In the late 19th century, many Catholic men were straying away from their faith because of a growing prevalence of fraternal benefit societies, anti-Catholicism, and harsh working conditions that left many families fatherless. A young 29-year-old assistant pastor Father Michael J McGivney at St Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn recognized a spiritual need for the men of his parish. On October 2, 1881 he gathered a group of men and he proposed establishing a lay organization to unite Catholic men, as an alternative from joining secret societies that were antithetical to Catholic teaching and to support families of deceased members. Beatification of Father Michael McGivney | Knights of Columbus (kofc.org)
1882: The first members of the Knights of Columbus held a meeting on February 6, 1882 where they discussed and appointed a committee of 5 to develop by-laws of the new Catholic group. Also at this meeting, they selected Christopher Columbus as their patron, as a symbol of allegiance to their country which did not conflict with allegiance to their faith. At that time Christopher Columbus was recognized as a Catholic and celebrated as the discoverer of America. Finally, on March 29, 1882 the Knights of Columbus was incorporated.
1886: By the end of his four-year tenure as the first Supreme Knight, James T. Mullen oversaw the growth of the Knights of Columbus from one Council at St Mary’s Church to 38 councils in New England. His successor envisioned the Knights destiny as a national society. The founding principle of charity and unity were first established in 1885, later in 1990 fraternity and patriotism was added in 1900.
1990: Father McGivney died on August 14, 1890 of pneumonia at the age of 38 from the Flu pandemic of 1889-1990.
1992: The Order passed laws allowing non-insurance members to join.
1985: Archbishop Francesco Satolli, apostolic delegate to the United States bestowed a Vatican acknowledgment and apostolic blessing, writing a letter extolling the “merits of this splendid Catholic organization”.
1887: On November 25, 1897 the first council outside the United States was charted in Montreal Canada.
2014: On June 10, 2014, Saint Katharine of Siena Council #15982 was charted through the encouragement of Monsignor Hans Brouwers.
2020: On October 31, 2020, Father Michael J McGivney was beatified. He is the first parish priest in the United States with that honor. See the miracle associated with his beatification: MIRACLE FOR MIKEY (kofc.org)
2021: Today the Knights of Columbus has over 2 million Catholic men and 16,424 councils throughout the world. In 2019, the Knights donated more than $180 million to Charity and 77 million man-hours of charitable work. The Knights of Columbus is one of the largest life insurers in North America, and the largest Catholic life insurer in the world with a A+ (superior) rating by A. M. Best.