* Charity is the KC’s first principle and its lifeblood. Through our charitable work we bring the love of God to our neighbors, to our communities and to those most in need. We speak through our actions to the truth that every life has dignity and meaning. Through charity, we strengthen our own faith through our love of neighbor and evangelize those around us through this witness. We show ourselves to be protectors of God’s gifts and we invite others to join us in protecting those gifts.
In 2012, volunteer time donated by Knights of Columbus climbed to a new record high, reaching 70,113,207 hours. Independent Sector values each hour donated in 2012 at $22.14. Knights last year donated an average of $91.33 and 38 hours of their time to charity with our Order. Time donated by Knights to charity in 2012 was worth over $1,552,000,000, and the value of the more than 673 million hours donated in the past decade totals more than $13,348,000,000.
* The emblem of the Knights of Columbus dates from the 2nd Supreme Council meeting in May 1883, when James Mullen, who was then supreme knight, designed it. The emblem consists of a shield mounted upon the Formee cross (having the arms narrow at the center and expanding toward the ends). The shield is that associated with a medieval knight. The Formée cross is the representation of a traditional artistic design of the cross of Christ through which all graces of redemption were procured for mankind. This represents the Catholic spirit of the Order.
Mounted on the shield are three objects: a fasces (a bundle of rods bound together about an ax with the blade projecting) standing vertically and, crossed behind it, an anchor and a dagger or short sword. The fasces from Roman days, carried before magistrates as an emblem of authority, is symbolic of authority which must exist in any tightly-bonded and efficiently operating organization. The anchor is the mariner’s symbol for Columbus, patron of the Order, while the short sword or dagger was the weapon of the Knight when engaged upon an errand of mercy. Thus, the shield expresses Catholic Knighthood in organized merciful action, and with the letters, K of C, it proclaims this specific form of activity.
* In the late 19th century, Catholics were regularly excluded from labor unions and other organizations that provided social services. In addition, Catholics were either barred from many of the popular fraternal organizations, or, as in the case of Freemasonry, forbidden from joining by the Catholic Church itself. Fr. Michael McGivney wished to provide Catholic men an alternative. He also believed that Catholicism and fraternalism were not incompatible and wished to found a society that would encourage men to be proud of their American-Catholic heritage. Thus, the Knights of Columbus was born.
* The primary motivation for Father McGivney’s establishment of the Knights of Columbus was to be a mutual benefit society. As a parish priest in an immigrant community, McGivney saw what could happen to a family when the breadwinner died. He had to temporarily leave his own seminary studies to care for his family when his father died. It was this experience that made him want to provide insurance to care for the widows and orphans left behind. Shown at left is the K of C headquarters building in New Haven, CT.
* McGivney had originally conceived of the name “Sons of Columbus”, but James T. Mullen, who would become the first Supreme Knight, successfully suggested that “Knights of Columbus” would better capture the ritualistic nature of the new organization. The Order was founded 10 years before the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the New World, and in a time of renewed interest in him. Columbus was a hero to many American Catholics, and the naming him as patron was partly an attempt to bridge the division between the Irish-Catholic founders of the Order and Catholic immigrants of other nationalities living in Connecticut.
* The Knights of Columbus is a member of the International Alliance of Catholic Knights, an organization which includes 15 fraternal orders in 27 countries and 6 continents. The orders include such names as the Knights of Saint Columbanus in Ireland, the Knights of Saint Columba in the United Kingdom, the Knights of Peter Claver in the United States, the Knights of the Southern Cross in Australia and New Zealand, the Knights of Da Gama in South Africa, and the Knights of St. Mulumba in Nigeria. The Supreme Knight or National President of each Member Order form an International Council which meets biennially and provides a forum in which the leaders of the Orders discuss matters of common concern.