The Knights of Columbus

Protecting Families for Generations

203/ 772 - 2130

Who we are

The Knights of Columbus was founded in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882 in the basement of St. Mary's Catholic Church by Father Michael J. McGivney and a handful of Catholic laymen. 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 grown from that one local unit, or council, to nearly 11,000 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 nearly 1.6 million dues-paying members plus their families - approximately 4.5 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.

In 1996, members reported 48,966,132 hours of volunteer service and $105,976,102 raised and donated to charitable and fraternal projects, including $19,014,276 from the Supreme Council and Knights of Columbus Charities Inc., and $86,961,826 from state and local councils. The monies raised at the state and local levels are expended exclusively for state and local programs.

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 & Poor's rate K of C insurance "Superior" - A++ and AAA, respectively - their highest designations.

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 Knights' adherence to the legacy of its founder and fidelity to his vision.

How To Join

There are only two requirements for a man to join the Knights of Columbus: that he be a practical Catholic as understood by the Church, and that he be 18 years of age or older. While dues-paying membership is only for Catholic men, most council programs are open to the member's entire family, including social and family activities, scholarships, volunteer service programs and insurance benefits.

Candidates join local units, called "councils," most of which are based in one Catholic parish, or in the community at large. The candidate takes part in initiation degrees that explain the Knights of Columbus' four principles: Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism.

He is considered a "Knight" after taking his First Degree, but he is encouraged to advance through the Second and Third Degrees and on to the Fourth Degree, whose members promote the virtue of patriotism by serving in honor guards, color corps and promoting respect for country and the flag.

Our History

On October 2, 1881, a small group of men met in the basement of St. Mary's Church on Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut, to discuss the formation of a fraternal benefit society. Convened at the request of Father Michael J. McGivney, a 29-year-old priest, this meeting marked the foundation of what has become the world's largest Catholic family fraternal service organization. Four months after this meeting, the group adopted the name "Knights of Columbus." Shortly after the turn of the century, Knights could be found in every state of the United States, in most of the provinces of Canada, in Mexico and the Philippines, and were prepared to enter Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Why Columbus? In choosing Christopher Columbus as their patron the first Knights demonstrated their pride in America's Catholic heritage. To the Irish-American Catholics who incorporated the organization, the name Knights of Columbus evoked allegiance to the Church and affirmed the discovery of America as a Catholic event.

The need to assert their pride in their faith, and to do so in such a demonstrable way, was a direct reaction to the socio-political movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries known as nativism. Thus, the Order sought to promote assimilation in the New World rather than to look backward to the European countries whence the first members came.

The state of Connecticut granted the Knights of Columbus status as a legal corporation on March 29, 1882. The anniversary is observed each year by the Knights as Founder's Day.

Almost immediately after the incorporation of the Knights of Columbus, Father McGivney wrote a letter to all the pastors of the then Diocese of Hartford, Connecticut, outlining the organization's aims. He wrote: "Our primary object is to prevent our people from entering secret societies by offering the same if not better advantages to our members. Secondly, our object is to unite the men of faith in the Diocese of Hartford, that we may thereby gain strength to aid each other in time of sickness; to provide for decent burial; and to render pecuniary assistance to families of deceased members." The founder's letter concluded with his hope that the Knights of Columbus would be represented in every parish in Connecticut. Today, the Order aims to have an active Knights of Columbus council in every Catholic parish in countries where it exists.

Though the concept of a Catholic fraternal order struck Father McGivney as a pastoral necessity in protecting the faith, "Unity and Charity" - the Order's motto until 1885 when "Fraternity" was added - were expressed through its sick-benefit and life insurance feature. Father McGivney strove not only to protect their faith, but also to protect their families.

Although the Order's constitution was frequently amended during its first 15 years, much of the general authority structure of the Order has been preserved to the present. The Supreme Council is composed of Supreme Officers, the state and territorial deputies, the last living past state deputy of each jurisdiction, and elected representatives from each state. It is the Order's highest policy-making and legislative body and meets annually the first Tuesday-Thursday in August. The Supreme Officers are as follows: supreme knight, supreme chaplain, deputy supreme knight, supreme secretary, supreme treasurer, supreme advocate, supreme physician and supreme warden. The major duties of each correspond to the major duties of their counterparts in any corporation. For instance, the supreme knight is the chief executive officer of the organization; the supreme secretary is the corporate secretary, etc.

A 25-member board of directors is charged with overseeing the fraternal and insurance operations of the Order between meetings of the Supreme Council.

State council officers follow the same pattern. The state deputy and his team of officers are elected by delegates at the annual state conventions held each spring.

The subordinate councils' officers are: grand knight, chaplain, deputy grand knight, chancellor, recorder, financial secretary, treasurer, lecturer, advocate, warden, inside guard, outside guard and board of trustees. Subordinate councils elect their own leaders.

Currently, there are nearly 11,000 local Knights of Columbus councils. While most are based in a given Catholic parish, others draw their members from several Catholic parishes. Still others are based on college and university campuses and are comprised of Catholic students, faculty and staff. Each reflects the diversity of the Church.

This representative system of government clearly indicates the long-range intentions of Father McGivney and his founding Knights. Though based upon sound business practices, the Knights operate as a fraternal benefit society providing insurance benefits to its members while at the same time providing volunteer and charitable programs for them and the community at large.

James T. Mullen, a New Haven native and Civil War veteran, served the Order as its first supreme knight from 1882-1886. He presided over the institution of 22 of the Order's first 38 councils, and watched it grow beyond Connecticut into Rhode Island (1885). The emblem of the Order dates from the second Supreme Council meeting, May 12, 1883. It was designed by Supreme Knight Mullen.

The emblem incorporates a shield mounted upon a formée cross. The shield is associated with a medieval knight, and the formée cross is an artistic representation of the cross of Christ. Mounted on the shield are three objects: a fasces standing vertically and, crossed behind it, an anchor and a dagger or short sword. The fasces from Roman days is symbolic of authority. The anchor is the mariner's symbol for Columbus. The short sword is the weapon of the knight when engaged in an errand of mercy.

John J. Phelan was elected supreme knight in 1886. He was not a founding member of the Order, having joined in 1885. When Phelan became supreme knight, there were 38 councils with 2,700 members. By the time he left office in 1897, the figures had risen to 210 councils and nearly 17,000 members located in 10 states.

James E. Hayes of Massachusetts (1897-98) and John J. Cone of New Jersey (1898-99) steered the Order to the start of the 20th century. Hayes succumbed to complications from peritonitis and Cone was elected his successor. During the two years of the Hayes-Cone administration, the Knights reached as far west as Minnesota and into Canada.

Though regional variations gradually developed in accord with the variety of cultures within the Order, the unifying force throughout was Columbian fraternalism, with which Catholics of all regions could identify.There were many causes for this rapid growth. The Knights' ceremonial character instilled a sense of pride in the Catholic roots of the New World. The insurance feature provided the Order with financial solvency and the ability to undertake a strong expansionist policy. Its social-club dimension - fraternity - appealed to those men who sought a Catholic milieu for their leisure, recreation and intellectual stimulation, while expressions of anti-Catholicism led many to join an organization dedicated to defending the faith.

Currently there are four degrees or ceremonials in the Knights of Columbus. The Fourth Degree, based on patriotism, had been under discussion since 1886 and was approved in 1899. More than 1,100 Knights became Fourth Degree members at the first exemplification on Feb. 22, 1900, in New York City. The following May 8, another 750 Knights received the Fourth Degree in Boston. From its beginnings, the Fourth Degree provided honor guards for religious and civic ceremonies.

A member is considered a Knight after receiving the First Degree, and is eligible for all benefits of membership, including availing himself of the Order's insurance program. The degree ceremonials exemplify, in turn, the Order's lessons of Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. Father Michael J. McGivney died on August 14, 1890, from complications of pneumonia. He was interred at St. Joseph's Cemetery in Waterbury, Connecticut, in the family plot.

In 1982, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Knights of Columbus, Father McGivney was re-interred in a granite tomb at the rear of the nave of St. Mary's Church in New Haven, where he founded the Order. In April 1996, with the approval of Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford, Dominican Father Gabriel B. O'Donnell was named to study the potential cause for sainthood of the founder. Ongoing research into Father McGivney's life is underway at the Supreme Council office.

Edward L. Hearn's 10-year tenure as supreme knight (1899-1909) left a deep mark upon the Order. Councils were established in every province in Canada, in Mexico, in Cuba and in the Philippines.

Shortly after the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Supreme Knight James A. Flaherty (1909-1927) wrote President Woodrow Wilson a letter in which he reported that the Order proposed to "establish centers for the large body of men who will be concentrated in training and mobilization camps." By that summer, the K of C War Activities Committee was established. The Knights established service centers or K of C Huts in training camps in the United States; rest and recovery hostels in England and Ireland; huts behind the lines; and, after the war, in allied occupied areas in France, Germany, Italy and even Siberia. Under the banner "Everyone Welcome, Everything Free," the Knights provided the servicemen with a wide range of social programs including sports, music and drama, while the K of C chaplains ministered to their spiritual needs. The Order raised more than $14 million on its own and was allocated nearly $30 million from a national combined fund drive. After the war, unused funds were expended on a variety of K of C educational, vocational, occupational and employment programs for veterans while its evening school program enrolled more than 50,000 students in its 100 schools in 1920. Its correspondence school, administered by the Supreme Council office, enrolled 25,000 students and the Order awarded more than 400 college scholarships to veterans. As a result of this work, nearly 400,000 men joined the Order between 1917 and 1923. In response to a plea from Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922), who assumed personal charge of Vatican relief efforts during the war, the Knights established five playgrounds in Rome, still operated by the Order today at no charge to the participants. These youth recreation and education centers stimulated a growing interest in youth work at home.

Though K of C councils were involved in the Boy Scouts and other youth programs, it was decided to establish a youth section within the Order. Under the guidance of Christian Brother Barnabas McDonald (1865-1929) the first Columbian Squires circle was instituted in 1925. As of July 1, 1996, there were approximately 1,082 circles and 23,165 Squires. Membership in the Squires is for Catholic boys between the ages of 12 and 18.

The Great Depression caused a decline in Knights of Columbus membership and also hindered the growth of the Columbian Squires since money for initiation fees and membership dues was difficult to come by. In 1931 religious tensions in Mexico, which had been in check for several years, resurfaced. So, too, did the Knights of Columbus' support of the Church and clergy in Mexico, which were being suppressed by the government. The persecution of the Church in Mexico continued until the late 1930s. Several priest-members of the Knights of Columbus were martyred during this time. Six of them were beatified in 1992.

Supreme Knight Francis P. Matthews (1939-1945) led the Order as it passed out of the Great Depression and into World War II. The National Catholic Welfare Conference and its National Catholic Community Service branch formulated most programs of support for servicemen during World War II. The Knights were active in these programs and also spearheaded war bond drives, blood donor programs and similar efforts.

With the end of World War II came the Cold War and the expansion of communist power in Europe and Asia. Supreme Knight John E. Swift (1945-1953) oversaw the Order's varied responses to the communist threat, including speakers' bureaus, advertisements, pamphlets and radio addresses. In the late 1940s the Order sponsored 1,300 educational discussion groups in the crusade against communism. President Harry Truman acknowledged the Order's efforts.

Luke E. Hart served as supreme knight from 1953-1964, having previously held the office of supreme advocate since 1922. He worked to maintain the Order's traditional anti-defamation character, along with its patriotism and its general promotion of Catholic interests. He also modernized the governing structure of the Order. Long associated with the Order's insurance program, he introduced innovations eventually leading to insurance plans for families of members. The return of prosperity at home and the revival of the Order's idealism in the postwar period engendered a rise in membership. Several ambitious programs to promote Catholic interests were launched. An important initiative was the launching in 1947, under Hart's advocacy, of the Order's Catholic Advertising Program, which grew into the present-day Catholic Information Service. The advertisements then and now are highlighted by a bold-print headline posing a thematic question, below which is an illustration and editorial copy on some aspect of Church teaching or practice. Readers are encouraged to send away for additional information on the Catholic Church.

In 1957 the Order's board of directors agreed to finance the campanile, or bell tower, at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The $1-million, 329-foot bell tower attached to the largest Catholic church in the United States, now a basilica, is known as the "Knights' Tower." The Order also provided a 56-bell carillon in 1963 and, in 1988, renovated its operating system. Earnings on the $500,000 Luke E. Hart Fund, established in 1979, go to the maintenance and operations of the National Shrine. The Order also led the effort to amend the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag to include "under God" after the phrase "one nation." President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the revised pledge into law in 1954.

John W. McDevitt served as supreme knight during the turbulent 1960s and '70s. McDevitt (1964-77) vigorously responded to the crises in society and dissension from Church teaching by reiterating the Order's support for the hierarchy of the Church and championing Church teaching on divorce, birth control, abortion and pornography.

During McDevitt's administration the present 23-story international headquarters of the Knights of Columbus was built. The glass-faced building is a notable feature of the New Haven skyline and is set off by four 320-foot towers that symbolize the Order's four ideals of Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. Currently, more than 500 people work at the Supreme Council office handling the fraternal and insurance business of the Order. Virgil C. Dechant is the Order's current supreme knight, appointed in 1977 upon McDevitt's retirement. His administration has been marked with record-breaking growth in all areas of the Order's operations: membership, new council development, insurance sales and volunteerism. Support of the Church has grown more visible through multimillion-dollar programs of vocations support, and collaboration in the various programs of the Holy See and the bishops' conferences in countries where the Order is found. The Order's involvement in family and pro-life activities, Catholic education and evangelization efforts has also increased during his administration.

In 1981 at the 99th Supreme Council meeting, as the first act of the Order's centennial year, delegates voted to establish an irrevocable $10 million endowment whose annual earnings would support the Holy Father's personal charities. At the centennial convention in 1982, Supreme Knight Dechant presented Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, then papal secretary of state, with the initial gift of $1.2 million from the Knights of Columbus Vicarius Christi (Vicar of Christ) Fund. In 1988 the fund was doubled to $20 million. More than $24.2 million has been given to the Holy Father from this fund, and the corpus remains intact. In the early 1980s the Knights were privileged to undertake the costs of a new chapel in the grottoes of St. Peter's Basilica dedicated to SS. Benedict, Cyril and Methodius and enlarging to one and one-half its original size a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Czestochowa.

The Order's historic involvement with the Vatican was greatly expanded in 1985 when the Order's Board of Directors responded favorably to a request from the Vatican to fund the renovation of the facade of St. Peter's Basilica. The project entailed cleaning the entire 65,000-square-foot facade, installation of stainless steel supports for the 13 statues on the top of the facade and repair of cracks in the travertine stone. Under Dechant's tenure the Order established a series of funds to assist seminarians and/or priest-scholars from countries where the Order is established in pursuing theological studies in pontifical universities in Rome and in Louvain, Belgium. In 1991 the Order doubled to $6 million the Knights of Columbus Vocations Scholarship Fund. Earnings subsidize Supreme Council rebates to councils that provide financial and moral support to a seminarian or postulant. It also funds a number of need-based scholarships to seminarians in theology.

Also established under Dechant's administration was the $1 million Father Michael J. McGivney Fund for New Initiatives in Catholic Education, which underwrites research and other programs to enhance Catholic education.

In 1988, the Order launched the North American campus of the Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C., a branch of the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, offering graduate-level pontifical degrees. The Order has also committed $5 million to the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center to be built in Washington, D.C.

During Dechant's term, the Order expanded its collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Social Communication in funding the Vatican's satellite uplink, which brings papal ceremonies to a worldwide audience at least three times a year. Additionally, the Order purchased a mobile television production unit for the use of the Vatican Television Center in covering papal audiences and other special events in Rome and elsewhere, and in 1995 provided additional funds for the purchase of a new van and updated equipment.

Since Supreme Knight Dechant took office, membership has climbed to nearly 1.6 million, and the number of active councils has jumped to almost 11,000. Similar growth is evident in the insurance and investment facets of the Order's operation.

The Order's history was researched and written by noted American historian Dr. Christopher J. Kauffman, and published in 1982 by Harper & Row. Titled Faith and Fraternalism, the 500-plus page volume is available in many public libraries. A revised edition was published in 1992 by Simon & Schuster. A popular history of the Order, richly illustrated, was published by Simon & Schuster in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage of discovery. It is entitled Columbianism and the Knights of Columbus and was written by Dr. Kauffman. Both titles are available from the Knights of Columbus Promotional and Gift Department.


A Message from the Supreme Knight

Welcome to the Knights of Columbus. As an international Catholic family fraternal service organization - the world's largest - we have a story to tell. It is a story similar to that of the mustard seed in the Bible: the tiniest of seeds that grows into a mighty tree. It is indeed a story of growth and development - from the basement of a parish church in New Haven, Connecticut, to a worldwide pillar of strength, both in person power and in financial security. Many people know little or nothing about the Knights of Columbus. This Web site has been developed to help rectify that situation: to enable us to tell our own story, and to overcome any misinformation about who we are and what we do.

The story told here is exciting. It is also informative - for the general public, for today's Knights and their families, and for those Catholic men who could be and should be Knights.

We Knights of Columbus are proud to say that we have been "Protecting Families for Generations." We pledge to continue to build on this legacy today and beyond, into the third millennium.

Virgil C. Dechant
Supreme Knight

News & Information


NEW HAVEN, CONN. The Knights of Columbus contributed a record $107.1 million to charitable efforts in 1997 and volunteered more than 50.2 million hours of volunteer personal service to the Catholic Church, community projects and youth programs, another all-time high.

The figures are based on reports on 1997 activity received from 73 percent of Knights of Columbus councils, Fourth Degree patriotic assemblies, Columbian Squires youth groups and other jurisdictional entities responding to the Knights' annual Survey of Fraternal Activity. A total of 10,510 units answered the survey, which covered activities in the 1997 calendar year and is conducted by the orgranization's international headquarters in New Haven.

Now in its 116th year, the Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic family fraternal service organization with more 1.6 million members and their families throughout North America, Mexico and the Philippines. It was founded in 1882 by a Roman Catholic priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, whose life and good works are under review by the Church for possible sainthood.

It is the first time the number of volunteer hours given by Knights surpassed 50 million hours in a single year, topping the 48.9 million hours given in 1996. The $107,128,599 in giving is also an all-time high for the Order. Knights reported giving of $105,398,205 in 1996.

Of the $107 million, $88,138,245 was raised and donated to the Catholic Church and charitable causes by state councils and local units, who gave the funds to programs and institutions of their own choosing. The remaining $18,990,599 was given by the Supreme Council and Knights of Columbus foundations to national and international programs.

By category of activity, the contributions were made in the following manner:

CHURCH ACTIVITIES Assistance to parishes, schools, religious-education programs, seminaries/seminarians, vocations promotional efforts and miscellaneous Church projects: $32,112,300. The 10-year cumulative total in this category is $274,475,640.

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES Institutions and programs for elderly people and those with disabilities, Special Olympics, assistance to people with mental retardation, programs for the poor and disaster victims, pro-life activities, hospital and health projects and miscellaneous civic projects: $42,992,849. The 10-year cumulative total in this category is $417,548,563.

YOUTH ACTIVITIES Columbian Squires (the official youth organization of the Knights of Columbus), Scouting and other youth groups, youth welfare including programs on substance abuse, athletics and miscellaneous youth projects: $13,033,096. The 10-year total in this category is $127,733,029.

Organization-wide, the average per-member contribution was $67.77. The highest per-member figure was recorded by the 8,683 Knights in British Columbia - $206.70

The largest sum given by Knights in a state or comparable jurisdiction was $9,056,170 raised and donated by Knights in Ontario. Other jurisdictions in the top five are: Quebec ($6,030,572), Illinois ($4,960,487), Michigan ($4,064,627) and New York ($4,044,430).

Besides giving 50.2 million hours of volunteer service, members also gave 7.3 million hours of their time in "fraternal service" such as attending meetings, functions and other activities of the Order. Knights also made 5.4 million visits to the sick and bereaved in 1997. There were also a total of 331,736 blood donors in 1997.

The survey figures also showed that the Knights of Columbus had total activity expenses of $75.7 million, including more than $60 million at the state and local levels for meetings, functions, publications, postage and other costs. The fraternal expenses at the Supreme Council level, including publication costs and support of membership/fraternal operations, totaled $15,419,490.

The Knights of Columbus co-sponsors with the Points of Light Foundation and the Corporation for National Service of the Daily Points of Light Awards program. The Knights provides full funding for the naming of the daily honorees. The Knights of Columbus is also among more than 30 service groups that signed the Prevention through Service Alliance Resolution sponsored by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, thereby pledging the involvement of members in substance abuse education and prevention programs.


New Haven, CT. A track record of continued growth, the loyalty of its agents and members, and a favorable earnings forecast were among reasons why the Knights of Columbus insurance program once again earned a top ranking from the A. M. Best Co. Announced June 8, the A++ (Superior) rating from A. M. Best marks the 23rd consecutive year that the Catholic fraternal insurance company has received the highest rating from the independent ratings agency.

Now in its 117th year, the Knights of Columbus offers insurance and annuities to its members and their families. The sale of insurance has been a part of the organization's program since its founding in 1882 by a Roman Catholic priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, in New Haven, CT. The total amount of insurance in force as of June 1 exceeds $34 billion.

According to A. M. Best, "The rating of Knights of Columbus reflects the society's very strong market presence in the Catholic community enhanced by its extensive distribution network, exceptionally strong capitalization, excellent persistency and consistently favorable earnings performance."

Virgil Dechant, supreme knight and CEO of the 1.6 million member Roman Catholic fraternal society, said the awarding of A. M. Best's A++ (Superior) rating is confirmation of the fact that our Catholic fraternalism is as vibrant today as it was at the time of our founding."

The Knights of Columbus is the worlds largest Catholic family fraternal service organization with nearly 1.6 million members in 12,000 local units in North America, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and the Caribbean.


New Haven, CT

Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant said the death June 9 of former Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli leaves the world bereft of a "dedicated laborer for world peace" and the Knights of Columbus mourning a Churchman of "wise and prudent counsel." Cardinal Casaroli died in a Rome hospital at age 83. He was known for promoting Church diplomacy in Europe during the Cold War and was credited with helping the Church survive in Central and Eastern Europe during that era. Cardinal Casaroli was the personal envoy of Pope John Paul II to the 100th annual Knights of Columbus convention in 1982. It was on that occasion that Cardinal Casaroli said of the Order: "Its very name is meant to express a readiness to take inspiration, in a new form, from the ancient ideals of knighthood into a modern and practical environment through the practice of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism, which are the values contained in the motto" of the Knights. Dechant said Cardinal Casaroli will long be remembered for seeking to bring together the leaders of communist-bloc states with Western powers, "always exemplifying his faith-filled wisdom and diplomacy." "On a number of occasions," Dechant said, "I had the opportunity to consult personally with Cardinal Casaroli on matters of great importance. I was always the beneficiary of his wise and prudent counsel. "Our brother Knights and families throughout the world are united in prayer that our Lord will receive him with open arms, along with the greeting, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'"

Founder's Day Message

The Knights of Columbus was founded 116 years ago by Father Michael J. McGivney on March 29, 1882. It was on this date that the Connecticut Assembly granted a charter to Father McGivney's new organization, established earlier when he called a group of laymen together in the basement of St. Mary's Church in New Haven.

The anniversary is especially meaningful this year when great progress has been made, under the direction of His Excellency Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford, in pursuing Father McGivney's cause for beatification. His Excellency has appointed Dominican Father Gabriel B. O'Donnell as postulator for the cause. Father O'Donnell directs The Father McGivney Guild, located at the Supreme Office in New Haven, to oversee the cause's progress. The Order's anniversary, as well as the cause, are both occasions of great joy for the Order.

Our councils, some 11,000 in number, encompassing almost 1.6 million members -- plus their families -- will celebrate Founder's Day with special Masses, dinners, and by inviting new members to join our ranks.

We give thanks to God, especially on this Founder's Day, for the life of Father McGivney; for the dedication of so many great Knights who have built upon his legacy; and for the success of our activities in support of our Church, our communities and the less fortunate.


New Haven, CT. Twenty-five years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand in its Roe vs. Wade decision, Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant, head of the 1.6 million member Knights of Columbus, says the pro-life movement has a lot to be proud of in its efforts to end abortion and the culture of death.

In a statement released in advance of the 25th anniversary on Jan. 22 of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision, the leader of the world's largest Catholic family fraternal service organization says the pro-life movement should not be discouraged by the "fanatical and relentless" supporters of "legalized killing of the unborn." In fact, says Dechant, "there are signs of hope that the reign of abortion on demand is weakening."

Most notable, says Dechant, is the widespread "revulsion decent people spontaneously feel" about partial-birth abortion, a surgical technique in which a near-term baby is partially delivered, has its skull punctured and brains suctioned out. Equally reassuring is the Supreme Court's decision last year that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to assisted suicide. When voters understand that the issue is "not whether dying persons should have to undergo burdensome and useless treatment but whether the law should sanction killing them," decency and good sense prevail.

On life issues like these, Dechant concludes, the best answer to the prop-aganda of the culture of death is truth. The pro-life movement must "go on ceaselessly preaching the truth about human life, in season and out."

The Knights of Columbus has long been active in the right-to-life movement. It collaborates with the U.S. bishops and other responsible pro-life groups on educational programs, legislative actions and court cases. From its New Haven office, the Knights annually prints and distributes millions of pieces of pro-life literature.Since 1992 local units of the Knights of Columbus have been erecting memorials to unborn children in Catholic cemeteries and on K of C property. More than 700 such memorials have been erected.

The full text of Supreme Knight Dechant's remarks follows: A quarter of a century after the U.S. Supreme Court's tragic Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion, it is clear that the pro-life movement has years of hard work before it to restore legal protection to unborn children.

Anyone who may once have supposed that this fight could be won quickly and easily has long since learned differently. The supporters of legalized killing of the unborn are fanatical and relentless. They enjoy significant support from major sectors of the secular culture.

Yet we who are proud to belong to the pro-life movement feel no discouragment on this anniversary. On the contrary, there are signs of hope that the reign of abortion on demand is weakening.

It is true that the change proceeds slowly and is marked by occasional setbacks. But as people grasp the hideous reality of abortion ÷ that it is the destruction of innocent human life ÷ they turn increasingly against it.

That is amply illustrated by the revulsion decent people spontaneously feel when they learn the facts about the procedure known as partial-birth abortion. This technique involves partially delivering a child, then killing her or him by piercing the skull and suctioning out the brain. It has more in common with infanticide than with abortion properly so called. Most people readily grasp that this is so.

Medical authorities like the former surgeon general, Dr. C. Everett Koop, point out that there are no medical grounds requiring this procedure. The American Medical Association supports banning it by law. Congress twice has enacted such bans.

In light of all this, it is dismaying that President Clinton has vetoed this legislation twice. The Knights of Columbus will continue to work on behalf of a congressional override of Mr. Clinton's veto. We are confident that decency and good sense sooner or later will prevail.

We feel that same confidence also with regard to assisted suicide. On the one hand, the Supreme Court's ruling last year that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to assisted suicide was highly encouraging. On the other hand, it is regrettable, to say the least, that voters in Oregon last November missed the opportunity to overturn their state's law allowing the practice.

People react to this question according to how it is framed. When it is clear that the issue is not whether dying persons should have to undergo burdensome and useless treatment ( no one believes they should ) but whether the law should sanction killing them, we can count on good sense and decency to assert themselves against assisted suicide too.

On issues like these, the best answer to the propaganda of the culture of death is one based on scientific and legal facts and moral truth. The truth will set us free - free from deception and manipulation. The challenge that faces the pro-life movement is to go on ceaselessly preaching the truth about human life, in season and out.



New Haven, CT. "This must be the most historic event in the history of the Knights of Columbus. From the beginnings of our Order millions of Knights have prayed for this day." That's how Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant described the Dec. 18 event at the chancery of the Archdiocese of Hartford that formally opened the cause for sainthood of Knights of Columbus founder Father Michael J. McGivney.

His comments were echoed by Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin at a press conference following the event:

"Today marks an important moment in the history of the Archdiocese of Hartford, indeed in the history of the whole Church in North America, for in this ceremony we have formally begun the cause for canonization of the servant of God, Father Michael J. McGivney, and we have initiated the diocesan investigation into his life, works and virtue.

"I believe he [Father McGivney] was especially saintly. He instinctively understood the social teaching of the Church. His deep concern for the welfare of widows and the needy was reflected in his priestly heart and is seen today in the enormous growth of the Knights of Columbus. Clearly this was a holy person inaugurating a holy endeavor which was blessed by God."

If Father McGivney is eventually raised to the honors of the altar, he would be the first parish priest of the United States to be declared a saint.

Michael J. McGivney was born Aug. 12, 1852, in Watebury, Conn., one of 13 children of Irish-American immigrants. He was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 22, 1877, by Archbishop (later Cardinal) James Gibbons of Baltimore. His first priestly assignment was at St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Conn. In 1882, with a small group of lay men, he founded the Knights of Columbus. Today the Knights is the world's largest Catholic family fraternal service organization with almost 1.6 million members throughout North America, the Caribbean and the Philippines. In 1996, Knights orderwide reported raising and contributing to charity some $105 million and volunteering more than 50 million hours of service.

Archbiship Cronin said that it is up to the Church to determine the heroic virtue or saintliness of an individual. "The work of the historians and theologians which begins today as part of the diocesan and Roman phases of this investigation are not definitive," he said. "It is only the Holy Father who makes the decision regarding beatification and canonization. The results of all our research and our conclusions about the life and holiness of Father McGivney must be submitted to the pope himself. It is he alone who, in the light of God's approval as expressed in a miracle, indicates that the servant of God will be raised to the honors of the altar."

The diocesan phase of the cause for canonization was then placed into the hands of a tribunal and a historical commission created by Archbishop Cronin. Named to the historical commission were Dr. Christopher J. Kauffman, author of Faith and Fraternalism: The History of the Knights of Columbus, and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas Professor of American Church History at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and Susan Brosnan, archivist at the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council office in New Haven.

The historical commission's responsibility is to study all available historical evidence pertaining to Father McGivney, determine its authenticity and make a judgment about the heroic virtue of the servant of God. Once the tribunal is satisfied that all material is complete and accurate it is turned over to the archbishop. Ultimately, it is the archbishop who must submit Father McGivney's case to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints so that the Roman phase may begin.

The timeline is anything but definite, said Dominican Father Gabriel B. O'Donnell, who has been researching Father McGivney's life since April 1996. It may take from two to three years to complete the diocesan phase, and the Roman phase may take several years, he said.

"We must do our work carefully and well for the glory of God and for the accomplishment of his will," concluded Archbishop Cronin. "May he bring to completion what he has so wonderfully begun today in the Archdiocese of Hartford."


New Haven, CT. The Knights of Columbus presented Pope John Paul II with a $2 million gift Dec. 11 during a private audience. Supreme Knight and Mrs. Virgil C. Dechant, Supreme Chaplain Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn, N.Y., and several Supreme Officers and their wives were in attendance. The gift represents the annual donation from the Knights from its $20 million Vicarius Christi Fund. The latest gift to the pope's personal charities brought to over $26 million the amount contributed by the Order from this source since the fund's inception in 1981. The corpus of the fund remains intact.

"I assure you of my personal thanks for your closeness to the pope in his ministry of service to the Gospel," Pope John Paul said. Supreme Knight Dechant had been in Rome serving as an auditor for the Synod of Bishops for America. The pope noted that the Knights were visiting during the synod's closing days. He called upon them to "contribute to the transformation of society" by daily fidelity to the Gospel and expressed his confidence that the "great task of ecclesial renewal" will be embraced by the Knights and their families.

Supreme Knight Dechant also presented the pope with a spiritual bouquet comprised of prayers offered by the 1.6 million Knights for the Holy Father's intentions from Nov. 1, 1996 to Nov. 1, 1997. The spiritual bouquet was initiated in observance of the 50th anniversary of the pope's ordination last November.

The Knights also conveyed to their respective rectors the annual earnings from the Count Enrico Galeazzi Fund for the North American College, the Father Michael J. McGivney Fund for Advanced Studies for Priests in Canada for the Pontifical Canadian College in Rome, and from the Our Lady of Guadalupe Fund for the Pontifical Mexican College in Rome. The Order also funds scholarships for advanced studies for priests from the Philippines attending the Pontifical Filipino College in Rome.


New Haven, CT. Standard & Poors once again has rated Knights of Columbus insurance AAA (Superior). Insurers rated AAA by Standard & Poors, according to the report, offer superior financial security on an absolute and relative basis. Capacity to meet policyholder obligations is overwhelming under a variety of economic and underwriting conditions. This is the sixth consecutive year that K of C insurance has earned the top rating. The A. M. Best Co. earlier this year also gave the Knights its highest rating of A++ (Superior) for the 22nd consecutive year.

The Knights of Columbus offers insurance to its members and their families. The sale of insurance has been a part of the organizations program since its founding in 1882. Standard & Poors said its rating reflects the societys competitive advantage in the Catholic market, its superior capitalization, its superior operating performance, its superior liquidity, and its excellent portfolio.

The report noted the Knights very strong business position resulting from its distinct competitive advantage in the Catholic market and a strong agency force. This advantage, said Standard & Poors, translates into a long track record of sales growth in a variety of sales environments in the industry.

Commenting on the ratings, Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant said, Standard & Poors rating and A.M. Bests confirm our belief in the excellence of our insurance products and in our agency force.

The Knights of Columbus is the worlds largest Catholic family fraternal service organization, with nearly 1.6 million members and their families in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and the Caribbean. It was founded by a Catholic priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, at St. Marys Church in New Haven in 1882. In 1996 the Knights at all levels of the organization raised and donated $105 million to charitable programs and volunteered nearly 49 million hours of service.


New Haven, CT. Pope John Paul II in an Oct. 31 statement from the Vatican named the leader of the Knights of Columbus as one of 41 auditors for the upcoming special Synod of Bishops for America. Seventeen of the auditors are from the United States and Canada.

Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant, who was reappointed in October to his 21st consecutive one-year term as head of the world's largest Catholic family fraternal service organization, is one of only seven lay people from the United States and Canada who will advise and assist the 233 cardinals, bishops and priests who have been elected or appointed full voting members of the synod to be held Nov. 16-Dec. 12 at the Vatican.

It is truly an honor to be asked to serve as an auditor for the synod, said Dechant. The Order is unique among those lay groups represented at the synod since we have members in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. I hope to bring that perspective to my role as an advisor.

Dechant previously served as an auditor for the 1985 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops convened by the pope in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. He and his wife Ann served as auditors for the 1987 Synod on the Laity.

The topic of the special assembly is "Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America." It is being convened as part of the Church's preparation for the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

Based in New Haven, Conn., the Knights of Columbus has nearly 1.6 million members and their families in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, the Caribbean and several Pacific rim countries. In 1996 Knights orderwide reported raising and contributing $105 million to charity and volunteering 48 million hours of service.


New Haven, CT. The Knights of Columbus Supreme Council this fall awarded $2,500 scholarships to 70 seminarians and renewed 75 additional scholarships. The grants, which are from the Order's Vocations Scholarship Fund, were given to 60 U.S. seminarians and 10 Canadians in the first four years of theology who made application for them through the Knights' international office. Nearly 85 percent of this year's recipients are Knights of Columbus or sons of members. According to the program's guidelines, preference is given to seminarians who are members or whose fathers are members but is not limited to them.

More than 325 seminarians have been assisted from this scholarship program since its start in 1992. Of those, 107 have been ordained.

The Knights of Columbus at all levels of the organization expended some $5.6 million to promote vocations or support seminarians and postulants in 1996. At the Supreme Council level, there is a corpus of nearly $12 million that generates funds for these purposes.

The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic family fraternal service organization, with nearly 1.6 million members and their families in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and the Caribbean. It was founded by a Catholic priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, at St. Mary's Church in New Haven in 1882. In 1996 the Knights at all levels of the organization raised and donated $105 million to charitable programs and volunteered nearly 49 million hours of service.



New Haven, CT. The Vatican has notified the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., that the cause for sainthood of Knights of Columbus founder Father Michael J. McGivney can proceed.

Dominican Father Gabriel B. O'Donnell, postulator of Father McGivney's cause, said the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and other pertinent Vatican congregations informed the archdiocese that there were no serious objections to the opening of the cause and proceeding with the diocesan phase of the canonization process.

Father McGivney served at the Church of St. Mary in New Haven, Conn., from 1877 to 1884. Concerned with the plight of the wives and children left destitute by the death of working men in his parish, Father McGivney in 1882 founded the Knights of Columbus with a small group of Catholic laymen. Today, the Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic family fraternal service organization, with nearly 1.6 million members and their families in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and the Caribbean. In 1996 the Knights at all levels of the organization raised and donated $105 million to charitable programs and volunteered nearly 49 million hours of service.

The nihil obstat [Latin for "nothing stands in the way"] granted by the Holy See, said Father O'Donnell, is not a permission given by Rome, but rather the statement that there are no objections and the Holy See knows of no serious impediments to the introduction of this cause. This is required before the bishop can proceed to a formal inauguration of the process and the opening of the diocesan investigation into the life, work and virtue of Father McGivney.

The Knights hope to formally inaugurate the cause with Hartford Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin in December. All research materials gathered by the Knights will be handed over to archdiocesan officials at that time for review.

Any evidence of favors or miracles will be examined, and this will form the basis of what will then be submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for study,” said Father O'Donnell. Once verified, the pope declares the candidate "Blessed." Additional procedures can lead to the eventual canonization of the candidate.



New Haven, CT. Speaking on behalf of the nearly 1.6 million members of the Knights of Columbus, Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant issued the following statement on the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta Sept. 5:

We were deeply saddened by the news of Mother Teresa's death. It is clear that this marks the passing of one of the truly great human beings of our day. The world is poorer without her luminous presence.

Mother Teresa taught us all many things _ not just by her words but especially by her deeds.

She taught us the inestimable value of every human life and all human lives, from conception to natural death.

She taught us the duty of solidarity _ of love expressed in service of neighbor.

She taught us that the highest form of joy in this life lies in total self-forgetfulness and unreserved self-giving.

She taught us, against the worldly wisdom that adores wealth and power, that no power is greater than the power of love.

The Knights of Columbus is proud and honored to have been allowed to assist Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity many times over the years.

On a visit to our Supreme Council offices in June 1988, when we were printing the just-approved Constitutions of her order, she explained: "I am grateful to the Knights of Columbus for what they have offered to do for us in sharing their love for Jesus. I never ask people for this or that. I always tell them, 'I want to give you a gift.' And they reply, 'Mother Teresa, what gift can you give?' I tell them, 'I give you a chance to do something for the poor.'"

At our Supreme Council convention in August 1992, we presented the Knights of Columbus Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope) Award to Mother Teresa. She was the first person in the history of the Knights of Columbus so honored. As the citation accompanying the award remarked, this was "a case where those who bestow an honor are more honored by its acceptance."

When last I met with Mother Teresa in New York, I pledged our continued support of her Missionaries' growing worldwide apostolate of care for the poorest of the poor.

At the time, she made a typical request: for prayers by the Knights of Columbus, with the intention that the Missionaries of Charity would be allowed to enter China and take up their work there.

Sometimes it was said of Mother Teresa, as if it were a criticism, that she was not involved in bringing about social change. Perhaps. But she exemplified something even greater and more needed _ the reaching out of one human being to help brothers and sisters in need.

Justice without mercy is not fully human. That, finally, was the lesson Mother Teresa taught and lived: to practice mercy modeled on the merciful love of Jesus Christ.

In conveying heartfelt condolences to Sister Nirmala, Mother's successor as superior of the Missionaries of Charity and all the Sisters, we affirm that the Knights and our families throughout the world are united in prayer for the happy repose of Mother's beautiful soul, while expressing every confidence that she was received with open arms by the Lord she served so well in life.

KNIGHTS GAVE $105 MILLION, 48 MILLION HOURS TO CHARITABLE CAUSES IN 1996 New Haven, CT. The Knights of Columbus gave well over 48 million hours in volunteer personal service to the Catholic Church, community projects and youth programs in 1996, while contributing more than $105 million to such causes.

Both totals are new records for the organization.

The figures are based on reports on 1996 activity received from approximately 76 percent of Knights of Columbus councils, Fourth Degree assemblies, Columbian Squires circles and other jurisdictional entities responding to the organization's annual Survey of Fraternal Activity.

Commenting on the survey results, Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant said: "Once again this year, our Order's record of outreach in response to the needs of the Church and society by our Knights and families is truly gratifying. It points out, in dollars as well as in time and energy, what can be achieved when individuals and councils come together in a common cause. Similarly, it places a value on volunteerism that inspires many others to get involved. I commend and congratulate all who gave of their time and treasure through the Order's charitable and benevolent programs, especially at the state and local levels."

Charitable contributions by Knights in 1996 totaled $105,976,102. The previous high was $105,398,205 in 1995. Almost $87 million of the 1996 sum was raised by local and state units, which gave the funds to programs and institutions within their own jurisdictions.

The remainder, $19,014,276, was given by the organization's Supreme Council and its foundations to programs at the national and international levels.

Ten-year cumulative figures in the survey show that since 1987 Knights of Columbus at all levels have contributed a total of $945,087,867 to charitable causes. They also have given 397,939,709 hours in volunteer service.

The Knights of Columbus has nearly 1.6 million members in the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico and several other Caribbean and Pacific Rim countries. The international headquarters, located in New Haven, Conn., conducts the annual survey.

Besides giving a total of 48,966,132 hours to volunteer service involving the Church, community and youth activities - a new all-time high - members gave another 7,009,121 hours of their time to "fraternal service" of various kinds - meetings, functions and the internal activities of the Order.

Knights made 5,195,773 visits to the sick and bereaved. There also were 334,263 blood donors in 1996.

The survey figures also showed that the Knights of Columbus had total activity expenses of $76,080,072, including $61,673,969 at the state and local levels, for meetings, functions, projects, publications, postage and other costs. The fraternal expenses of the Supreme Council, including publications and support of membership operations, totaled $14,406,103.

By category of activity, the contributions went to the following categories:

Church Activities - Assistance to parishes, schools and religious-education programs, seminaries, seminarians and religious in formation, vocations programs, other Church projects: $31,060,463. The 10-year cumulative total in this category is $259,935,435. Community Activities - Institutions and programs for elderly people and those with disabilities, Special Olympics, assistance to people with mental retardation, programs for the poor and disaster victims, prolife activities, hospital and health projects, other community service projects: $41,612,550. The 10-year total is $416,693,586. Youth Activities - Columbian Squires (the official youth organization of the Knights of Columbus), Scouting and other youth groups, youth welfare including programs on substance abuse and child abuse, foster parenting, athletics, other youth programs: $14,288,813. The 10-year cumulative total is $126,093,166. The average per-member contribution by Knights in 1996 was $67.49. The highest per-member figure was recorded by the Order's 11,311 members in Saskatchewan - $266.00.

The largest sum given by Knights in a state or comparable jurisdiction was the $7,678,601 contributed by members in Ontario. Other jurisdictions in the top five were Illinois - $6,065,129; Quebec - $5,157,428; Michigan - $4,636,300; and California - $4,602,390.


NEW HAVEN, CT. Nine members of Knights of Columbus councils on college campuses will attend World Youth Day in Paris, Aug. 18-24. The Knights serve on the Catholic fraternal organizations college council coordinating committee. There are approximately 10,000 college Knights in 141 councils on campuses in the United States, Canada and the Philippines.

World Youth Day is described by organizers as a coming together of young people from the four corners of the world and a strong reminder of the strength and confidence the youth bring to the Catholic Church today. Pope John Paul II initiated the World Youth Day movement in 1985. The gatherings are held alternately in Rome and a city chosen by the pope.

Representing the Knights at World Youth Day are: Paul Villareal, a student at Mount St. Marys College in Emmitsburg, Md.; David Matousek, a student at the University of Illinois in Champaign; Michael Joseph Mercanti-Anthony, a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; Jason Vandermause, a student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison; Thomas Meade, a student at Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass.; Michael Mafodda, a student at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.; Tyler Morehead of Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield; Brian Agustin of Illinois Benedictine University in Lisle; and Eugene Gomez, a student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

The group will be accompanied by Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn, N.Y., and members of youth groups from the Brooklyn Diocese. Bishop Daily is the supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus.

In addition, the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council has provided a grant to the Vaticans Pontifical Council for the Laity to help subsidize the travel costs of delegates from poorer nations.

The Knights of Columbus is the worlds largest Catholic family fraternal service organization with nearly 1.6 million members throughout North America, Mexico, the Philippines and the Caribbean.


New Haven, CT.- Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford, Conn., has approved and accepted the designation of Dominican Father Gabriel B. O'Donnell as the postulator of the cause of Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. Archbishop Cronin notified Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant and Father O'Donnell of his decision May 1.

The naming of a postulator is a preliminary step toward the canonization of a saint. The postulator, according to Canon Law, has the authority to begin an investigation of the life of the candidate for sainthood. The postulator studies the candidate's writings, practice of heroic virtue, and the existing devotion to the servant of God.

Father McGivney was born in Waterbury, Conn., on Aug. 12, 1852. He was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 22, 1877, and was assigned to St. Mary's Parish in New Haven, where he founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882. In November 1884 he was named pastor of St. Thomas Parish in Thomaston, Conn. He died from tuberculosis at age 38 on Aug. 14, 1890. Father McGivney is interred at St. Mary's in New Haven.

Archbishop Cronin's permission was sought because Father McGivney lived and worked in the then Diocese of Hartford, and it will be the work of the archdiocesan investigation to study any proposed miracles worked by God through the intercession of the candidate for sainthood. Once verified, the pope may declare the servant of God ÏBlessed.Ó Additional procedures lead to the eventual canonization.

Archbishop Cronin will also seek the approval of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on the appropriateness of initiating the cause, according to norms established by the Holy See's Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He is scheduled to do that at the bishops' meeting in June.

The Order's Board of Directors approved Father O'Donnell's appointment at its April meeting. Following that, Supreme Knight Dechant formally petitioned Archbishop Cronin to authorize Father O'Donnell to represent the Order in this effort.

Archbishop Cronin offered his prayers of support to the effort. ÏI am confident that Father O'Donnell will be dedicated and zealous in his efforts. I assure you of my prayers for him in this important work.

The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic family fraternal service organization with nearly 1.6 million members throughout North America, Mexico, the Philippines and the Caribbean.


New Haven, CT.- The Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus April 11 appointed current Supreme Treasurer Robert F. Wade to the office of deputy supreme knight. Wade, a member of the board and past state deputy of New Jersey, was named to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of former Deputy Supreme Knight Ellis D. Flinn.

The board also designated Jean Migneault, former director and past state deputy of Quebec, as supreme treasurer, elevating him from the position of assistant supreme treasurer.

The board appointed current board member Joseph R. Mauro to the singular newly created position of executive vice president (agencies and marketing). Mauro had held the title of senior vice president (agencies and marketing).

The board also appointed Edward J. Mullen of Weston, Conn., as executive vice president (insurance) and chief operating officer of the knights' insurance program. Mullen assumes the duties previously held by Flinn as they relate to insurance of the Order. He will be directly responsible for the actuarial, underwriting, information systems and quality control departments at the Knights' international headquarters in New Haven.

The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic family fraternal service organization with nearly 1.6 million members in the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico and several other countries.

Wade, a native of New Jersey, was first elected to the Order's Board of Directors in 1983. In 1988 he was named assistant supreme treasurer. He assumed the office of supreme treasurer in January 1992. Before coming to the Supreme Council office, Wade was corporate labor relations advisor for the Exxon Corp. He attended the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Seton Hall University and the University of Michigan. He is a four-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. After holding office at the local and state council levels of the Knights of Columbus, he was elected state deputy of New Jersey in 1981. He served in that position until 1983. He and his wife Joan reside in North Haven, Conn., and have five sons, three daughters and nine grandchildren.

Migneault, a career bank executive from Quebec, was elected to the K of C board in April 1984 and named assistant supreme treasurer in 1992. He served two terms as Quebec's state deputy following service to the Knights at the local and state council levels. He holds degrees in administration and management from the University of Montreal and the University of Quebec, respectively.

Supreme Knights Founder's Day Message

On March 29, 1882, the state of Connecticut granted the Knights of Columbus its charter as a "body corporate and politic ... for the purpose of rendering mutual aid and assistance to the members of said society and their families." Today, in countries wherever Knights of Columbus reside, we celebrate March 29 as Founder's Day.

Father Michael J. McGivney, our founder, started an organization to offer Catholic lay men and their families a unique blend of religious, fraternal and insurance features. Today, some 115 years later, we have stayed true to his vision. Our membership is nearly 1.6 million; our insurance in force stands at more than $31 billion; and annually at all levels of our organization we donate upwards of $100 million to charitable and benevolent concerns and volunteer close to 50 million hours of service.

I'd like to share with you a story about what all that means on a personal level. Recently, I received a report from a local unit of the Knights of Columbus, one of many I receive daily. They wanted to let me know about their efforts to help a young woman rebuild her life after a fire destroyed her home. A single mother with three children, the woman had no insurance and no idea of how she would keep her family together through this crisis. When she was approached by a Knight wanting to know if the council and other concerned citizens could help, she asked only for a few dollars and some groceries.

The Knight thought more could be done. He mobilized members of the council, the Catholic community and others to rebuild her home. Six months later, with donations of building supplies, lots of hard work by countless volunteers, and prayer, the woman and her family moved back into their refurbished home. She told the Knights that she didn't know how she'd ever be able to pay them back, except that if something like that happened to someone else, she wanted to be first in line to lend a hand. The Knight who spearheaded the effort wrote to say that not only did the council pull together, strengthening its fraternal bonds though an act of charity, but the project also resulted in a dozen new members.

I think our founder Father McGivney would be proud of these men and their families, these good neighbors, these Catholic Knights who lent a hand to a family in need. I know I am.

Noting that the Declaration of Independence includes the right to life among fundamental and "unalienable" human rights, the joint brief of the Knights of Columbus and the National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities says:

If you're a first-time visitor to our Web site, I hope you find it informative and inspiring. There's a wealth of information about who we are, what we do, what we offer and how to join. If you're eligible to join, we'd welcome the opportunity to have you join us during this, our 115th anniversary.

Virgil C. Dechant
Supreme Knight

What We Offer

In a word, fraternity. More specifically, the Knights of Columbus offers the Catholic man and his family opportunities for leadership training through active involvement in a local unit, or council; volunteer opportunities in the parish and community; low-cost life insurance; fraternal benefits like college scholarships and student loans for himself, his wife and children; Columbia magazine; and so much more. Membership in the Knights of Columbus offers the member and his family fellowship with like-minded Catholic families not only in his community or parish, but throughout his state, region, and even internationally.

Being a Knight of Columbus allows a man to offer an added measure of protection to his family. By availing himself of the Order's highly rated and financially sound insurance products, he can protect his family against hard times or an untimely death and provide for the retirement of himself and his spouse.

By getting involved in the variety of volunteer service programs that each local unit or council conducts through the "Surge...with Service" program, he helps protect and defend his family, Church and community against forces hostile to family life, civic values and the Church today.

A lot of groups promise to look out for your best interests, but the Knights of Columbus offers more - it looks after the best interests of society - and you can be a part of it. We've been "Protecting Families for Generations" and we'll continue to do so for generations to come with your support and involvement.

Membership Benefits

Are you a practical Catholic man as understood by the Church and 18 years old or older? Then it's obvious - we want you to join the Knights of Columbus! "But what's in it for me?" you might be asking. As a member of the Knights of Columbus you and your family enjoy many benefits. Among these are: Columbia Magazine As a member you receive free each month a copy of the world's largest Catholic magazine featuring articles on family life and many other issues important to Catholic families today; columns on the faith and the Church; and important news about the Order. Daily Mass Remembrance Mass is offered daily for deceased members of the Order at the Knights' Altar at St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Connecticut, birthplace of the Knights of Columbus. Insurance Program The Knights of Columbus life insurance program offers the member, his wife and his children the opportunity to provide for their security and well-being in the future through one of the strongest, soundest and safest insurance societies in North America. K of C insurance has received the highest ratings that can be given, AAA (Superior) by Standard and Poor's and A++ (Superior) by A.M. Best. Annuity Program Offers the member and his spouse an opportunity to provide for retirement and build an estate through tax-deferred savings at attractive interest rates. Member-Spouse Fraternal Benefit Accidental death coverage for a Knight and his spouse at no cost, provided both he and his council are in good standing. Orphan Benefit Provides monthly allotment and eligibility for college subsidies for orphans of eligible families. Family Fraternal Benefit For eligible families pays $1,500 for a child who dies before the age of 61 days; pays $750 for a child stillborn at least 20 weeks after conception; and offers guaranteed-issue insurance up to $5,000 to any child under age 18. New Member Plan Offers to a new member and his spouse an opportunity to apply for a low-cost whole life certificate. Widow Benefits The widow of a member continues to be covered under the Member-Spouse Fraternal Benefit; may purchase insurance or annuities up to 90 days after an insured member's death; receives a free lifetime subscription to Columbia; and is eligible with her children for scholarships, student loans, etc. Scholarships/Fellowships There are seven different college scholarship programs for members and their families; three different graduate fellowship programs; and scholarship programs for seminarians. Matthews/Swift Educational Trust Through this fund, full scholarships (tuition, board and expenses) to Catholic colleges are given to children of members killed or permanently and totally disabled from military service in armed conflict, or from criminal violence while performing duties as a full-time law enforcement official or full-time fireman. Student Loans Available to the member, spouse and children as well as to all pursuing a religious vocation. Leadership Development Each member has the opportunity to develop personal leadership skills by actively participating in the Order's unique structure, supported by the newsletters, Knightline and Program Supplement, mailed 18 times a year to state and local council officers and program chairmen. Fourth Degree One Year after becoming a First Degree Knight, a member is eligible to join the Fourth Degree, the patriotic degree. Since its establishment in 1900, members have provided honor guards for religious and civic functions. They are distinguishable by their official regalia of tuxedos, capes, chapeaux and swords. Honorary/Honorary Life Membership At age 70 after 25 years of continuous service, a member may receive special distinction as an honorary life member and is no longer required to pay annual dues. At age 65, after 25 years of continuous service, a member can request honorary status which reduces dues obligations to $10 per year. Catholic Information Service Makes available a wide variety of literature on the Catholic faith and spirituality. Membership Card This card entitles a member to participate in all Catholic, fraternal and social activities in his own council as well as in those of the nearly 11,000 councils throughout the world. Museum/Archives Members, families and the general public may visit the Knights of Columbus Headquarters Museum and Archives in New Haven. On the same floor as the museum is the Holy Family Chapel, where mass is offered daily. Christopher Fund This special partnership between the Supreme Council and individual state councils enhances a state council's ability to fund worthy charitable causes in the state. The Supreme Council matches the state council's funds, dollar for dollar, up to $5 per member. Each year interest earned on the total corpus (combined Supreme and state funds) is available to the state for distribution to the charity or charities of the state's choice.

Insurance Products

The Knights of Columbus is a fraternal benefit society founded in 1882 by a Catholic priest in New Haven, Connecticut. From a small group of Catholic men operating an insurance program on an assessment system, the Knights of Columbus has grown into a "triple-A" insurance society doing business in the 50 states of the United States, the District of Columbia, the 10 provinces of Canada, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. The corporate charter of the Knights of Columbus, granted by the Connecticut General Assembly on March 29, 1882, provides that: "The purposes for which said corporation is formed are the following: (a) of rendering pecuniary aid to its members, their families and beneficiaries of members and their families; (b) of rendering mutual aid and assistance to its sick, disabled and needy members and their families; (c) of promoting social and intellectual intercourse among its members and their families; and (d) of promoting and conducting educational, charitable, religious, social welfare, war relief and welfare, and public relief work."

The Knights of Columbus meets the goals of this charter by sponsoring council activities, by providing assistance to the Catholic Church, by doing charitable work in the communities where we exist, and by offering high-quality, individual life insurance to its members and families.

Father Michael J. McGivney - our founder - recognized and believed that the people of his day needed the protection that a life insurance program would bring. He wanted to guarantee that the Catholic widow and children of his time would be able to sustain the loss of their breadwinner, and continue with a life not afflicted with poverty and despair.

Today, 115 years later, the Knights of Columbus goal remains the same: protection of the Catholic families that choose membership in our Order.

In the days of Father McGivney, the insurance feature was a rudimentary system of collecting money and distributing benefits. Today it encompasses more than $31 billion of life insurance in force, with more than 1.3 million individual policies. A professional and knowledgeable agency field force numbering 1,350 brings the program to the home of every eligible Knight, tailoring a plan of life insurance coverage to meet his family's individual needs.

The Knights of Columbus insurance program has provided peace of mind to millions of men and women for more than a century. The continuing growth of the number of policies and the insurance in force is a testament to the confidence members have in the Order's ability to provide protection for them today, and well into the future.


We offer our members and their families permanent life insurance, term insurance, and annuities. The permanent life and term products are participating plans - plans that are dividend-paying - and include:

The Knights of Columbus sells its insurance to its members, wives of members, and dependents. It is sold through a career sales force that currently consists of more than 1,350 full-time professionally trained field agents.

These agents are equipped with one of the most modern computer programs available. It enables them to perform a needs analysis of the member and his family. This needs analysis allows the agent and the Knight to determine together the total amount of insurance protection needed, and calculate the best way to package the products to meet those needs. Our products have been "Protecting Families for Generations." We would like nothing better than to have the opportunity to help you protect your family.


Again in 1996, the Knights of Columbus earned the highest possible ratings for financial soundness and claims-paying ability from two of the top rating firms. For the fifth consecutive year, Standard and Poor's insurance rating service accorded the Knights of Columbus its AAA (Superior) designation. For 22 consecutive years the A. M. Best Company has given us its highest rating, currently A++ (Superior).

During 1996, the Knights of Columbus broke all records by issuing 88,455 certificates for $4.03 billion of new insurance. This made 1996 the best year the Order has ever had.

In addition to life sales, our field force sold 9,423 annuity contracts amounting to $191.6 million in premiums.

Total premium income amounted to $713 million for 1996. Life insurance premium income amounted to an all-time high of $522 million reflecting an increase of $72 million over the year before.

Because of good investment earnings, favorable mortality experience and low expenses, the Order was able to continue paying record dividends. Life dividends allocated for 1997 amount to $178 million.

These dividends for living members far exceed the $76 million in death benefits paid to beneficiaries of deceased certificate holders. Our consistent, generous and fair dividend policy continues to make Knights of Columbus insurance a very attractive investment for living families, as well as providing for our bereaved families.

In addition to all of these numbers, the Knights of Columbus brings peace of mind and security to thousands upon thousands of widows, children and dependents of our deceased members. Since the beginning, the Order has paid out $921 million in death benefits. Likewise, to our living members and families, the Order has paid $3.1 billion in maturities, dividends, interest and other proceeds.


The Knights of Columbus has a career opportunity for you - an opportunity that some say is the best-paid hard work in the world! The life insurance sales career offers qualified, dedicated people the chance to provide a valuable service to others by uncovering prospects' needs and recommending a life insurance solution. Through periodic reviews the life insurance agent helps clients keep abreast of their constantly changing financial security situations. Through such service, he can enjoy the financial rewards of job satisfaction inherent in a professional career. If you are interested in helping others, maybe you should consider the K of C agency force. Your ideas - your recommendations based on your ability to design appropriate plans to meet them - can have a significant effect on your clients' personal and business lives.

If you are interested in career growth, maybe you should consider the K of C agency force. Once you become established in your career, you are your own boss; and after a period of training, you plan and work your own hours.

You also might be interested for the financial rewards the career brings - rewards that are in proportion to your achievement. In the life insurance sales business, you determine your own income, and you are paid what you are worth.

If you are a Knight, or eligible to become a Knight, this could be the career for you. To find out more, feel free to contact our Field Management Dept. at (203) 772-2130, ext. 261. "Protecting Families for Generations" is more than a motto. For Knights of Columbus agents, it is a sacred trust.

What We Do

Have you and your family ever watched the telecast of Pope John Paul II's midnight Mass from St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on Christmas Eve? Well, the Knights of Columbus is the organization that underwrites the costs of beaming that telecast from the Vatican, and has done so since 1976. Our satellite uplink program covers the costs of uploading the transmission and pays for the downlink in mission countries as well. Or perhaps you've seen us standing in front of your local shopping mall or grocery store raising funds for programs supporting people with mental retardation.

The Knights of Columbus uses its Annual Survey of Fraternal Activity to gather various facts on the work done by local units. Information collected through the survey includes the amount of money and volunteer hours donated by the Knights of Columbus to charitable and benevolent causes. In 1996, Knights Orderwide raised and distributed $105,976,102 to charitable and benevolent programs and volunteered 48,966,132 hours of time.

These totals - the highest in the Order's history - are based on reports received from most Knights of Columbus councils, Fourth Degree assemblies, Columbian Squires circles and other jurisdictional entities responding to the survey. Over the past 10 years, the Knights of Columbus has volunteered more than 397 million hours of service and donated over $945 million to charity.

On a local level, if your community has an active K of C council, you'll find many ways that Knights are involved: running youth religious education programs, delivering Communion to homebound and elderly shut-ins, painting classrooms in Catholic schools, volunteering at Special Olympics events or tending a community garden. We collect used eyeglasses for needy people at home and around the world. We put new roofs on senior citizens' homes and write letters to young men studying for the priesthood.

What we do at the local level is pretty much left up to the Knights in the local community. If they see a problem that they think they can muster the resources to solve, they attack it. No programs are mandated by the international headquarters, or Supreme Council office, in New Haven, Connecticut. No funds raised at the local level are sent to the Supreme Council, either. All funds raised stay at the local level, helping causes local Knights want to help. The principal areas of volunteer involvement through our "Surge...with Service" program can be broken down into the following categories: Church, Community, Council, Family and Youth.

Church Activities

Since our founding in 1882 by Father Michael J. McGivney, the Knights of Columbus has been in solidarity with the Catholic Church, the Holy Father and the bishops, priests and religious in union with him. We sprang from a Catholic parish and it is in the thousands of Catholic parishes where the good works of the Knights of Columbus are most manifest. Support for the Catholic Church is a hallmark of Knights of Columbus activity at all levels of the organization. In 1996, Knights Orderwide raised and distributed more than $44 million to Church groups and in support of programs at the international, national and local levels. More than 23 million hours of time were donated to the Church by local Knights and families in 1996.


The Catholic Information Service of the Knights of Columbus was founded in 1947 to provide free and low-cost Catholic publications for mission countries, parishes, schools, retreat houses, military installations, correctional facilities, legislatures, the health-care community, and to individuals - Catholic and non-Catholic alike - who request them. We also offer a correspondence course in the essentials of the faith, aimed at both converts and the interested Catholic. Today, the Catholic Information Service retains its original commission to spread the faith to the four corners of the earth. Since its beginning tens of millions of pamphlets on the Catholic faith have been distributed throughout the world, while thousands of individuals have enrolled in the correspondence course. Perhaps you've noticed those advertisements in your Sunday newspaper's magazine supplement offering pamphlets on the Catholic Church and its teachings and faith practices. Well, the Knights of Columbus is responsible for those advertisements, too. Our Catholic Information Service offers dozens of pamphlets on Church teaching and practice to interested Catholics and non-Catholics alike. We also offer a home-study course for people who want to learn more about the Church, either as the first step toward becoming a Catholic or just for personal enrichment.


The Vatican paid the highest possible tribute to the Order in choosing it, along with the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., to co-host the Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II in October 1995 during his pastoral visit to the United Nations and several East Coast cities. The October 6 Mass at Aqueduct in Brooklyn, N.Y., has been described as the most significant chapter in the history of the Knights of Columbus because it is the first time that a lay organization has been chosen to co-host a papal liturgy. Aqueduct Stage Aqueduct Stage Support for the Holy Father and the Church universal takes many forms. At the request of Pope John Paul II, the Knights of Columbus financed the restoration of the facade of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City between 1985 and 1987. Visitors to the Supreme Council office in New Haven can tour a display that highlights this effort to renew one of Christendom's and Western culture's most important structures. A copper-clad cross that had formerly nestled in the arms of a statue of Christ the Redeemer atop the basilica for 350 years is also on display in the international headquarters. In 1982, during the Order's centennial celebration, the Order presented a check for $1.2 million to then Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli. The check represented the first annual earnings from the $20 million Knights of Columbus Vicarius Christi Fund, established by the Order to help fund the pope's personal charities. Since 1982, more than $24.2 million has been given to the pope from this fund, and its corpus remains intact.

In 1995, the Order pledged $5 million to the planned Pope John Paul II Cultural Center to be built in Washington, D.C.

The Knights of Columbus has been especially honored to serve the Holy Father in his mission of evangelization and preparation for the third Christian millennium. Current initiatives include financing the satellite costs for televising major events from the Vatican, such as the annual Christmas and Easter Masses; subsidizing the purchase of a state-of-the-art mobile television production van for Centro Televisivo Vaticano to enable coverage of papal audiences and the pope's pastoral visits in Italy; the donation of a portable organ to the Sistine Chapel; and supporting the efforts of national bishops' conferences wherever Knights of Columbus reside. In Canada the conference of Catholic bishops receives each year the interest on the $1 million Bishop de Laval Fund established by the Canadian Knights.

For 15 years the Order has sponsored workshops in Dallas, Texas, for bishops of the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and the Philippines on topics associated with critical medical-moral issues. The program is operated by the Pope John XXIII Center of Braintree, Massachusetts, and has been completely funded by the Order in an aggregate amount of $4.1 million.

Continuing a long and cherished relationship, the Order has been privileged to express solidarity in a variety of ways with Mother Teresa and the apostolate of her Missionaries of Charity to the poorest of the poor. In addition to financial support, the Order has provided printing services of prayer books and holy cards, religious articles for her chapels, and pays phone and postage costs. Knights in cities where Mother Teresa's sisters are active have also regularly volunteered their services at AIDS hospices, soup kitchens and other facilities they run. The Order's first-ever Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope) Award for service to the Church and mankind was given to Mother Teresa in 1992.

Cardinal John O'Connor of New York received the second Gaudium et Spes Award in 1994.

In 1996 Knights volunteered 23,007,812 hours of service to the Catholic Church. In addition, Knights Orderwide raised and distributed $44,641,405 for Church facilities, Catholic schools, religious education programs, seminarians, seminaries and projects to promote and sustain vocations to the Church.


Knights of Columbus has a first mortgage loan program to assist parishes and Catholic schools in building and renovation projects. It is also available for diocesan building. The program is a conventional commercial program which requires documentation, including the filing of a mortgage on the land records, similar to that which is required by commercial lenders.

Our interest rate is below prevailing market rates for these mortgages and is fixed for the life of the loan, which usually has a term of 15 years.

Application materials and guidelines explaining the mortgage program are available from the Law Department of the Knights of Columbus at 1 Columbus Plaza, New Haven, Connecticut 06510-3326. Telephone inquiries should be directed to Denis Killeen of our legal staff at 203-772-2130.


Since 1988, the Knights of Columbus has played a key role in expanding the work of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Lateran University in Rome by making possible its North American campus in Washington D.C. Students have since graduated from the institute with licentiate, master's or doctorate degrees and are active in a variety of family-life ministries and teaching positions in Catholic high schools, colleges, seminaries and graduate schools. Many priests, religious and lay persons have also benefited from the institute's programs of continuing theological education. VOCATIONS State and local council vocations committees foster vocations through prayers, donations and other activities. Since 1977, the Refund Support Vocations Program (RSVP) has contributed more than $13 million to thousands of seminarians and postulants. Under this program local councils donate $500 to a seminarian or postulant and are refunded $100 by the Supreme Council. As important as the financial support, if not more so, is the moral support Knights give these "adopted" seminarians and postulants. Knights and their families write letters of support, offer prayers and invite them to attend council-sponsored socials and other events. The Order's $8 million Vocations Scholarship Fund provides annual $2,500 scholarships to seminarians in theology on the basis of need. Each month Columbia features a vocations ad on its back cover. In addition, the Order has established funds to support the mission of the North American College, the Pontifical Canadian College, the Pontifical Mexican College, all in Rome, and the American College in Louvain, Belgium. Other programs provide grants for advanced studies for priests from the Philippines and from Puerto Rico.


Each year the Knights of Columbus supports the "Keep Christ in Christmas" campaign to remind people that Christmas is above all else a holy day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. To help deliver the "Keep Christ in Christmas" message the Order offers a variety of posters and other materials as well as public service announcements (PSAs) for radio and television. Local K of C units also participate in "Light Up for Christ" ceremonies held on the first Tuesday of December at 8 p.m. local time during which Nativity scenes or Christmas trees are illuminated. ROSARY PROGRAM Every new member of the Knights of Columbus receives a rosary. Each month through this program thousands of rosaries, which have been blessed by the Order's supreme chaplain, Bishop Thomas V. Daily of Brooklyn, N.Y., are distributed. In addition, the Supreme Council office offers rosary prayer cards, audiocassettes featuring the praying of the rosary and booklets on this prayer. MARIAN HOUR OF PRAYER PROGRAM The Knights of Columbus has sponsored Marian Hour of Prayer programs since 1979. As part of this program the Order distributes pilgrim icons depicting Mary under her various titles, which travel on a yearlong journey from council to council where they serve as the focal point of prayer services held in council homes, parishes or other locations. Since the program began nearly 10.3 million people have participated in approximately 60,000 prayer services.

Community Activities

In the late 1960s and early '70s in the wake of Church reforms brought about by the Second Vatican Council, the Knights of Columbus took a serious look at itself and the world around it. Answering the call by the council fathers to show greater concern for the poor, end discrimination and help build a more just and peaceful world, the Knights of Columbus developed its "Surge...with Service" program of volunteerism. Volunteerism informed by Christian concern is the hallmark of the Knights of Columbus and results in outstanding contributions of time and talent to our cities and communities. In 1996, Knights of Columbus Orderwide raised and donated more than $44.6 million on community projects and volunteered 12.6 million hours to community projects.


The Knights of Columbus champions life from conception to natural death. The Order conducts education programs for its members and the public, provides financial assistance to national and local right-to-life groups, and prays for the protection of life. As part of an oderwide program, hundreds of K of C units have constructed memorials to innocent unborn children killed through abortion. Since 1990 the Knights of Columbus has donated some $8.8 million to the U.S. bishops' pro-life education and public information campaign, plus $1 million in in-kind services. In spring-summer 1996, the Order conducted a postcard campaign to ask U.S. members to urge their representatives in Congress to override the presidential veto of the partial-birth abortion ban act. Some 2.5 million cards were distributed. The Knights of Columbus files friend-of-the-court briefs in important cases on life issues argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, most currently on assisted suicide. The Order prints and distributes millions of pieces of pro-life literature at no charge. Its most recent publication is a study guide to Pope John Paul II's pro-life encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).


The Knights of Columbus supports Special Olympics and other programs for people with mental retardation. Knights serve as trainers, coaches, officials and in any other capacity needed at state and local Special Olympics games. The Supreme Council has been a sponsor of the Special Olympics World Games for many years. As a sponsor of the 1995 Special Olympics World Games, held in New Haven, Connecticut, the Knights of Columbus contributed $1 million and provided more than 7,000 volunteers for the event. The Knights of Columbus has donated tens of million of volunteer hours and dollars to programs for people with mental retardation. Canadian Knights, especially in Ontario, are supporting the 1997 Winter International Special Olympics Games to be held in that province. The Supreme Council provided $100,000 as partners with the Canadian Knights. In 1996, the Order raised and donated more than $17.8 million to benefit people with mental retardation and programs supporting them.


Knights of Columbus members participate in a variety of health service programs. Councils regularly join in national programs to bring public attention to heart disease and the dangers of smoking and alcohol and drug abuse. Some councils assist needy people in finding free or low-cost medical care. Knights help raise money for medical research in a variety of areas including cancer and AIDS. Knights and their families regularly volunteer at veterans' hospitals, hospices and other health care facilities. Knights participate in blood drives, with 334,263 donating blood in 1996.


Members' civic involvement comes in many forms. Councils and assemblies run campaigns urging citizens to vote. Knights take part in community recreation programs, patriotic observances, penal reform programs and cultural activities. K of C units regularly recognize outstanding civil servants, police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and others in their communities by presenting them with certificates of merit.


The Knights of Columbus has been at the front of efforts to stem the flood of pornography engulfing communities. Councils promote programs to inform people of the dangers of pornography and report violations of community standards to those responsible for enforcing existing laws. Councils organize letter-writing campaigns to newspaper editors and radio and television station managers objecting to offensive advertising for "R" and "X" rated motion pictures. In addition, Knights support and work in concert with groups such as Morality in Media in the United States, Canadians for Decency and the Alianza Nacional para la Defensa de la Moral Familiar in Mexico.


Knights of Columbus members regularly participate in and sponsor programs aimed at combating substance abuse. Councils work with local police, youth groups and other organizations to provide educational programs on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. The Supreme Council also offers posters on alcohol abuse awareness to local units for community projects. Knights regularly participate in programs that publicize the dangers of drunk driving.

Council Activities

The Knights of Columbus is, above all, a fraternity - a brotherhood of like-minded Catholic men and their families. Members aim to support one another in good times and bad and thereby strengthen the ideals of Catholic knighthood. Active participation in membership recruitment efforts, the degree ceremonials, and the social and athletic programs of a council enhances one's appreciation of what it means to be a Knight of Columbus.


As a fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus strives to maintain a strong, friendly and open atmosphere among its members and their families. To promote fraternalism, local councils work to make new Knights feel at home in the council family. Councils also sponsor "Recognition Nights" to honor outstanding members. In addition, local units select recipients for the "Knight of the Month" and "Knight of the Year" programs. Important dates in the lives of members, such as birthdays and anniversaries, are remembered. Council members regularly visit Knights and family members who are ill. Many councils publish member directories and newsletters. Many councils hold memorial Masses for deceased Knights and family members. Councils also sponsor Columbus Day and Knights of Columbus Founder's Day (March 29) programs. Along with promoting fraternalism among their members, councils also work with other fraternal groups in the community to provide social, athletic, service and similar programs.


The Knights of Columbus at the international level offers golf, bowling and softball tournaments for members. Individual councils sponsor clubs, teams, leagues, tournaments and other contests for members. Knights conduct sports clinics for youngsters. Councils sponsor teams in Little League, Junior Hockey, Babe Ruth, Pony League and other sports organizations for youngsters. In addition, local sports stars annually participate in council social and service events.


Knights of Columbus units regularly plan dances and other socials in connection with holidays and seasonal occasions. Councils also conduct open houses for members and their families. These events allow wives and children, as well as potential new Knights, to see the council's facilities and learn about what the Knights do. Councils often conduct degree exemplifications to welcome new members into the Order in conjunction with special celebrations.


As council members, Knights gain valuable leadership experience that they can bring with them to their careers or other areas of interest. Leadership opportunities, such as officer, program chairmen and committee positions, are open to all members. Men serving their council gain practical leadership experience and confidence through planning service programs and social activities, as well as conducting meetings and operating the council. The Supreme Council office provides a variety of handbooks and programming manuals to assist these council leaders in meeting their responsibilities.


Councils often invite speakers from various groups in the community to offer presentations to Knights. Demonstrations, exhibits, movies and talks by educators, artists, musicians and others are often part of council programs. Many councils sponsor Knights of Columbus glee clubs and choral groups to perform at K of C and Church functions. Members and their families exhibit and discuss their handiwork, crafts, hobbies and collections during council programs. Councils often sponsor trips to local museums, historical sites, concerts, plays and other activities.


Each year Knights and their families have the opportunity to attend conventions at both the state and international levels. At these meetings, delegates hear about the state of the organization, vote on resolutions, attend discussions and workshops on various topics, celebrate their faith together and socialize. Delegates from throughout the Order attend the Annual Supreme Council Meeting held at the beginning of August.


The Knights of Columbus Supreme Council office offers a series of videocassette productions to local units. These productions are available free of charge, except for shipping and handling. The videos cover membership recruitment procedures; promotional films on the many works of the Order; and instructional presentations on the duties and responsibilities of various Knights of Columbus leadership positions. These productions help educate members, potential members and other interested parties on the various aspects of the Knights of Columbus. All titles can be obtained by contacting the Supreme Council Department of Fraternal Services.


Each year thousands of councils throughout the Order qualify for one or more of the awards given out by the Supreme Council for outstanding achievement in the areas of service programming, membership recruitment and retention and insurance promotion.

Family Activities

From its very beginnings, the Knights of Columbus has been committed to Catholic family life, especially to meeting the needs of widows and orphans of members. Truly, the Knights of Columbus has been protecting families for generations through its programs. And not just the families of members. Today the Knights of Columbus is in the forefront of organizations aiming to renew the family and reassert its primacy in these socially difficult and confusing times. Through varied programs of support for family life, the Knights of Columbus champions a model of family and marriage as taught by the Church.


Father Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus and its insurance program in 1882 as a way to help care for widows and orphans. Knights still care. When a Knight dies, council members are there for his widow. They help with funeral arrangements, insurance forms and other paperwork. Widows continue to receive Columbia magazine. Their families are invited to council activities. Widows and their families are also eligible for Supreme Council scholarship, fellowship and student loan programs. Councils hold social events and continue to include the widows and families in their programming. Mass for all deceased Knights is offered each day at the birthplace of the Knights, St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Connecticut.


Many councils have memorial committees. Committee members attend the wakes and funerals of Knights or their family members to pray and show fraternal support. Committee chairmen look for ways the council can help bereaved families. Many councils hold annual memorial Masses for deceased members. CATHOLIC EDUCATION

Knights of Columbus support for education is broad and deep. It begins with the thousands of scholarships local councils award each year to elementary, high school and college students. Knights of Columbus are among the foremost contributors of funding, equipment and volunteers to Catholic schools. The Order regularly supports innovative programs of research and enhancement for Catholic education in the United States and Canada conducted by the National Catholic Educational Association. The $1 million Father Michael J. McGivney Fund for New Initiatives in Catholic Education funds these efforts.

The Supreme Council administers a variety of scholarship, fellowship and student loan programs that each year award hundreds of scholarships to members and children of members in the United States and Canada. Programs for Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Philippines add more scholarships. A student loan program also is available for members, children of members, and seminarians and postulants.


Activities that draw family members closer together are a regular part of each council's schedule. Among them: family corporate Communions, annual marriage vow renewal programs, family rosary or prayer services, K of C family nights, family trips and picnics.


Knights of Columbus Family Week is held annually in August. Councils hold family Masses, picnics, prayer services, dinners and other activities to promote and highlight both family interaction and the family focus of the Knights. Initiation of new members, called exemplifications, are held to commemorate the birth (Aug. 12) and death (Aug. 14) of Father Michael J. McGivney, the Order's founder. Held during Family Week, they help underscore the family focus of the Knights of Columbus.


The Knights of Columbus began its Family of the Month/Family of the Year program in 1978. It is now one of the Order's most successful programs. In each participating council a committee monthly selects a family that makes a significant contribution to the council, Church and community, a family whose members enjoy interacting, who are open and honest and exemplify Christian values. Usually from among their 12 monthly winners, councils select a Family of the Year. Each council may enter its Family of the Year in the program run by its state council. State or provincial winners become entrants in the Knights of Columbus International Family of the Year program run by the Supreme Council. International winners are guests of the Knights of Columbus at its annual meeting in August. The Martin A. Luchansky family of Mount Airy, Md., is the 1995 International Family of the Year. He is grand knight of St. Michael of Poplar Springs Council 10525.

Youth Activities

There's a lot of talk about the problems our young people face. But who's talking about solutions? The Knights of Columbus is! Not only do the Knights offer a program especially for young Catholic men, it supports countless other youth programs, from CYO to youth sports leagues. In 1996 the Knights raised and distributed $16.6 million in support of youth programs, for scholarships and athletics. Knights volunteered an additional 6 million hours of service to young people.


Young men between the ages of 12 and 18 who belong to the Knights of Columbus leadership training program are called Columbian Squires. Their local units are called circles. Sponsored by councils and guided by Knights, circles perform service programs to benefit their communities and Church. There are more than 25,000 Squires in about 1,100 circles in the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Guam. Councils also sponsor some 1,200 Catholic Scout troops servicing almost 36,000 youngsters.


Knights of Columbus councils sponsor youth basketball, baseball, softball, hockey, softball, soccer and volleyball programs. Some councils sponsor teams, others entire leagues. Knights serve as coaches, officials, scorekeepers and administrators. Columbian Squires often compete in basketball and softball leagues. FREE THROW CHAMPIONSHIP

Each year more than 200,000 boys and girls age 10 to 14 participate in the Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship. More than 3,100 councils sponsor free throw championship competitions, which are held each winter. In Ontario alone, nearly 80,000 youngsters participate. Youngsters, competing according to age and gender, take 25 free throws and the best shooters win. Winners move on to district and statewide competitions. International winners are selected on the basis of scores in state-level championships. Winners usually make from 23 to 25 free throws. Since 1972 more than 2.7 million youngsters have competed in the Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship.