Mary and Her Knights
One of the defining characteristics of the Knights of Columbus is its members’ deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Every Knight receives a rosary when he joins the Order and is encouraged to turn to Mary as his own Mother, so that she may lead him closer to her Son.
Historically, Knights have expressed filial devotion to Mary under various titles, especially Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas and of the Philippines, and the Immaculate Conception, likewise patroness of both the United States and the Philippines. The Order has been marked from the beginning by special reverence for Our Lady, demonstrated by prayer, pilgrimages, evangelization and education initiatives, and acts of charity. In particular, Knights have been ardent apostles of the holy rosary, spearheading numerous rosary distributions and prayer programs to promote this most powerful Marian devotion.
Chronicling many of the most significant Marian initiatives and related events in the Order’s history, the following timeline shows that the Knights’ identity stems directly from a steadfast and faithful embrace of Mary’s “yes.”
1882 Father Michael J. McGivney founds the Knights of Columbus while serving as assistant pastor of St. Mary’s Church.
1905 Supreme Knight Edward L. Hearn visits Mexico City to install the officers of Guadalupe Council 1050, the first council established in Mexico.
1911 Knights of Columbus leaders present a rosary of gold nuggets to Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore in celebration of his golden jubilee.
1917-18 During World War I, Knights of Columbus send thousands of rosaries and scapulars overseas to troops fighting in Europe as part of wartime support efforts.
1919 The Order sponsors its first military pilgrimage to Lourdes. In response to popular demand, the Knights of Columbus also publishes A Guide to Lourdes.
1931 The administrators of the Shrine of Guadalupe bestow the “Golden Rose of Tepeyac” on Supreme Knight Martin Carmody and Supreme Secretary William J. McGinley in recognition of their service to Mexican Catholics.
1939 In response to the mounting conflict in Europe, Supreme Knight Francis P. Matthews writes a letter to all of the Order’s chaplains asking that councils sponsor a “Public Prayer for Peace.” During World War II, councils throughout the nation sponsor Rosaries for Peace.
1939-1945 During World War II, Canadian Knights provide all chapel supplies for Catholic chaplains, including prayer books and rosaries.
1944 Missouri K of C advertising campaign is launched, which runs informational ads in newspapers to dispel ignorance of Catholic teachings regarding the sacraments, purgatory and the role of Mary.
1945 Guadalupe Council 1050 in Mexico City participates in the golden jubilee observance of the solemn coronation of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
1946 California Knights conduct a pilgrimage to the Guadalupe Shrine.
1947 The Order launches its Catholic Advertising Program, which grew into the present-day Catholic Information Service.
1947 Knights escort replicas of Our Lady of Fatima on a North American pilgrimage of peace, visiting more than 250 cities in Canada and the United States in honor of the 30th anniversary of the final apparition at Fatima.
1954 In honor of the first Marian Year declared by Pope Pius XII, the supreme convention is held in honor of the Blessed Mother, under the title Marian Year Supreme Council Meeting.
1955 Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart visits the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Order’s presence in Mexico.
1956 Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton, the “Rosary Priest” known for promoting family prayer, is named the Order’s first honorary Fourth Degree member.
1959 The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is dedicated Nov. 20. The Order had contributed $1 million for the construction of the basilica’s bell tower, known as the Knights Tower.
1960 The Running of the Silver Rose begins as an initiative of the Columbian Squires to symbolize the program’s devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Multiple silver roses make cross-continental pilgrimages from Canada, through the United States, and into Mexico.
1963 On July 7, Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle of Washington blesses the Mary Bell and consecrates the carillon of 56 bells in the Knights Tower at the National Shrine. Supreme Knight Hart remarks that the tower will give evidence “of the undying loyalty of our members to Mary, Mother of God.”
1970 A living rosary program, featuring a 120-foot rosary, is launched by Archbishop Francis P. Keough Council 5263 in Odenten, Md.
1973 Our Lady of Lourdes Council 5890 in Washingtonville, N.Y., sponsors its first annual pilgrimage to Lourdes for children with physical or intellectual disabilities.
1977 At the beginning of his administration as supreme knight, Virgil C. Dechant places the Order under Mary’s protection during a visit to the National Shrine.
1978 Beginning this year, each new First Degree Knight receives a rosary blessed by the supreme chaplain, a practice that continues to this day. Supreme Knight Dechant’s strong devotion to Mary results in the free distribution of more than 500,000 rosaries in the first five years of his administration.
1978 The Knights of Columbus hosts a Rosary Rally in conjunction with the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
1979 The Order establishes the Luke E. Hart Fund, earnings from which are forwarded annually to the National Shrine for the promotion of Marian devotion and ordinary upkeep.
1979 The Order launches its first Marian Prayer Program and distributes images of Our Lady of Guadalupe to all councils.
1981 Supreme Knight Dechant concludes arrangements with Archbishop Lino Zanini, delegate for the Fabbrica di San Pietro the office of administration of St. Peter’s Basilica for the enlargement of the chapel of Our Lady of Częstochowa.
1981-82 The Order holds its second Marian Prayer Program, in honor of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
1982 The Order restores St. Mary’s Church, birthplace of the Knights.
1983 Now 101 years old, the Order consecrates itself to the Blessed Virgin at the start of its second century.
1983 At 101st Supreme Convention, the Order resolves to establish a $150,000 fund for the benefit of the Mexican Pontifical College in Rome, Italy, to be known as the Our Lady of Guadalupe Fund.
1984-85 The Order conducts a third Marian Prayer Program, this time dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
1986-87 The Our Lady of Częstochowa Marian Prayer Program highlights the traditional Polish devotion to Mary.
1987 In honor of the Marian Year declared by Pope John Paul II, the 105th Annual Supreme Convention is held under the banner “Pilgrim Virgin, Pilgrim Church, Pilgrim Pope.”
1988-89 The Our Lady of Pochaiv Marian Prayer Program commemorates the millennial anniversary of Christianity in Ukraine.
1989 The Mary, Mother of the Church Chapel at the USCCB headquarters in Washington, D.C., is dedicated. The chapel was made possible by a $2 million grant by the Supreme Council.
1990 In collaboration with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, the Order sends 10,000 rosaries to the Middle East along with cards explaining how to pray the rosary.
1991 The Knights of Columbus underwrites Pope John Paul II’s first Saturday Rosary for Peace.
1990-91 The Our Lady of the Assumption Marian Prayer Program coincides with the 40th anniversary of the dogmatic definition of the Assumption.
1993 During the 111th annual meeting of the Knights of Columbus, the supreme chaplain rededicates the Order to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
1993-94 The Holy Family Marian Prayer Program is conducted during the International Year of the Family.
1995-96 As bishops prepare to meet at a special Synod for America, the Order holds a second Marian Prayer Program honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe.
1997 Our Mother of Africa Chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C., is dedicated. The Order contributed $100,000 to its construction.
1997-98 The Our Lady of the New Advent Marian Prayer Program highlights the Order’s preparation for the third Christian millennium. It features an icon that was presented to Pope John Paul II during the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver.
1998 Pope John Paul II receives the Board of Directors in audience and blesses a mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe commissioned from the Vatican Mosaic Studios for the Knights of Columbus Museum.
2000 More than 12,000 Knights and family members attend the Knights of Columbus Jubilee Year Mass and pilgrimage at the National Shrine on April 1, 2000. The event includes praying the rosary with Pope John Paul II live via satellite from Rome.
2001 Four months after his election, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson dedicates his administration to Our Lady of Guadalupe at her basilica in Mexico City.
2000-01 An Our Lady of Guadalupe Marian Prayer Program features the mosaic that was blessed by Pope John Paul II a year earlier.
2001 At the 123rd Supreme Convention, the Order announces that March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, will be observed annually as the Knights of Columbus Day of the Unborn Child.
2002-03 The Our Lady of the Rosary Marian Prayer Program, featuring the Virgin of the Rosary by 17th-century Spanish painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, is dedicated to peace in the world.
2002-04 The Knights of Columbus funds the restoration of two Marian chapels in St. Peter’s Basilica: the Chapel of the Bruised Madonna (Madonna della Bocciata) and the Chapel of Our Lady of Expectant Mothers (Madonna delle Partorienti).
2003 The Order co-sponsors a tour of a relic of San Juan Diego’s tilma throughout the United States.
2003 In cooperation with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, the Order sends 10,000 rosaries to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
2005 The Order opens Villa Maria Guadalupe, a pro-life retreat center in Stamford, Conn., operated by the Sisters of Life.
2005 Our Lady of Bai Dau Statue Pilgrimage is launched by Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Council 9655 in Arlington, Va.
2006 In honor of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the Order co-sponsors an essay contest with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
2006 The Knights of Columbus announces a $1 million gift to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for a mosaic dome in the Upper Church.
2006 The Arizona Knights of Columbus become sole sponsors of “Rosary Sunday” (now called the “Arizona Rosary Celebration”), the largest and longest continuous rosary event held in a public venue in the United States.
2007-08 The Order conducts a Marian Prayer Program dedicated to Our Lady of Charity, a 400-year-old Cuban Madonna.
2007 To commemorate the 475th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Order sponsors a speaking tour featuring Msgr. Eduardo Chávez, an expert on the Guadalupe apparitions and the postulator for the cause of canonization of St. Juan Diego.
2007 At the Rosary Bowl in Pasadena May 19, Supreme Knight Anderson says that Our Lady of Guadalupe and the rosary are the bonds that unite Catholics in North, Central, and South America, the “Catholic Hemisphere.”
2008 The Catholic Information Service publishes A Guide to Praying the Rosary.
2009 The Order hosts the first International Marian Congress and Guadalupe Festival, gathering about 20,000 participants in Phoenix, Ariz.
2009 Supreme Knight Anderson and Msgr. Chávez co-author the book Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love (Doubleday).
2010 The Order sponsors the Rosary of Guadalupan Love at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
2011 For the fourth time, a Marian Prayer Program dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe is launched.
2011-12 The Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Conn., hosts the exhibit “Full of Grace: Crowned Madonnas from the Vatican Basilica.”
2012 The Knights of Columbus co-sponsors the Guadalupe Celebration with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Order also funds a new chapel to Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.
2012 An International Congress on Ecclesia in America is held in Rome Dec. 10-12. The event is co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, and organized with the Institute for Guadalupan Studies in Mexico City.
2012-13 The Supreme Council underwrites the restoration of the ancient fresco paintings of the Madonna of the Column (Madonna della Colonna) and Our Lady of Help (Madonna del Soccorso), two revered Marian images in St. Peter’s Basilica.
2013 The Order launches its latest Marian Prayer Program, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception and featuring an image from the Basilica-Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Québec.
2013 In May, the 55th International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes is co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.
2013 The Knights of Columbus Board of Directors attends the Papal Mass for the Year of Faith “Marian Day” Oct. 13. The original Fatima statue is carried in procession by various groups, including a Fourth Degree honor guard.
2013 A Pilgrimage and Meeting titled “Our Lady of Guadalupe: Star of the New Evangelization on the American Continent” and co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America is held Nov. 16-19 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City.
2013 The Catholic University of America and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception award the Patronal Medal Dec. 9 to Supreme Knight Anderson for his distinguished service in the advancement of Marian devotion, theology and appreciation of the place of Mary in the life of the Catholic Church.