Founded by Father Michael J. McGivney, curate at St. Mary's parish in New Haven, Connecticut, the Knights of Columbus was chartered on March 29, 1882, in the State of Connecticut.
As the priest explained to a small group of men at a meeting in the basement of St. Mary's Church in October 1881, his purpose in calling them together was manifold: to help Catholic men remain steadfast in their faith through mutual encouragement: to promote closer ties of fraternity among them: and to set up an elementary system of insurance so that the widows and children of members in the group who might die would not find themselves in dire financial straits.
The founder and first officers of the fledgling organization chose the name "Knights of Columbus" because they felt that, as a Catholic group, it should relate to Christopher Columbus, the Catholic discoverer of America. This would emphasize that it was a Catholic who discovered, explored, and colonized the North American continent. At the same time "Knights" would signify that the membership embodied knightly ideals of spirituality and service to Church, country and fellowman.
By the end of 1897 the Order was thoroughly rooted in New England, along the upper Atlantic seaboard and into Canada. Within the next eight years it branched out from Quebec to California, and from Florida to Washington.
From such promising beginnings Father McGivney's original group has blossomed into an international society of more than 1.5 million Catholic men plus their families in more than 10,000 councils who have dedicated themselves to the ideals of Columbianism: Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism.
Today members of the Order are found in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Panama, Cuba, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. They belong to many races and speak many different languages. They are diverse, yet they are one. Their diversity spells creativity: their unity spells strength.
The Knights' creativity is manifested in numerous programs and projects directed to the benefit of their fellowman. Their strength assures that these programs are operated effectively and brought to positive conclusions.
Since assuming leadership of the Order in January 1977, Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant has embarked on a series of significant projects designed to strengthen Columbianism, the Church, the Family and each individual Knight.
One of his first moves was to place his stewardship under the patronage and protection of Our Lady, and he formalized this dedication during a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., soon after he took office. As a further concrete sign of his devotion to the Blessed Virgin under her title, "Our Lady of the Rosary," he implemented a plan to present a special "Knights of Columbus Rosary" to each new member enrolled in the society. These have been distributed at the rate of 10,000 per month since the program began. The "Pilgrim Virgin-Marian Hour of Prayer" programs undertaken every two years have attracted millions of participants to prayer services sponsored by councils in honor of Our Lady under several of her titles.
His other initiatives have gone far toward strengthening the Order as it confronts the increasing secularism of our modern age. He has renewed the Knights' pledge of loyalty and fidelity to the magisterium and to the hierarchy of the Church in the countries where the Order exists. He also has renewed the society's commitment to the pro-life activities of the U.S. and Canadian bishops. The Order has donated more than $7 million to the U.S. bishops' Pro-Life education and public information campaign to date.
Among other thrusts, the Supreme Knight formulated a program to maintain the involvement of the widows and children of deceased members in the activities of the Order. A resolution passed at the 95th annual meeting of the Supreme Council in August 1977 calls for the establishment of a committee in every unit of the Order which shall be responsible for keeping contact with widows and dependent children of deceased members. These children will remain eligible for all educational benefits, such as student loans and all the society's fellowships and trusts.
Upon receipt of notice that a member has died, the Supreme Knight sends a letter of condolence to the widow or next of kin, informing them first of all that their loved one has been enrolled in a Mass offered at St. Mary's Church, birthplace of the Order, one every day throughout the year. Upon request, the widow's name is added to the list for COLUMBIA magazine. State and local councils are encouraged to do the same for their publications. They are also called on to extend to widows and their families any scholarship or loan programs they may conduct.
A renewed emphasis on family life seeks to involve the member's wife and children in his commitment to the life of Catholic knighthood. Their support for his promise to be a staunch Catholic layman is essential if it is to be effective and long-lasting. The Order's Service Program has been revised to permit more participation by the wives and children of members and also to enable greater identification on their part with the Order. The wives now can wear the Order's emblem in the form of jewelry and children can wear it in badge form.
A family activities director is an important part of the "Surge ... with Service" program. His responsibility is to assure that a number of activities and projects is directed specifically to the family and that families are encouraged to take part in them.
A major sign of the Order's active concern for the future of the Church and the spread of the Gospel is the establishment of the Supreme Council Vocations Program, now operating in all jurisdictions and already showing promise of success in helping turn around the decline in the number of candidates to the priestly and religious life.
One of Father McGivney's initial objectives in founding the Order, that of providing security for the widows and children of deceased members, has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The Knights of Columbus insurance program offers its certificate holders a versatile portfolio of protection -- all done "for Brother Knights by Brother Knights."
The Knights of Columbus have a long and enviable tradition of aid to Catholic education. As early as 1904 the Order endowed a chair in American history at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and later provided an endowment of $500,000 for graduate fellowships there which still reaps its benefits today. W $2 million endowment established at the 1989 Supreme Council meeting to mark the bicentennial of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States also benefits The Catholic University through its annual earnings -- to date, some $675,000. The million-dollar "Father Michael J. McGivney Memorial Fund for New Initiatives in Catholic Education" established in 1980 is devoted to fostering improvements through research and development. Other programs offering scholarships and student loans are described elsewhere in this booklet.
"Don't keep the Faith--spread it!" long has been a guiding principle of the Knights of Columbus. More than $1 million is budgeted annually by the Order for various projects of the Catholic Advertising Program.
The Knights of Columbus funded the construction of the campanile or Knights' Tower at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The bells for the tower were donated by the Order as well. In keeping with the commitment to Our Lady's Shrine, the Order established the "Luke E. Hart Memorial Fund" in 1979 in the amount of $500,000. Earnings are used to promote Marian devotion and to preserve the beauty of the basilica in perpetuity.
And it was the leadership of the Knights which finally succeeded in having the words "under God" inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag.
Beginning in 1984, the Order collaborated with Reverenda Fabrica di San Pietro (R.F.S.P.) on the complete restoration of the facade of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, a task that was much needed because of the deteriorated condition of this centuries old massive edifice. Over a period of 20 months, the entire structure was cleaned; travertine blocks and plugs were inserted wherever the original stone was beyond repair. The 13 statues at the summit of the Basilica were repaired and strengthened; and the two massive mosaic clocks at either extremity of the facade were completely redone, as were the five iron gates at ground level.
In gratitude to the Order for this tremendous undertaking and accomplishment, our Holy Father Pope John Paul II presented to the Knights the actual cross which was held since the Basilica's construction in the arms of the statue of Jesus the Savior at the pinnacle of the facade. This cross now hangs on the third floor of the Supreme Council office building along with drawings and pictures showing the facade restoration itself. His Excellency Archbishop Lino Zanini, with whom we collaborated on all of these efforts, indicated that the Holy Father himself deemed it suitable that this cross be entrusted to the care of the Knights of Columbus because of our solicitude for St. Peter's, the structure recognized throughout the world as best symbolizing our Catholic faith.
In 1986 the decision was made to repair and restore the two gigantic statues of Sts. Peter and Paul which stand on either side of the facade in St. Peter's Square. This work was successfully completed and the Order decided to complete our collaboration in the facade restoration by agreeing to underwrite the repair of two ancient rooms located in the facade. The first of these two rooms was used by the architects during the facade's construction; the second was used by the craftsmen who fashioned many of the frames which decorate the art masterpieces of the Vatican. One of these stanze, as they are called, will be used as a study for the architects; the second as a general archive for the drawings of St. Peter's and the facade. They also will house a library of every technical or historical-artistic acknowledgment of the Basilica published in various languages throughout the centuries. This restoration is dedicated to the memory of Count Enrico Galeazzi, who at his death in 1986 was Architect of the Apostolic Palace, Regular Architect of the Reverenda Fabrica and our Order's representative in Rome for some 65 years. A suitable plaque is mounted in one of the rooms attesting to this dedication.
So that future generations will know what has been accomplished in our day, this text has been engraved into a marble plaque affixed to the back of the clock on the southeast section of the facade:
Pope John Paul II, wishing to honor the prince of the apostles, restored to its former glory the facade of the patriarchal Vatican Basilica through the munificent generosity of the Order of the Knights of Columbus A.D. 1986, Archbishop Lino Zanini, delegate of the R.F.S.P.
Each year reports of the annual survey of fraternal activity conducted for the National Fraternal Congress of America reveal an impressive Knights of Columbus donation of time, money and energy. In one recent year alone, for example, with approximately 78% of all units reporting, the Order generated $94 million and 43 million volunteer hours of service for charitable causes.
In the category of charitable or benevolent disbursements, including assistance to the sick, handicapped, disaster victims, hospitals and other institutions, civic and community projects, schools and libraries, the Knights contribute in the area of $80 million, in addition to substantial amounts from the Supreme Council. Another $48 million is spent on activities, in addition to $12 million for work with young people.
The Knights also average 4.3 million visits to the sick and bereaved, give 300,000 donations of blood, contribute 43.3 million volunteer hours of community service and 6.2 million hours of labor for sick or disabled members.
In a world where the golden rule - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" - sometimes becomes "Do unto others before they do unto you," the Knights of Columbus stands out as an organization that takes fraternity seriously.
The dictionary defines fraternity as"the state or quality of being brothers." lt also describes it as a"group of men joined together by common interests" or "a group of people with the same beliefs, interest, work."
The Knights of Columbus form real fraternity in all three senses. As practical Catholics, Knights carry fraternity to the limits of love: unselfish service to their Church, country, community and council.
Faith, fellowship, philanthropy. These are the distinguishing marks of the Knights. This brief record of some of their achievements shows that they have remained true to their heritage and that they have continued to build on it for future generations.
If the Knights of Columbus have grown so steadily and strongly since their charter was granted by the State of Connecticut in 1882, much of the credit can go to the firm structural foundation on which the organization was established, and to the caliber of the men attracted to its ranks.
As a fraternal benefit society, the Order operates in accordance with the laws relating to such groups. These regulations require a representative form of government comprised of a supreme governing or legislative body and subordinate branches. Members are elected, initiated and admitted into the society according to the provisions of its constitution, laws and rules.
The society is governed by the Supreme Council, its top legislative body. There are 64 state councils and several territorial jurisdictions encompasing more than 10,000 subordinate councils to which more than 1.5 million members belong.
Groups of councils, ideally four or more in adjacent or nearby localities, are formed into districts under a district deputy.
The Supreme Council is composed of the supreme officers (supreme knight, chaplain, deputy supreme knight, secretary, treasurer, advocate, physician and warden); the supreme directors (a 24-member body elected for three-year terms by the Supreme Council at its annual meeting);the past supreme knights; the state deputy and the last living past state deputy of the various state councils; and such delegates as are duly chosen by the state councils.
Executive authority is vested in the supreme officers, who are elected annually by the supreme directors.
The state councils are made up of the state deputy, who is the representative of the supreme knight in each state, and other state officers, the last living past state deputy, the grand knight and a past grand knight from each subordinate council.
Charters establishing subordinate councils are granted upon completion of 30 members or applicants for membership. The presiding officer is the grand knight. Titles of the other officers on both the state and local levels are similar to those on the supreme level, with some additions. In all there are 17 council officers, of whom 12 are elected to their positions annually. Five others are appointed by the grand knight, including a program director and a membership director. These men in turn appoint and supervise various committees charged with council projects and membership recruitment and retention. A new knight is encouraged to become active in his council by making himself available for membership in one or more of these committees. The council's financial secretary is appointed directly by the supreme knight.
It is the responsibility of the program director and his church, community, council, family and youth directors to provide balanced, attractive and effective activities for the members. There is no doubt that participation in council projects and the experience gained in leadership positions stand a man in good stead throughout his life.
Membership in the Knights of Columbus is open to practical Catholic men in union with the Holy See, who shall not be less than 18 years of age on their last birthday. A practical Catholic is one who lives up to the Commandments of God and the Precepts of the Church. Application blanks are available from any member of the Knights of Columbus. Every knight is happy to propose eligible Catholic men for consideration as members.
Acceptance of the applicant depends upon a vote of the members of the subordinate council in which he is making application.
All priests and religious brothers having duly made application for membership and participated in the ceremonials become honorary life members of the Order and are exempt from payment of dues.
Application for membership must be made through the council in the community nearest the applicant's place of residence. Interested prospects without a permanent domicile, such as men temporarily away from home through duty in the armed forces, may make application through their hometown council or at the nearest council on a military base.
If favorably voted upon, the applicant becomes a member by initiation known as the First Degree. He subsequently is advanced through the Second Degree and the Third Degree.
There are modest initiation fees and dues set by subordinate councils under regulations established by the Supreme Council. The insurance privileges are available to all members who can qualify, which represents an important advantage of membership. For men in every walk of life the name Knights of Columbus engenders the image of a united organization, efficiently going about it tasks of charity, unity, fraternity, patriotism and defense of the priesthood. It is composed of men who are giving unselfishly of their time and talents in service of God and their country.
Membership in the Knights of Columbus provides opportunity for wholesome association with congenial companions who are, first of all, practical Catholic gentlemen. It offers the opportunity for fellowship with those who are of the same belief, who recognize the same duty to God, to family and to neighbor and who stand side by side in defense of those beliefs. Programs are so organized as to appeal to the individual interest of the members. Through many constructive activities of Christian fraternity, members are enabled to render service to their Church, their country and their fellowman. Through membership they develop a consciousness of their ability to lead and to assist.
Organized Columbianism, united behind the individual Knight of Columbus, provides the power of an intelligent, alert body of Catholic men -- a strength which the individual by himself cannot achieve.
Knights of Columbus have a proud heritage. The qualified Catholic man can share in that heritage and build for an even greater future by affiliating himself with this forceful, effective body.
Another degree open to members of the Knights of Columbus is that of the Fourth (or Patriotic) Degree. On February 22, 1900, the first exemplification of that degree was held in New York City. The ritual added patriotism to the three original principles of the Order: charity, unity and fraternity. Any Third Degree member in good standing, one year after the anniversary of his First Degree, is eligible for membership in the Fourth Degree.
The primary purpose of the Fourth Degree is to foster the spirit of patriotism by promoting responsible citizenship and a love of and loyalty to the Knights' respective countries through active membership in local Fourth Degree groups called assemblies. Fourth Degree members must retain their membership as Third Degree members in the local council to remain in good standing.
Certain members of the Fourth Degree serve as honor guards at civic and religious functions, an activity which has brought worldwide recognition to the Knights of Columbus organization.
Programs of interest and need are developed and promoted from the Supreme Office of the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Connecticut. Special projects which serve particular needs and programs that help to solve community problems are formulated and implemented throughout the organization. Direction and assistance are offered to the members who share an interest in the special types of programs.
State and local councils are encouraged to participate through their respective memberships. Ideas are developed and programs designed by a professional staff of project planners at the Supreme Office.
Guidelines, suggestions, training aids and other assistance are provided to the council leadership and membership to implement the special projects on the state and local levels. Although the programs are not mandatory, they do serve a specific need or offer a solution to a special problem and are accepted by most councils.
A number of these programs are described throughout this booklet as an indication of the types made available from the Supreme Council. By no means is the list complete nor does it contain any reference to the variety of programs and projects conducted by local and state councils. The reputation enjoyed by the Knights of Columbus was built on what the councils have done and are doing.
Hundreds of thousands of members of the Knights of Columbus have answered the invitation to participate in the Order's fraternal insurance program.
The Agency Department's motto "Insurance for Brother Knights by Brother Knights," gives one insight into the program's success. Organized in a day when the loss of a family's breadwinner was a tragedy overcome only with great fortitude and sacrifice on the part of the survivors, today's program has achieved success because its product continues to be "a family affair."
Members secure life insurance because they love their families. They recognize that, through precise planning with the Order's fraternal insurance counselors, they not only can provide for their loved ones in case of death, but also can build up a substantial estate for retirement years or to meet other needs.
Consistently the amounts of money paid out in dividends to living members surpass the benefits provided to beneficiaries upon the death of a certificate holder. In one year alone, these amounts were $55.7 million in death benefits to the families of deceased knights and $158 million in dividends to insurance members.
The insurance-in-force has grown dramatically in recent years. The first billion took over 75 years to attain. The $2 billion plateau was achieved 11 years thereafter. The $3 billion level took less than four more years. The $4 billion mark was attained within slightly over two more years; $5 billion was reached in 1979; $10 billion in 1985; and the current total, nearing $26 billion, is growing constantly.
The Agency Department has set a goal designed to bring the utmost in prompt, efficient service to every Knight and his family. Part of this goal is to assure that, by increasing manpower, one full-time, professionally trained field agent will be available for each 1,000 members. To achieve this the Order has reached the number of nearly 140 General Agencies, with over 1,200 field agents. However, a considerable number of field agents are needed. Any member interested in such a career opportunity may obtain information by contacting the general agent in his area.
The Order offers a versatile portfolio of family-oriented insurance plans presented by a staff of competent, concerned professionals backed up by one of the most sophisticated computer systems now operating in the insurance field -- thus the outstanding record of secure but dynamic growth and development. Yet the Order's program remains a family-atmosphere insurance "for Brother Knights by Brother Knights."
The Knights of Columbus will pay a benefit upon the death of a member or his spouse occurring within 90 days as the result of injury sustained in a covered accident. Protection is on a 24-hour basis for accidents that may occur anywhere in the world, during activities on or off the job, on business, pleasure, vacation or at home, except for the exclusions listed.
The accidental death benefit will not be paid if death results from: suicide, self-inflicted injury while sane or insane; sickness or disease (except bacterial infection resulting from accidental cut or wound); war or act of war (declared or undeclared); flying, except as a fare-paying passenger on a regularly scheduled airline; and injury from driving or riding in a speed or organized contest.
For a child to be eligible for these two orphan benefits, the father must have been in good standing with his Council and at least one parent must have been insured under a Knights of Columbus certificate.
Your Knights of Columbus Insurance Representative can provide the details.
The Family Fraternal Benefit and Orphan Fraternal Benefit programs are fraternal benefits and not guaranteed contractural life benefits.
Personal commitment and direct involvement by the Knights of Columbus are the aims and purposes of the "Surge ... with Service" program developed by the Supreme Council staff. Adoption of the program on the state and local levels makes the Knights of Columbus a Catholic, family, fraternal and service organization.
The Service Program is a program of action under the direction of two men selected by the grand knight, as program and membership directors. The grand knight, in consultation with the program director, then selects others to fulfill the duties of church, community, council, family and youth directors who appoint various committees to plan the projects and activities in the council. Following guidelines and format designed by the Supreme Council Department of Fraternal Services, a local and state council immediately can put into operation many needed programs by proper use of the talents and abilities of the membership. Flexibility allows local or state selection of activities of interest to the members. Manuals and handbooks are sent to the men selected to serve in the position of directors. Their names are reported to the Supreme Office for a special mailing list of current and updated information sent to them for use in their councils. Eighteen times a year an issue of P.S. (Program Supplement), a volunteer services newsletter, is mailed to each man.
An informed and active membership is the goal of every council. The Service Program is one means to that end. A program director will provide the opportunity for activity and the membership director will oversee the work necessary for retention of membership and recruitment of new Knights. Awareness by the members of the beneficial features of the insurance program is a responsibility of the membership director in cooperation with the insurance representatives of the Supreme Council.
The Charter, Constitution and Laws of the Order comes in booklet form and should be in the possession of every member. Handbooks and manuals for particular leaders are available. These include a manual for grand knights, a chaplain's manual, a vocations manual and a "Surge ... with Service" manual which explains the Service Program operation. Manuals for ceremonials work include one for the installation of council officers, initiation rituals and a manual for district deputies. Ceremonials manuals must be obtained directly from the Supreme Secretary's Office.
A variety of videocassettes, films and filmstrips have been produced for training purposes and for instructing non-members concerning the Order's objectives and goals. New films are produced periodically to demonstrate the idealism which motiviates the fraternal society and the practical activities open to the members. Productions have been distributed throughout the Order on such topics as the district deputy, the Service Program and special membership campaigns. Others are on the planning boards.
With some 1.5 million unborn babies being killed by abortion each year in North America, Knights believe that there is no more important objective they could have at hand than a Crusade for Life. Since the infamous Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973 the Order has been in the forefront of organizations seeking to defend the lives of the innocent unborn. It is for the sake of these 1.5 million who cannot defend themselves that our Order must intensify its campaign to turn the abortion mentality.
The Crusade for Life asks each state and local council to appoint a Pro-Life chair couple. The state councils will organize pro-life Masses and participate in the national marches for life or organize similar demonstrations in their jurisdictions. The chair couples schedule and conduct pro-life sessions in their local councils.
The main thrust under the Crusade for Life is twofold. The first goal is to help pass legislation which would provide for the right to life of the unborn. The second thrust is to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision in the Supreme Court. This can be done by pressing for the confirmation of justices, with all other things being equal, whose track records might indicate that they would favor a pro-life position. If our members can help pass pro-life bills in the legislatures and can press for the confirmation of pro-life judges we will have made inroads against the plague of abortion in our countries.
The Order continues to help fund the pro-life activities of the United States and Canadian Bishops. The Order also continues underwriting the entire budget of the United States and Canadian Bishops efforts to promote natural family planning. In addition we provide funding to the natural family planning program of the Mexican Conference of Bishops.
The Order has made two grants of $250,000 each to the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Nebraska where research is done to study natural family planning techniques in accord with the Church's teaching.
By way of assistance to the Bishops in their teaching mission, the Order has underwritten periodic seminars on life-death issues which are faithfully attended by members of the hierarchy of the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America. These workshops are held in Dallas, Texas, and provide the Bishops with presentations on current moral issues; allows them the opportunity to share experiences with one another; and also enables the Bishops to get to know one another better.
The Knights of Columbus profile of the pro-life work shows how Knights are striving to protect the lives of the innocent unborn. The Knights have donated millions of pieces of literature to Pro-Life groups and have provided office space and manpower for Birthright, Right to Life and other agencies through state and local councils. Committees on the state and local levels coordinate members' efforts through ongoing programs, whether manning display booths at regional fairs, sponsoring speakers' nights or hosting baby showers for Birthright.
Individual councils also honor legislators, governors and other civic officials who take a pro-life stand; set up educational booths to stress the sanctity of human life at various fairs; sponsor essay contests for high school students; promote respect for life proclamations and organize special memorial Masses on January 22, the date of the heartless Supreme Court decision allowing abortions, in memory of the hundreds of thousands of unborn innocents killed each year.
In addition to these pro-life endeavors, the Crusade for Life seeks to enlist all potential Catholic men as members of the Order to become part of this campaign.
To show the Order's concern about the ongoing decline in the number of candidates to the priesthood and religious life, the Supreme Council Vocations Committee was formed shortly after Supreme Knight Dechant took office in January 1977. Turning around this "vocation crisis," it was felt, was an urgent task best undertaken by an organization of Catholic families such as the Knights.
In initial meetings, the committee expressed the belief that each person has a vocation -- in fact, several vocations. Each person is called to be holy; he or she is called to a state in life whether married, religious or single; he or she is called to a career or profession.
Brainstorming on this idea, the committee established several goals in relation to its efforts among the faithful: 1) To create awareness that God calls everyone by a special vocation to serve Him as cleric, religious or lay person in the Church; 2) to motivate people to listen to and respond to God's call; 3) to provide the proper spiritual and social climate so that people will be able to hear God's voice and respond in freedom.
The Supreme Council committee is responsible for programs on an Orderwide level and for assisting state council committees in their projects. Committees on the state level devise, organize and implement programs within the jurisdiction. Each council is encouraged to establish an active program on the local level, using the Vocations Handbook and the programs therein as a starting point.
To help those who may answer God's call, or already have, the Order's student loan program has been broadened in scope to make priests, nuns, seminarians, novices and postulants eligible for student loans, even if not affiliated with the Knights of Columbus.
Under the terms of the Refund Support Vocations Program, (R.S.V.P.), the Supreme office reimburses $100 to councils and Fourth Degree assemblies for each $500 spent on an individual seminarian or postulant in pursuing their individual vocation. RSVP has contributed nearly $10 million to more than 16,000 seminarians or postulants since 1981-82. Awards for "moral support" are presented to councils which offer personal affirmation and encouragement to a particular seminarian.
The Vocations Program bears within it the promise of hope for generations to come.
The Catholic Information Service promotes four kinds of assistance to those seeking answers to questions about the Catholic religion: advertisements in large-circulation Sunday supplements of secular newspapers; free distribution of religious pamphlets to those answering the ads; a correspondence course on the basic beliefs of Catholics; and individual responses to those who seek confidential counsel.
In April 1969, the board of directors voted to move the correspondence phase of the Catholic Advertising Program, which had operated in St. Louis, Missouri, since 1948, to the new Supreme Office headquarters building in New Haven. Thus the full facilities of the various departments and the manpower in the Supreme Office are in a better position to contribute to the program. The Catholic Advertising Program can be reached by writing to:
The Catholic Information Service
Knights of Columbus
P.O. Box #1971
New Haven, Conn. 06521-1971
It is funded by the Knights of Columbus Charities Inc., and by a semiannual membership assessment of 40¢. Many of the pamphlets sent to respondents have been and are being revised continually. New art work has been developed and a completely new home-study course is being sent to those who request it. This course is somewhat different from other inquiry courses. It is an informal reading course. Ten pamphlets have been selected as the basic texts for the course. These cover, in a general way, the fundamental beliefs of Catholicism. Along with the texts (two sent with each mailing) comes a series of "optional choice" questions to reinforce the reader's knowledge of the material learned through reading the texts.
The Catholic Advertising Program was founded, financed, promoted and has at all times been directed by the Knights of Columbus. It has a glorious history and continues to be most highly commended by bishops, priests and its beneficiaries, those who learn about the Faith.
It is impossible to measure the full results of this great program since its inception in January of 1948. Impressive statistics showing over 8 million inquiries and more than 750,000 enrollments in the home study courses over the years indicate the wide interest and popularity of the program. But neither these results nor the generous financial contributions made by the Order for its support can tell the whole story of its worth. How many were led to the Church through reading the pamphlets and studying the courses never will be known. Nor can statistics ever measure how much prejudice and misunderstanding was overcome through the program's influence.
Not only are the Knights of Columbus concerned about young adults being able to attend college, as demonstrated through the scholarship and student loan programs, but they have implemented a plan to allow Catholic young men to associate with others through membership in a Knights of Columbus council on their college campus. Membership in one of the nearly 140 college councils offers the student an opportunity to associate with fellow Catholics, to participate in an active campus organization and thereby accept positions of responsibility. It also enables him to become involved in the college and local community through the activities and projects sponsored by the council.
A national conference of representatives meets annually to discuss the particular situation of college councils and makes recommendations for the growth and improvement of the college council program.
Members in college councils are encouraged to transfer their membership to the community council in which they locate after graduation. Their field of education and their experience as an active knight on the college campus can be of substantial benefit to the local council into which they transfer.
Since their early days the Knights of Columbus have been actively concerned for the welfare of youth. The organization stands second to none in its commitment to and involvement with youths individually or collectively though organizations. "Partnership with Youth" is the theme that motivates ongoing programs in local and state councils. Boy Scout units, C.Y.O. sponsorship, C.C.D. training, Little Leagues, Big Brothers, 4-H Clubs and many others have been assisted financially and by manpower donated by the Knights.
In the early 1920s the Order decided to organize and sponsor its own youth program, known as Columbian Squires. This organization of Catholic young men can be sponsored only by Knights of Columbus councils or assemblies and has as its purpose the training of its members in the art and techniques of leadership. It is literally the junior organization of the Knights. The program is highly structured and operates internationally. Opportunity to accept positions of leadership and responsibility is the major attraction to membership in the Squires program.
During the past few years Columbian Squires have shown great interest in participating in projects that "bind" them together for one common purpose. Since 1975 the Squires' "Crusade against Poverty" and "Project Build" raised some $50,000 through the efforts and sacrifices of circles and individuals. The Squires initiated an alcohol awareness campaign, "Dying for a Drink?" The campaign received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Commission Against Drunk Driving in 1987. More recently, the Squires assisted the Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus by donating over $26,000 to help pay for the construction of an elevator at St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Conn., the birthplace of our Order.
In 1944 the Knights of Columbus established its millon-dollar Educational Trust Fund to provide a college education to the children of members who were killed or permanently and totally disabled in World War II. Later this benefit was extended to children of members who were killed or disabled in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In 1991 the benefits were further extended to include the Persian Gulf Conflict. In 1970 this privilege was developed further to include children of members of the Order who are killed or permanently and totally disabled as a result of criminal violence while functioning as law enforcement officers and in 1971 to those who were killed or disabled as a result of criminal violence while performing their duties as full time firefighters. These scholarships include tuition, board and room, books, lab fees and other incidental expenses at the Catholic college of the student's choice.
Under provisions of the Pro Deo and Pro Patria scholarship program, the Supreme Council annually awards $1,500-a-year scholarships on the basis of merit to 62 members or the sons or daughters of members in good standing or who were so at the time of their death. Twelve scholarships are for use at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.; with preference being given on two of those twelve to Columbian Squires; the remaining scholarships may be used at a Catholic college of the recipient's choice with Columbian Squires receiving preference on two of those fifty.
Twelve merit scholarships paying $1,500-a-year at Canadian colleges or universities are awarded annually to the members of Canadian councils or the sons and daughters of living or deceased members. Similar benefits are available to members in Mexico, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.
The Supreme Council also has set up postgraduate fellowships at The Catholic University of America. The fellowships are open to lay men and women, both married and unmarried, and cover board, lodging and tuition. Maximum tenure is four years, with a course in American history a requisite.
In 1973 the Supreme Council established the Bishop Charles P. Greco graduate fellowships for specialization in the field of teaching mentally retarded citizens. The $200,000 trust honors the Order's late supreme chaplain for his pioneering work in the construction and maintenance of Catholic-oriented facilities for mentally retarded individuals. The grant provides $500 a semester and is renewable for a maximum of four semesters. An eligible candidate must be a member of the Order or the son or daughter of a member in good standing. The candidate also must be engaged in or planning a full-time graduate study leading to a master's degree in the field of teaching the educationally handicapped with emphasis on persons with mental retardation.
With the purpose of improving performance in achieving the objectives of Catholic education, delegates to the 1980 Supreme Council established the million-dollar "Father Michael J. McGivney Fund for New Initiatives in Catholic Education." Earnings from the fund support research projects of vital importance to the U.S. and Canada through the auspices of the National Catholic Educational Association with the approval of the board of directors.
These programs at the Supreme Council level combine with other projects on the state and local level to total a multimillion dollar orderwide commitment to students.
In 1971 the Order established a Knights of Columbus Student Loan Program which already has made a multimillion-dollar commitment to tens of thousands of young people seeking the opportunity to pursue a higher education.
The program is funded by the Knights of Columbus and guaranteed by the U.S. Government. Under the program eligible students can apply for an annual loan for each full academic year continuing for as many as five years. Everyone eligible for a student loan qualifies for an interest subsidy during the in-school period. Depending on the rate at which the loan is granted, there also is a grace period after completion of studies before repayment begins.
The Knights of Columbus won a notable victory for the American people, and especially for the children of generations to come, by its successful fight against the so called Oregon School Law. It began in 1922, when a law proposed by initiative petition was enacted in Oregon which would prevent children from attending private and parochial schools.
Responding to an appeal from Archbishop Alexander Christie of Portland, the Knights of Columbus provided $10,000 with which to initiate a suit testing the constitutionality of the law to the Supreme Court of the United States. The court ruled that the law violated the rights of American citizens to educate their children in accordance with the dictates of their own conscience. The Order also provided $15,000 to the Oregon State Council to pursue a similar case involving private schools.
It is due to that action that parents today are not interfered with in the operation of their private and parochial schools and in the rearing of their children in the manner in which they wish them to be raised.
Similarly the Order responded in more recent times when a case arose in British Columbia that would place in jeopardy the rights of the hierarchy to conduct its schools in a manner consistent with its beliefs. A suit brought by the Manitoba bishops to secure public funding of denominational schools in that province was also supported by the Order.
In 1923 a gift of $38,000 was made to the Cardinal Gibbons Institute for the care and education of minority children in Maryland.
For more than 30 years, a correspondence school was maintained by the Order providing instruction in 108 subjects for its widespread membership and their families. More than 45,000 took advantage of these benefits.
in 1924 the Order, at its own expense, established at the University of Notre Dame a course in boy-guidance to develop trained leaders interested in the counseling of boys as a life work. For 15 years the Order expended more than $400,000 in support of the program. It was discontinued only when this type of training and instruction was made available in schools throughout the country. More than 200 benefited from scholarships during this period.
In 1921 the Knights of Columbus organized a Historical Commission composed of respected educators to investigate and protect the United States from propaganda designed to undermine a feeling of American identity. As a result of this investigation, certain widely used history and other textbooks read in schools were eliminated or rewritten to remove matter misrepresenting historical facts or subverting American ideals.
The Knights of Columbus Historical Commission conducted a prize competition for studies in American history. Many notable books on the subject were written as a result, including "Jay's Treaty," by Samuel Flagg Bemis; "The Monroe Doctrine," by Thomas H. Mahoney; and "The American States," by Allan Nevin.
More than $60,000 was expended by the Order in carrying out the work of the Historical Commission.
In 1939 the Knights of Columbus contributed $10,000 to the Golden Jubilee Fund of The Catholic University. Over $100,000 was contributed to the maintenance of the Catholic Radio Hour broadcasts from Washington and Toronto.
The incredible range of devastation throughout Europe during World War II underscored the possibility that at some future time the precincts of Vatican City might fall prey to aggressors.
Destruction of the Vatican library, art collections and museum, the unrivaled depositories of the world's cultural treasures, would constitute a tragic loss to both present and future civilizations.
In the spring of 1951, word was received by the Order that the Vatican would be receptive to suggestions about how such an eventuality could be avoided. The Order began consultations and on receiving approval initiated the monumental task of microfilming Vatican documents. This process occupied the better part of eight years.
Competent scholars first surveyed the manuscripts involved to estimate the probable cost of the project. Next a committee of world-renowned scholars was appointed to decide which documents should be microfilmed. This accomplished, a master list of all the material necessary for the microfilming on such a vast scale was compiled.
By the spring of 1952 a completely equipped microfilm laboratory, second to none in the United States and Europe, had been set up at the Vatican and photographing had commenced.
Under the supervision of personnel from St. Louis (Mo.) University, 815,000 feet of microfilm, representing 11 million pages of rare manuscripts, were recorded. The total number of manuscript cortices in microfilm copies is 30,500.
The Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library, as it now is designated, is located on the first floor of the Pius XII Memorial Library at St. Louis University. The true importance of this library to the universal scholastic community cannot be adequately described.
In 1977, Pope Paul VI requested help from the Order to make feasible a project of collecting films of the Popes and of activities of the Holy See dating back to 1897 when Pope Leo XIII was first filmed. These films now are scattered throughout various public and private collections around the world. The Holy See hopes to obtain copies of these films and gather them in a special library in Rome. There the collection would be available to scholars and journalists as resource material for newscasts and documentaries. The Order has granted a sum of $10,000 to initiate a study on what films might be obtained for this central library.
Every member of the Knights of Columbus receives a monthly issue of the organization's magazine, COLUMBIA. Articles on a wide variety of subjects of interest to members and their families are published regularly. Projects and initiatives within the Order's far-flung membership are described and illustrated in reports and pictures. The editorial page carries informed comment on matters of current interest.
Elected and appointed leaders -- officers and program directors -- automatically are placed on a special mailing list when they are reported to the Supreme Office. They receive KNIGHTLINE, a Supreme office newsletter, which is designed to get fast-breaking news out into the field. They also receive 18 issues of PS (PROGRAM SUPPLEMENT), a publication of special interest to the officers and directors of the Service Program. It contains current ideas, suggestions and guidelines to assist the program and membership chairmen in the discharge of their duties.
The SQUIRES NEWSLETTER is published monthly as a medium of exchanging ideas and information of use to Squires circles.
The Order also assists Morality in Media by pledging support for an attorney who directs its National Obscenity Law Center, a clearinghouse of legal information for prosecutors engaged in enforcing anti-pornography statutes.
Members in Canada and Mexico support similar groups in their own countries.
On June 30, 1966, two new 100-kilowatt short-wave transmitters donated respectively by the late Francis Cardinal Spellman and by the Knights of Columbus were dedicated at Vatican City and accepted personally by Pope Paul VI.
The transmitters still are in use, bringing programs reflecting the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church to the four corners of the globe.
Under the aegis of the Catholic Advertising Program, the Knights began a project in l975 of televising the pope to the world. The programs utilize the four satellites placed in space by the International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium (INTELSAT) of which the Holy See is a member. The K of C pays the costs of beaming the programs to the satellites, and also part of the charges for capturing the signal by TV stations in mission lands.
A minimum of three special programs are scheduled each year. These include the Pope's Midnight Mass at Christmas, a series of Holy Week ceremonies, and one other outstanding event of interest to Catholics worldwide. In 1977, the canonization of St. John Neumann was broadcast to the United States. Had it not been for the intervention of the Knights, this historic ceremony in which the "little bishop of Philadelphia" became a saint might never have been seen live in the U.S. The funeral of Pope Paul VI, the Mass initiating the ministry of Pope John Paul I, his subsequent funeral and the initiation of Pope John Paul II's pontificate all were brought to a global audience of some half-billion persons under this program.
Other specials included the uplink of the World Day of Peace held in Assisi, and the canonization of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, both in 1987.
Delegates to the 1981 Supreme Council meeting unanimously approved the creation of a $10 million fund (doubled to $20 million in 1988), the "Vicarius Christi" fund, for the personal charities of the Holy Father. Earnings of the fund are presented annually to the Pope in perpetuity; the last presentation brought the total gift to more than $20 million.
More recently, the Order has undertaken many projects in support of the works of the Church. A brief description of some of these initiatives paint a picture of unselfish generosity in promoting the Gospel message. The Knights:
Several jurisdictions conduct an annual "Pennies for Heaven" campaign in which spare cents are collected from members at all council meetings and activities and subsequently are totaled at the state convention. Proceeds are used to support vocations programs.
Almost every jurisdiction conducts a fund-raising project with proceeds earmarked for mentally retarded individuals, with the orderwide total approaching $15 million annually. The funds remain in the states and communities in which they were raised.
An easy-to-learn technique that can save countless lives in emergency situations has been given widespread publicity -- and practical application -- by many councils. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) courses have been showcased by councils, with the help of the American Heart Association, to teach the technique to members and other interested citizens.
Tens of thousands of boys and girls aged 10 through 14 take part annually in the Knights of Columbus International Free Throw Contest. The project was initiated in 1974 when two state councils, North Dakota and Florida, agreed to participate in a pilot endeavor. In 1975 it was expanded to 10 jurisdictions and in 1976 went orderwide. Engraved trophies are presented to the winners, who also receive recognition as they move through the council, district and state competitions. Each youngster who signs up to compete receives a certificate of participation.
When it comes to community service, Knights are among those who have not forgotten a segment of the population often otherwise shamefully neglected: the elderly. Many councils have opened their homes and facilities to weekly programs for senior citizens. Meals, socials, card and bingo parties, dancing and arts and crafts are among the activities provided.
It should be recognized that, because of the very size of the Order, these laws are designed to cover any contingency that may arise. In actual fact, however, a goodly number of the regulations -- especially as they pertain to expulsion and suspension -- rarely, if ever, need be invoked. Our society is one of fraternity, and members generally conduct themselves as Catholic gentlemen and true knights. However, it is the exception that requires the rule.
An informed knight will secure a copy of the "Charter, Constitution, Laws" for his own reference.
This little book offers a basic course in all a Knight needs to know to become a proud, informed member. It is fitting then that it also should contain a recapitulation of basic truths of that Faith so dear to all Knights. Thus it will serve a twofold purpose: of explaining to members and prospective members what the Order is and does; of providing a "refresher course," a tool of evangelization, for the practical Catholic.
1.) The Apostles' Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day he arose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting . Amen.
2.) The Commandments of God are:
3.) The Commandments of God may be restated in simpler form: the "Greatest Commandment." The "Greatest Commandment" is: You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
4.) It is difficult for an unaided human being to live up to the Commandments of God. To assist us in this regard Jesus has left us the Church and the sacraments. The sacraments are signs instituted by Christ to give grace. There are seven: Baptism, Penance, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick. Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders can be received only once because these sacraments leave an indelible mark on the soul of the recipient.
Penance, Eucharist, Matrimony and the Anointing of the Sick can be received more than once.
5.) There are two kinds of grace. Sanctifying grace makes us holy and pleasing to God. Actual grace helps us to do good and avoid evil.
6.) The precepts of the Church are:
7.) The ordinary minister of the sacrament of Baptism is a bishop, priest or deacon. In case of emergency anyone can validly baptize. Water is poured on the forehead of the person to be baptized, and the words "I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" are said while water Is flowing.
8.) Pentecost is known as the "Birthday of the Church." On that day the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles, giving them the graces they needed to go forth and teach the Gospel to all nations. This is one meaning of the word "Catholic": the Church is found in every land, therefore it is "universal," "worldwide."
9.) The seven capital sins are: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth.
10.) The gifts of the Holy Spirit are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.
11.) The rosary is a form of mental and vocal prayer centered on mysteries or events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. The mysteries are as follows:
a) Joyful: Annunciation; Visitation, Birth of Jesus; Presentation of Jesus in the Temple; the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.
b) Sorrowful: The Agony in the Garden; the Scourging at the Pillar; the Crowning with Thorns; the Carrying of the Cross; the Crucifixion.
c) Glorious: Resurrection; Ascension; Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles; Assumption of Mary; Crowning of Mary as Queen of Angels and Saints.
All three versions stress that unless a person is willing to back up his belief with concrete action he is on the wrong side of a credibility gap.
The Knights of Columbus practice their belief that "faith without works is dead." This is evident from the approbation for the Order expressed by Pope Paul VI. Speaking extemporaneously to the supreme officers and directors at a special audience in the Vatican in 1973, the pontiff said: "Tell your sons, your nephews, your grandsons; tell the people that the pope loves the Knights of Columbus."
Earlier the Pope had remarked: "Indeed you have been brothers to the poor, to the sick, to the young, to the aged and to the underprivileged. In the name of all those whom you have helped by your brotherly compassion, we thank you from our heart."
But the Holy Father did not stop there. "The glory of the Knights of Columbus," he continued, "is not based on humanitarian works alone. Even more admirable have been your insistence upon the supremacy of God and your fidelity to the vicar of Christ. In truth you can call yourselves "brothers" because you call God your Father and have declared yourselves ready to do His will and serve His cause."
In April 1978, at an audience granted to the Board of Directors then meeting in Rome, Pope Paul VI called the Knights "an immense force for good."
"We rely on you," -- he continued, "on each of you, on all of you, on the association itself, the Knights of Columbus -- to bring holiness to the world, to live the Gospel values in your families, to transmit them to your children with the infectious conviction of joyful faith. Christ needs you to bring fraternal concern to your neighborhoods, to exemplify justice in your communities, to spread peace and truth in the world."
In his brief but glorious pontificate, Pope John Paul II paid tribute to the Order in these words: "I give my blessing to all Knights of Columbus: their families and all the work they do."
At the private audience granted to the officers and directors in Washington, D.C., in October 1979, Pope John Paul II was told that, when family members are counted, the Knights of Columbus involves five or six million people.
"Why, that's a nation, " His Holiness exclaimed with a smile. "The nation of Columbus! You should have representation at the United Nations!"
More seriously, however, he continued:
"It gives me great pleasure to be with you on the occasion of my pastoral visit to the United States. I thank you most sincerely for the respect and love which you have manifested toward me as Successor of Peter, Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the Universal Church.
"In the person of the Supreme Knight and the Members of the Supreme Board, I greet all the Knights of Columbus, the more than one million three hundred thousand Catholic laymen all over the world, who display a spirit of profound attachment to their Christian faith and of loyalty to the Apostolic See.
"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 a 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. ...
"I am aware of the many efforts you make to promote the use of mass media for the spreading of the Gospel and for the wider diffusion of my own messages. May the Lord reward you, and through your efforts bring forth abundant fruits of evangelization in the Church. May your dedicated activity in turn help you to realize in yourselves those interior attitudes without which no one can truly evangelize: trust in the power of the Holy Spirit, true holiness of life, deep concern for truth, and an ever increasing love for all God's children.
"May the Lord's blessing be upon you, upon your families and upon all the Knights of Columbus."
Pope John Paul II has spoken many times since then to and about the Knights of Columbus. At an audience granted to the board of directors during his 1987 visit to the United States, he said: "The Knights are loyal to the Pope."
For us, "These Men They Call Knights," this says it all.
Daily Mass Remembrance Mass offered daily for deceased members at the Knights' Altar, St. Mary's Church, New Haven, Conn.
Insurance Program Offers member, spouse and children the opportunity to provide for their security and well-being. Rated AAA (Superior) by Standard & Poor's and A++ by A.M. Best.
Annuity Program Enables member and spouse to provide for retirement and build an estate through tax-deferred savings.
Member/Spouse Fraternal Benefit Accidental death coverage for member and spouse at no cost.
Orphan Benefit &80 monthly allotment for orphans of eligible families; up to $7,000 in college scholarships available.
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.
New Member Plan Offers a one-time low-cost whole life policy to new members and their spouses upon joining the Order.
Widow Benefits a) Continues to be covered under the Member/Spouse Fraternal Benefit; b) May purchase insurance or annuities up to 90 days after insured member's death; c) Receives a free lifetime subscription to Columbia; d) Eligible with her children for scholarships, student loans, etc.
Scholarships/Fellowships Six different college scholarships programs for members and their families; three different graduate fellowship programs; and scholarship programs for seminarians.
Matthews and Swift Educational Trust Fund Provides full scholarships (tuition, Board, expenses) to Catholic colleges for children of member killed or permanently and totally disabled from military service in armed conflict, or from criminal violence while performing duties as full-time law enforcement officer or full-time fireman.
Student Loans Available to member, spouse and children, as well as to all pursuing a religious vocation.
Leadership Development Opportunity to build personal leadership skills through active involvement in the Order's unique structure, supported by Knightline/Program Supplement: fraternal newsletters mailed to state and local council officers and chairmen.
Fourth Degree Eligibility of Third Degree members to join the "Patriotic Degree" at least twelve months following their initiation into the Order.
Honorary Life Membership at Age 70 After 25 years of continuous service, member merits this distinction and no longer need pay dues.
Catholic Information Service Opportunity for member and family to avail themselves of a variety of literature on Catholic faith and spirituality.
Membership Card Entitles participation in all Catholic, fratenal and social activities in member's council and also in the 10,400 councils throughout the world.
Family Activities Eligibility for recognition in Orderwide "Family of the Month/Year" program and participation in wide variety of local family events, such as family breakfasts.
Athletic Programs Participate in annual council, state and international golf, bowling and softball tournaments; many councils sponsor teams in a variety of sports.
Youth Programs Opportunities for your children to participate in a variety of youth-oriented programs such as the Columbian Squires, a leadership training program for young men under council sponsorship.
Virgil C. Dechant