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    1961-1978 A Transformed Church

    The early 1960s marked a period of transformation and upheaval for the Church and society, as the Second Vatican Council convened, and the civil rights movement emerged in full force.

    At the 1966 Supreme Convention, Supreme Knight John W. McDevitt said it was time to see the Order as more than just “a fortress” for its members in a world hostile to the Catholic faith. In revising its admission policies and supporting several social justice initiatives, the Order took positive steps to eliminate racial discrimination.

    During this time, the Order’s insurance program began a period of dramatic growth. The amount of insurance in force tripled from $1 billion to $3 billion from 1960 to 1975. And in 1969, the Knights built its seventh national headquarters, its current location, to better serve the Order’s members and their families. 

    1961 (left image): On Oct. 11, 1961, Supreme Knight Hart visits President John F. Kennedy — the first Catholic president — in the White House. Kennedy, a Fourth Degree Knight, reportedly greets Hart by saying, “Hello, Chief.”

    1963: In the spring of 1963, Hart attends a special White House meeting of religious leaders to discuss civil rights.

    1964: Supreme Knight John W. McDevitt takes office. His first priority is to amend the Order’s admission policies to counter charges of racial discrimination.

    1965: In April 1965, the Order co-sponsors with the Archdiocese of Hartford a Conference on Human Rights at Yale University in New Haven. More than 2,000 people attend.

    1966: Supreme Knight McDevitt visits the Vatican Transmitting Center for the blessing of a new shortwave radio transmitter donated by the Knights. Pope Paul VI blesses the transmitter.

    1969: The present Supreme Council headquarters is completed. Its four 320-foot towers symbolize the Knights’ four principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.

    1969: The Order publishes a booklet on Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical affirming the Church’s teaching on marriage and procreation.

    1971: The Order marks the achievement of $2 billion of insurance in force; today that figure is more than $113.5 billion.

    1975: The Order agrees to fund “uplink” transmissions for major worldwide satellite telecasts from the Vatican; the program continues to this day with audiences estimated in the billions for Midnight Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica.

    1977: Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant begins his administration with a visit to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where he places the Knights of Columbus under the Virgin Mary’s protection.

    1978: Beginning this year, each new First Degree Knight receives a rosary blessed by the supreme chaplain, a practice that continues to this day.

    1978: Pope John Paul I receives Supreme Knight Dechant and other K of C representatives in the pontiff’s first private audience after his election.

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