By Dan Kudulis
If you have been a Catholic for most or all of your life, you are sure to have crossed paths with members of the Knights of Columbus on more than one occasion, and most probably bought a Tootsie Roll or two! Even with repeated encounters with them over the years, most people have a very limited knowledge about who the Knights of Columbus are, as well as what they do. While impossible to summarize a 140-year-old organization in a short article, this brief history provides some key points about them and their work.
Blessed Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882 at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut. As a young parish priest, Fr. McGivney worked tirelessly on solutions for two of the biggest problems faced by his parishioners. First, he wanted to provide a place where the men of his parish could deepen their faith, so that they could be better Catholics, better men, better husbands, and better fathers; as well as better citizens in the community. Second, he wanted to provide a means of financial security for the widows in his parish whose husbands had died young and left their wives and children in dire financial need (a common occurrence with the predominantly immigrant population of his time). The Knights of Columbus was founded on the principles of Charity, Unity, and Fraternity (a fourth principle, Patriotism, was added a few years later).
From such humble beginning, the Knights of Columbus has grown into the largest Catholic men’s fraternal organization in the world, with over 2 million members around the world. While the majority of Knights reside in the United States, there are also local chapters (called Councils) in Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, South Korea, Poland, and France, as well as on many US Military Bases across the globe. Membership is open to all practicing Catholic men 18 years of age or older. Since its inception, the Knights of Columbus has provided their members a wide variety of ways in which they can serve their fellow man and grow in their faith, as well as protect their families financially through their many insurance offerings. While many things have changed over the years, the Knights have always been committed to serving their fellow man through charitable deeds. Some examples include the K of C Huts provided to soldiers during World War I, with the motto “Everyone Welcome, Everything Free,” as well as being an Inaugural sponsor for the very first Special Olympics held in Chicago in 1968 (and every year since then, at the local, national, and now international levels). They currently have longstanding partnerships with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, The Global Wheelchair Mission, and The Gary Sinise Foundation. Around the world, each local Council is committed to collaborating with their Pastor to provide labor and financial support to aid their parish as well as the local community.
Obviously, there is much more to the Knights of Columbus than this. In future articles of this newsletter, we will continue to provide more information about the Knights of Columbus, both about their history, but also about the many different programs and events they offer here at St. Elizabeth Seton. Also, keep an eye out for information in the parish bulletin about upcoming events planned for this fall, including the annual Children’s Christmas Party and Global Wheelchair Mission.