The Knights of Columbus was founded in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882 in the basement of St. Mary's Catholic Church by Father Michael J. McGivney and a handful of Catholic laymen. The aim of the founder and those first members was to set up a parish-based lay organization that offered insurance benefits. In an era when parish and fraternal societies were popular, Father McGivney felt there should be some way to strengthen the religious faith of his flock and provide financial support for families overwhelmed by illness or the death of the breadwinner.
Today we have grown from that one local unit, or council, to nearly 11,000 councils in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Guatemala, Guam and Saipan.
Membership is nearly 1.6 million dues-paying members plus their families - approximately 4.5 million people total - many of whom are actively involved in volunteer service programs for the Catholic Church, their communities, their families, young people and one another. In 1996, members reported 48,966,132 hours of volunteer service and donated $105,976,102 to charitable and fraternal projects.
The early system of fraternal benefits has grown into a top-quality life insurance society, offering a variety of policy plans to members and their families. Both A. M. Best Co. and Standard & Poor's rate K of C insurance "Superior" - A++ and AAA, respectively - their highest designations.
The Knights of Columbus, the world's largest organization of Catholic men and their families, has been called "the strong right arm of the Church," and has been cited by popes, presidents and other world leaders for support of the Church, for programs of evangelization and Catholic education, for civic involvement and aid to those in need.
"Protecting Families for Generations" is a motto that captures the Knights' adherence to the legacy of its founder and fidelity to his vision.