The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded by Father Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882, it was named in honor of the explorer Christopher Columbus. Originally serving as a mutual benefit society to working class and immigrant Catholics in the United States, it developed into a fraternal benefit society dedicated to providing charitable services, including war and disaster relief, actively defending Catholicism in various nations, and promoting Catholic education. The Knights also support the Catholic Church’s positions on public policy issues, and are participants in the New Evangelization.
There are 1,918,122 members in nearly 15,000 councils, with 302 councils on college campuses. Membership is limited to “practical” (meaning practicing) Catholic men aged 18 or older, and consists of four different degrees, each exemplifying a different principle of the Order. The Order is a member of the International Alliance of Catholic Knights. Councils are chartered in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and around the world. The Knights’ official junior organization, the Columbian Squires, has more than 5,000 circles, and the Order’s patriotic arm, the Fourth Degree, has more than 2,500 assemblies. The current Supreme Knight is Carl A. Anderson.
Pope John Paul II referred to the Order as the “strong right arm of the Church” for their support for Church doctrines and Church communities, as well as for their philanthropic and charitable efforts. In 2015, the Order gave over US$175 million directly to charity and performed over 73.5 million man-hours of voluntary service, part of the $1.55 billion given to charity over the past 10 years. The Knight’s insurance program has more than 2 million insurance contracts, totaling more than US$100 billion of life insurance in force. This is backed by $21 billion in assets as of 2014. This places it on the Forbes 1000 list.
Knights of Columbus Headquarters
1 Columbus Plaza
New Haven, CT 06510