The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization, founded in the United States in 1882 by an Irish-American Catholic priest, The Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney. He gathered a group of men from St. Mary's parish for an organizational meeting on October 2, 1881 and the Order was incorporated under the laws of the U.S. state of Connecticut on March 29, 1882. Though the first councils were all in that state, the Order spread throughout New England and the United States in subsequent years.
The primary motivation for the Order was to be a mutual benefit society. As a parish priest in an immigrant community, McGivney saw what could happen to a family when the breadwinner died, and wanted to provide insurance to care for the widows and orphans left behind. He had to temporarily leave his seminary studies to care for his family when his father died. In the late 19th century, Catholics were regularly excluded from labor unions and other organizations that provided social services. In addition, Catholics were either barred from many of the popular fraternal organizations, or, as in the case of Freemasonry, forbidden from joining by the Catholic Church itself. McGivney wished to provide them an alternative. He also believed that Catholicism and fraternalism were not incompatible and wished to found a society that would encourage men to be proud of their American-Catholic heritage.
McGivney had originally conceived of the name "Sons of Columbus", but James T. Mullen, who would become the first Supreme Knight, successfully suggested that "Knights of Columbus" would better capture the ritualistic nature of the new organization. The Order was founded 10 years before the 400th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the New World, and in a time of renewed interest in him. Columbus was a hero to many American Catholics, and the naming him as patron was partly an attempt to bridge the division between the Irish-Catholic founders of the Order and Catholic immigrants of other nationalities.
Today there are more than 15,000 councils around the world, and the Knights of Columbus is a multi-billion dollar non-profit charitable organization. Knights distribute Tootsie Rolls to raise funds to fight developmental disabilities, volunteer for the Special Olympics and other charitable organizations, erect pro-life billboards and "Keep Christ in Christmas" signs, conduct blood drives and raise funds for disaster victims, and parade at patriotic events with their red capes, feathered chapeaux, and ceremonial swords.
The Supreme Council is the governing body of the Order and is composed of elected representatives from each jurisdiction. The Supreme Council acts in similar manner to shareholders at an annual meeting, and each year elects seven members to the Supreme Board of Directors for three-year terms.
State Councils in each of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, each province in Canada, and other jurisdictions carved out of member countries are led by State Deputies and other officers elected at state conventions. Territorial Deputies are appointed by the Supreme Knight, and lead areas not yet incorporated into State Councils.
District Deputies are appointed by the Supreme Knight upon the recommendation of the State Deputy, and oversee several local councils, each of which is led by a Grand Knight. Other elected council officers include the Deputy Grand Knight, Chancellor, Warden, Recorder, Treasurer, Advocate, Guards and Trustees. A Chaplain is appointed by the Grand Knight and a Financial Secretary by the Supreme Knight.
|Grand Knight||Vince McCormick|
|Financial Secretary||Gene Avilla|
|Deputy Grand Knight||Michael Griffin|
|Inside Guard||Lonny Eschler|
|Outside Guard||Mike Rosa|
|One Year Trustee||Todd Holzhauser|
|Two Year Trustee||Dan Montague|
|Three Year Trustee||Kevin MacGilvery|
|Trustee at Large||Ray Bachiller|