Founded by Father Michael J. McGivney, curate at St. Mary's parish in New Haven, CT, the Knights of Columbus was chartered on March
29, 1882, in the state of Connecticut.
As the priest explained to a small group of men at a meeting in the basement of St. Mary's
Church in October 1881, his purpose in calling them together was manifold: to help Catholic men remain steadfast in their faith through
mutual encouragement; to promote closer ties of fraternity among them; and to set up an elementary system of insurance so that the
widows and children of members in the group who might die would not find themselves in dire financial straits.
The founder and
first officers of the fledgling organization chose the name “Knights of Columbus” because they felt that, as a Catholic group, it
should relate to Christopher Columbus, the Catholic discoverer of America. This would emphasize that it Catholics who discovered,
explored, and colonized the North American continent. At the same time “Knights” would signify that the membership embodied knightly
ideals of spirituality and service to the Church, country and fellowman.
By the end of 1897, the Order was thoroughly rooted
in New England, along the upper Atlantic seaboard and into Canada. Within the next eight years it branched out from Quebec to California,
and from Florida to Washington.
From such promising beginnings, Father McGivney's original group has blossomed into an international
society of more than 1.7 million Catholic men plus their families, in nearly 14,000 councils who have dedicated themselves to the
ideals of Columbianism: Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. Cumulative figures show that during the past decade, the Knights
of Columbus has donated nearly $1.25 billion to charity, and provided in excess of 593 million hours of volunteer service in support
of charitable causes
Today members of the Order are found in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Phillipines, Puerto Rico,
Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Guatemala, Guam, Saipan, and Poland. They belong to many races and
speak many different languages. They are diverse, yet they are one. Their diversity spells creativity; their unity spells strength.