- The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 by Venerable Father Michael McGivney, a parish priest, in New Haven, Connecticut. The organization was formed to provide charitable outreach and care for the financial well-being of Catholic families, focusing on the protection of widows and orphans, and on strengthening the faith of its members.
- The Knights of Columbus is dedicated to four principles: charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.
- As leaders in service, the Knights set a new record for charitable donations in the 2017-18 fraternal year, with more than $185 million in donations and more than 75 million hours of service valued at $1.8 billion.
- Since its founding in 1882, the Knights of Columbus has grown to 1.96 million members in 15,900 councils throughout the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Guatemala, Guam, Saipan, Lithuania, Ukraine, and South Korea.
- K of C insurance in force is currently more than $100 billion.
- Over $875 million has been distributed to members over the years.
- The Knights of Columbus is ranked on the Fortune 1,000 list of America’s largest companies (878).
- In 2018, the Knights of Columbus was named a World's Most Ethical Company® by Ethisphere Institute for the fifth consecutive year.
History and Legacy
- In 1917, the Order’s War Activities Committee opened service centers for soldiers (“K of C Huts”) in training camps and behind the lines of battle. Following the war, a K of C welfare program for servicemen was established, serving as a model for similar efforts after World War II.
- In the 1920s the Knights successfully opposed Ku Klux Klan efforts to force Catholic school children out of parochial schools in a legal battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- The Knights of Columbus was the leading proponent of the addition of the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. The U.S. Congress passed a resolution amending the Pledge of Allegiance and, in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law. Later that year, he wrote a letter to the Order thanking the Knights for their efforts in this change.
- The Order has a long history of promoting faith in sports with legendary athletes Babe Ruth, Vince Lombardi and Floyd Patterson being among our more prominent Knights. Others include James J. Braddock (“Cinderella Man”), James Connolly (First Olympic Medal Winner in Modern Times) and Connie Mack.
- In politics and public service, notable members include former President John F. Kennedy, co-founder of Special Olympics and the first director of the Peace Corps Sargent Shriver and former New York Governor Al Smith.
- The Knights created the Knights of Columbus Vicarius Christi Fund, the earnings of which are conveyed annually to the Holy Father for his charities. Since its inception, this fund has generated more than $57.6 million for the pope’s good works.
- The Knights of Columbus has strongly supported the Catholic priesthood having contributed over $71 million to more than 117,000 seminarians and postulants, since 1981, through the Refund Support Vocations Program.
- The Knights have assisted the Vatican with the maintenance of St. Peter’s Basilica’s priceless art and the construction of new chapels in its crypt grotto. These efforts included the restoration of the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica in 1985.
- Since its inception in 2009, the Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids Program has distributed close to 400,000 new winter coats to underprivileged children throughout North America.
- The Knights of Columbus has raised more than $18 million, of which more than $16 million has been distributed to support Christian refugees in the Middle East through the Christian Refugee Relief Fund; the Knights has also advocated on their behalf in Washington, D.C., leading to the U.S. State Department’s formal declaration that genocide is being committed by ISIS against Christians and other religious minorities.
- For the past four years, the Knights of Columbus has partnered with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, to help wounded service members and veterans participate in the Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage, as part of the Annual International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes.
- Through the Ultrasound Initiative, which began in 2009, state and local Knights of Columbus councils have teamed up with the Supreme Council to fund over 829 ultrasound machines, valued at over $40 million, for placement in pro-life pregnancy care centers in all 50 states, as well as in Canada, Guatemala, Jamaica, and Peru.
- Since 1968, the Knights of Columbus has raised and donated more than $600 million to programs for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. Special Olympics ranks among the top beneficiaries that receive larger annual gifts of time and money from the Order.
- The “Healing Haiti’s Children” program, in partnership with Project Medishare, has provided young victims of the 2010 earthquake with prosthetic devices and ongoing therapy, enabling them to return to school or work.
- In partnership with the Global Wheelchair mission, Knights funded the cost of more than 64,000 wheelchairs for handicapped individuals throughout the world.
- Together with the Apostles of Jesus, the Knights of Columbus has sponsored the construction of schools and food distribution centers for AIDS orphans in Kenya and Uganda.
- In 2015, the Knights of Columbus partnered with charity: water, an NGO whose mission is to bring clean and safe drinking water to communities most in need in developing nations. The Knights sponsored the development of 10 new water wells in Ethiopia, directly impacting the lives of over 2,000 people.
- The Knights of Columbus has given $1.4 million to repair or help rebuild churches that were destroyed or badly damaged in the late summer hurricanes of 2017 that assaulted Texas, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- Knights of Columbus Charities raised $3.8 million for disaster relief in the months following the 2017 hurricanes. More than $720,000 was used to pay for food, water and other critical supplies. On a local level, many Knights took the initiative to rescue those stranded by rising waters and to help neighbors in a variety of ways.
- The Knights donated $100,000 to the Archdiocese of San Juan and provided generators, food, water and other necessities to aid relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
- When Typhoon Haiyan struck central Philippines in late 2013, the Supreme Council approved $860,000 for humanitarian relief.
- The Knights of Columbus led a multimillion-dollar recovery effort in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The Order was one of the first organizations to provide financial support to families of fallen first responders following the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.