Notes from speech given by Council Historian, William J. Giblin, PGK, PFN, FDD
At Councils One 125th anniversary dinner in 2007
October 2, 1881, Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.
- 80 men attended this first meeting in the basement of St. Marys Church, to discuss the formation of a Catholic, Benefit, and Fraternal Society at t he request of Father Michael J. McGivney who was a curate at St. Marys church.
- Twelve men after this meeting were appointed to formulate a plan association to operate upon Fraternal Benefit line and to apply to the State for at charter.
- Other meetings in the year 1881 were October 16, November 6, November 20, December 4, and December 18.
On February 2, 1882, in the basement of St. Marys Church, 60 men assembled, when the meeting was over, the New Society will be called Knights of Columbus.
- Daniel Colwell was appointed to prepare the necessary petition for a charter from the General Assembly of Connecticut.
The organization received its charter from the State of Connecticut on March 29, 1882
11 Men Founded the Knights of Columbus
Rev. Michael J. McGivney from St. Marys Church
Rev. Patrick Lawlor from St. Marys Church
Cornelius T. Driscoll from St. Marys Church
William M. Geary from St. Marys Church
James T. Mullen from St. Marys Church
John T. Kerrigan from St. Patricks Church
Dr. Matthew C. OConnor from St. Patricks Church
Daniel Colwell from Sacred Heart Church
Michael Curren from Sacred Heart Church
Thomas M. Carroll St. John the Evangelist Church
Bartholomew Healy St. John the Evangelist Church
On Oct. 2, 1881, a small group of men met in the basement of St. Mary’s Church on Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut. Called together by their 29-year-old parish priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, these men formed a fraternal society that would one day become the world’s largest Catholic family fraternal service organization.
They sought strength in solidarity, and security through unity of purpose and devotion to a holy cause: they vowed to be defenders of their country, their families and their faith.
These men were bound together by the ideal of Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of the Americas, the one whose hand brought Christianity to the New World. Their efforts came to fruition with the incorporation of the Knights of Columbus on March 29, 1882.
They were Knights of Columbus.
The Order has been called "the strong right arm of the Church," and has been praised by popes, presidents and other world leaders, for support of the Church, programs of evangelization and Catholic education, civic involvement and aid to those in need.
Father McGivney’s founding vision for the Order also included a life insurance program to provide for the widows and orphans of deceased members. The Order’s insurance program has expanded substantially to serve more effectively the Knights’ growing membership.
Year after year, the Knights of Columbus has earned the highest possible quality ratings for financial soundness from A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. The Order provides the highest quality insurance, annuity and long-term care products to its members, along with many other fraternal benefits.
The Supreme Council is the governing body of the Knights of Columbus and is responsible for the development of the organization as a whole. Supreme Council duties include establishing the Order in new regions and setting up regional authorities, defining and advancing its values and goals, undertaking organization-wide initiatives, promoting awareness of the Knights’ mission worldwide, and protecting the families of members through its extensive insurance program. Members working in local, or subordinate councils, however, carry on the majority of the Knights’ beneficial work.
A fraternal and beneficent society of Catholic men, founded in New Haven, Connecticut, 2 February, 1882, and incorporated under the laws of Connecticut, 29 March, 1882.
The organizers and incorporators were the Reverend M.J. McGivney, the Reverend P.P. Lawlor, James T. Mullen, Cornelius T. Driscoll, Dr. M.C. O'Connor, Daniel Colwell, William M. Geary, John T. Kerrigan, Bartholomew Healey, and Michael Curran.
The purpose of the society is to develop a practical Catholicity among its members, to promote Catholic education and charity, and, through its insurance department, to furnish at least temporary financial aid to the families of deceased members.
On 15 May, 1882, the organizers, as a Supreme Committee, instituted the first subordinate council, San Salvador, No. 1, New Haven. From this time on, subordinate councils were organized in the different cities and towns throughout the State of Connecticut, but it was not until 15 April, 1885, when a subordinate council was established at Westerly, Rhode Island, that the order was extended beyond the borders of the parent state. The Supreme Committee then enacted a law providing that a Supreme Council should be established, composed of the Supreme Committee and delegates from the subordinate councils, each council being entitled to one delegate for each fifty members. The number of delegates under this arrangement proving too large, the Supreme Council, on 14 May, 1886, resolved itself into a Board of Government, composed of the Board of Directors, formerly the Supreme Committee, and the Grand Knight and a Past Grand Knight of each subordinate council of the society.
Owing to the rapid growth of the society, the Board of Government, in 1892, provided for the organization of State Councils, composed of two delegates from each subordinate council in the state. On 29 April, 1893, the Board of Government was succeeded by the National Council, composed of the State Deputy and last Past State Deputy of each State Council, and by one delegate from every thousand members of the insurance class. In October, 1893, associate members were first admitted to the order. The establishment of the associate class was intended for those advanced in years, or unable to pass a physical examination, but has gradually been extended to comprehend all eligible men not desiring the insurance feature. On 22 February, 1900, the first instance of the fourth degree took place in New York City, when more than twelve hundred candidates from all parts of the United States received this degree.
The order is now established in every state and territory of the United States, in every province of Canada, in Newfoundland, the Philippine Islands, Mexico, Cuba, Panama. Councils are to be established in Puerto Rico and in South America. The membership, divided into two classes, insurance and associate, included, on 1 March, 1910, 74,909 insurance members, and 160,703 associate members, a total of 235,612. Insurance policies are issued for $1000, $2000, and $3000, to desirable risks between the ages of 18 and 60. The rate of each member increases every five years until the age of 60 is attained, after which he pays a level premium based upon his age at initiation. The society has paid to the beneficiaries of deceased members $4,438,728.74.
The Knights of Columbus have done notable work in promoting Catholic education and charity, providing education and homes for Catholic orphans, endowing scholarships in Catholic colleges, providing lectures on Catholic doctrine, endowing hospital beds, providing sanitoria for its sick members, maintaining employment bureaux, and, in general, performing the work of the apostolate of the laity. In 1904 the order presented to the Catholic University at Washington $50,000 for a chair of American History, besides several thousand dollars for library purposes, and is at present engaged in raising $500,000 to endow 50 scholarships in the University.
The work of lectures to non-Catholics on questions of Catholic teaching and belief has always appealed to the spirit of the order, and of late years has been taken up with no little success. Splendid results have attended the lectures so far delivered. They have led to a better understanding of the Catholic faith on the part of non-Catholics, and a more friendly attitude towards it; they have shown that bigotry is on the wane, and that the non-Catholic mind is open to conviction. The series of lectures delivered by the Right Reverend Bishop J.J. Keane of Cheyenne, Wyoming, in Denver, in 1909, inaugurated the work. At Cedar Rapids, Iowa, eighty-five per cent of the audience, at the lecture under the auspices of the Knights of Columbus, was non-Catholic. The work has been taken up successfully in Buffalo, Milwaukee, Houston, Los Angeles. It is a movement which does not aim at attacking any man's belief, but at building up charity among men "and", in the words of Bishop Keane, "bringing us all closer to God Almighty". In several cities the Knights have established Catholic libraries, and in many others have catalogued the Catholic books in the public libraries.
The erection of a memorial to Christopher Columbus, in the City of Washington, by the United States Government, is due in a measure to the work of the Knights of Columbus. "Columbus Day" (12 October), which is observed at present in fifteen states of the Union (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island), was instituted largely through the efforts of the Knights, who are now striving to make it a national holiday.
Publication information Written by Edward Hearn. Transcribed by Dennis McCarthy. In Memory of the Deceased Members of K. of C. Atlanta Council No. 660 The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York