.- The Knights of Columbus will launch its 125th anniversary year with a Mass on March 29th, where the world’s largest international lay organization was founded — St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn.
Founded in 1882 by Fr. Michael McGivney, along with a few parishioners in the basement of St. Mary’s Church, the group has grown to an international organization of more than 1.7 million members. The mass will be celebrated in honor of Fr. McGivney, who’s cause for canonization is actively being presented by Fr. Gabriel O’Donnell, O.P.
The Knights have remained true to their founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity, and have included patriotism as a fourth principle. The organization is renowned for its dedicated support of both church and country.
The efforts and contributions of the councils tally to significant amounts. In 2005 (the last period for which data has been compiled), the K of C donated more than $139 million and 64 million hours of volunteer service to charitable causes. Among these contributions was $10 million in relief assistance to Gulf Coast residents and Catholic organizations affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Other prominent charities annually supported by the Knights are Special Olympics and the Wheelchair Foundation.
Its charitable work also includes substantial support for the Catholic Church in Rome. The K of C funded the restoration of the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica during the 1980’s, and annually underwrites the cost of satellite TV broadcasts of liturgical celebrations from Vatican City, including the Christmas Midnight Mass. The organization has established a $20 million endowment called the Vicarius Christi Fund. The annual proceeds are provided to the Pope in support of his charitable initiatives.
In its dimension as a fraternal benefit society, the Knights of Columbus provides its members a variety of life insurance products for the financial stability of their families. One of the most highly rated insurance companies in North America, the K of C has more than $61 billion of life insurance in force and consistently earns the industry’s highest independent rankings for fiscal management and ethical business practices.
Before and throughout World War I, the Knights ran “Army Huts”, a predecessor to the USO, which provided recreation, snacks, and comfort items to the troops near bases and near the front.
During the 1920’s, in direct opposition to the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights lobbied President Calvin Coolidge to pressure the Mexican government to stop its persecution of Catholics in Mexico. Ultimately, the demands paid off, and an accord was reached between the Church and the Mexican government.
In the 1950’s, it was the Knights of Columbus that led the effort to have the words “under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance.
The organization continues to speak out on important social issues today, especially human life matters. Among the many notable Knights over the past 125 years were: Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Joyce Kilmer, Vince Lombardi, Al Smith, John F. Kennedy, Sargent Shriver, and Ron Guidry.
Knights councils are urged to arrange a church drive as part of the organization’s membership blitz on the weekend of March 24-25, the weekend prior to Founder’s Day.