After the Great War, the Knights of Columbus continued its charitable work, offering education and employment services to returning servicemen. In less than two years, the Knights of Columbus Bureau of Employment placed some 100,000 people in jobs. The Order’s presence in Europe continued in August 1920, when a delegation of 235 Knights made a pilgrimage to Rome, Pope Benedict XV invited them to build several recreation centers for Roman youth. The architect of these centers, Count Enrico Galeazzi, went on to serve as the Knights’ representative in Rome for more than six decades.
Throughout the 1920s, the Order’s anti-defamation work also continued. When the Ku Klux Klan and other “nativist” and anti-Catholic groups launched campaigns to make students attend public schools, Church leaders enlisted the Knights’ support. The K of C Historical Commission, meanwhile, worked to overcome racial prejudice in American society, publishing books on the contributions of African-, Jewish-, and German-Americans.
The Great Depression initially had hurt the Order’s membership and finances, but it also led to a renewed sense of volunteer service.
1920: Two years after launching educational, vocational and employment programs for World War I veterans, more than 50,000 students are enrolled in K of C-sponsored evening school programs across the United States and Canada. The Order also launches a correspondence school.
1920: 235 Knights sail from New York City to France. In Paris, they are greeted by Church and civic authorities, who thank the Knights for their WWI work. In Metz, a large equestrian statue of the French Revolutionary War hero Lafayette, funded by the Knights, is unveiled. The K of C delegation continues to Rome, where it is received in a private audience with Pope Benedict XV on Aug. 28, 1920.
1923: In response to the passage of laws in Oregon prohibiting children under 16 from attending private schools, the Knights work to overturn the law. In 1925, the Supreme Court declares the Oregon law unconstitutional.
1924: In response to a request from Pope Benedict XV, the Knights opens St. Peter’s Oratory, the first K of C recreation center for youth in Rome. Four more are established between 1924 and 1927.
1925: The Knights’ Rome youth work stimulates interest in similar projects in North America, and the Columbian Squires program is established. Brother Barnabas McDonald consults with the Knights on the creation of the Squires. The institution of the first Squires circle takes place at the Supreme Council meeting in Duluth, Minn.
1926: Supreme Knight Flaherty, Deputy Supreme Knight Martin H. Carmody and other K of C officers meet with President Calvin Coolidge about the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico. The Order launches a $1 million educational campaign to influence American public opinion on the need for a strong stand against the Mexican government’s attacks on the Church. It takes more than 10 years for the tensions to ease.