The Relationship Between The Knights Of Columbus and Baltimore
The roots of the Knights of Columbus in Baltimore are deep, predating the organization’s founding in St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., in 1882. They go back to the humble beginnings of a seminarian studying in the way of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the teachings of the Catholic Church while attending St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. That seminarian – Michael McGivney – was later ordained a priest on Dec. 22, 1877, by then-Archbishop James Gibbons at the Baltimore Cathedral of the Assumption.
Baltimore was an integral step in the spiritual development of the Venerable Father McGivney, who founded this fraternal order of Catholic men that would become the largest in the world.
And once founded, it did not take long before the first council was established in the very Catholic city of Baltimore.
In 1896, Thomas H. Cummings, a national organizer for the Knights, received the blessing of Cardinal James Gibbons — the same man who ordained Father McGivney 19 years earlier — to establish this first council. On Feb. 21, 1897, Baltimore Council 205 was instituted, with William J. O’Brien as the charter grand knight. O’Brien eventually became the first state deputy of Maryland, and served on the Order’s Board of Directors from 1898-1899.
Interest in the Knights quickly spread, with several other councils receiving charters before the turn of the century — including Marquette Council 380 and Santa Maria Council 370. By 1910, the six councils in Baltimore formed the Baltimore Chapter of Grand Knights and flourished as a significant aspect of the city.
Today, there are 37 councils in the city, and 79 total in the Baltimore Archdiocese.
The city’s roots in the organization remain strong, with Archbishop William E. Lori, the Knights’ Supreme Chaplain, also serving as the archbishop of Baltimore. He was elected Supreme Chaplain in April 2005.
Last December, Archbishop Lori participated in the “Coats for Kids” distribution conducted by councils in Baltimore, giving more than 1,000 coats to children in need. The initiative echoes back to the early 20th century when the Baltimore councils celebrated Christmas by providing gifts to orphans in the area.
The history between Baltimore and the Knights of Columbus is inseparable. Father McGivney called it home when his vocation to the priesthood was solidified over 140 years ago; and the city’s influence lives on in the current leadership of the organization and in its four foundational pillars of charity, fraternity, unity and patriotism.