish and community at a time, Catholic families could help build a better world.  He was a man ahead of his time.

Click here to view a chronological history of the Knights of Columbus and their faith in action.


Father Michael J. McGivney

Thanks to the efforts of Father Michael J. McGivney, assistant pastor of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven Father McGivneyand 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.





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Last modified: 05/18/14




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