In October 1881, Father Michael J. McGivney, curate of St. Mary's parish in New Haven, Connecticut gathered a small group of men at a meeting in the basement of St. Mary's Church. His purpose in calling them together was manifold: to help Catholic men remain steadfast in their faith through mutual encouragement; to promote closer ties of fraternity among them; and to set up an elementary system of insurance so that the widows and children of members in the group who might die would not find themselves in dire financial straits.
Father McGivney and the first officers of the fledgling organization chose the name "Knights of Columbus" because they felt that, as a Catholic group, it should relate to Christopher Columbus, the Catholic discoverer of America. This would emphasize that it was Catholics who discovered, explored and colonized the North American continent. At the same time "Knights" would signify that the membership embodied knightly ideals of spirituality and service to Church, country and fellowman.
On March 29, 1882, the Knights of Columbus was chartered in the State of Connecticut.
By the end of 1897 the Order was thoroughly rooted in New England, along the upper Atlantic seaboard and into Canada. Within the next eight years it branched out from Quebec to California, and from Florida to Wahington.
From such promising beginnings Father McGivney's original group has blossomed into an international society of more than 1.5 million catholic men plus their families, in more than 10,000 councils who have dedicated themselves to the ideals of Columbianism: Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism.