The Knights of Columbus
The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded by 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, including various political causes, and are participants in the new evangelization. The current Supreme Knight is Carl A. Anderson.
As of 2018, there are 1,967,585 members around the world. Membership is limited to practicing Catholic men aged 18 or older. The order consists of four different degrees, each exemplifying a different principle of the order. The nearly 15,000 councils, including over 300 on college campuses, are chartered in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Philippines, 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.
Pope John Paul II referred to the order as the “strong right arm of the Church” for their support of the church, as well as for their philanthropic and charitable efforts. In 2018, The Knights gave US$185,682,989 directly to charity and performed over 75,640,244 man-hours of voluntary service.
The Knights are also well known for their insurance program with 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 Fortune 1000 list. The order also owns the Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors, a money management firm that invests in accordance with Catholic social teachings.