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The Knights of Columbus

An Unheralded Gem Still Thriving in the Modern World

Many a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s will remember a Knights of Columbus – K of C – Fourth of July fireworks event, Christmas parties with Santa, parish pancake breakfasts, summer cookouts and family picnics. However, life got busier for many of us and memories of the Knights of Columbus faded into the background. Plus their historic colorful regalia and imposing leadership titles – Supreme Knight, etc., – seemed like a throwback to a bygone era.

But in reality, the Knights haven’t receded – they are still thriving and their numbers are growing worldwide. As of 2020, there were two million knights. Each member belongs to one of more than 16,000 local "councils" around the world. Although most of the councils are associated with an individual parish, the charitable work of the councils extends far beyond their church. Membership is restricted to adult male Catholics, but families are encouraged to become involved in the many activities offered by their council.

The Knights still hold their basic principles as guideposts: charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism. And their good works extend beyond solely Catholic charities to include many worthwhile causes such as Habitat for Humanity and The Special Olympics.

A few active members gave us the full story:

The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 in New Haven, Connecticut by an American priest, Michael J. McGivney. At the time, he saw the need for a society that could benefit working-class, immigrant Catholics who, facing discrimination, were regularly excluded from labor unions, popular fraternal organizations and other organized groups that provided social services.

Father McGivney started a small service organization whose mission was to not only meet the needs of immigrants and refugees but also support families suffering financial hardship from the death of a breadwinner. Word spread of the new source of help and the group quickly gained members, expanding from Connecticut throughout the United States, and ultimately throughout the world.

The Knights of Columbus Rock Creek Council encompasses six local parishes. Through the years the council has come up with creative ways to raise money to help others. Last year they held two youth chess tournaments with participants ranging from students in kindergarten to eighth grade. They raised around $1,700 to be donated to the Children’s Inn at NIH. According to Ivan Galic, the Grand Knight of the Rock Creek Council, “The kids love our chess tournaments and it is yet another way for our council to serve our community.”

Matt Hoyle is the Grand Knight of Mater Dei, the Knights’ council based at St. Raphael Parish in Rockville. He remembers that his father was a knight but it wasn’t until later when he met two college members of the Knights that he decided to join. Since then he has become very involved, which now numbers 180 men. This past June St. Raphael’s Garage-to-Attic sale raised more than $13,000 for local charities.

The Public Relations Director for the Maryland State Council of the Knights, Vernon Hawkins, Jr., has been actively involved in the Knights for more than 30 years. Vernon reports that the state council recently shipped 40,000 food packages to communities not only within the United States but also throughout the world. He is especially proud of the program called “Box of Joy” that is filled with various gifts for young children and distributed to schools and orphanages internationally. To date more than 7,000 children have been gifted with a “Box of Joy.”

From the very beginning, the Knights of Columbus was formed to provide financial aid to members and their families. Today the Knights make available to members the option of buying insurance from its wholly-owned insurance company, one of the largest in the world. The Knights of Columbus Asset Advisers is a money management firm which invests its clients’ money in accordance with Catholic social teachings.

The story of the Knights is proof that the need for good organizations that help children and the poor never goes out of style. In today's turbulent world, their work is needed now more than ever.

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