With more than 1.7 million members, the Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic lay organization. We are men of faith, comprising over 13,000 Knights of Columbus councils at home and overseas. Guided not only by our belief in God and the Catholic Church, but by our belief in each other, and in ourselves. We believe that a man is defined by his actions as a follower of God and as a leader in his community.
The Knights of Columbus was founded in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882 in the basement of St. Mary’s Catholic Church by Fr. 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 12,500 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 over 1.68 million dues-paying members plus their families – approximately 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.
The Knights of Columbus, at all levels of the organization, contributed a record high aggregate $130 million to charitable efforts and volunteered more than 61 million hours of personal service to the Catholic Church, community projects and youth programs in 2003. The figures are based on reports of activity received from 73 percent of Knights of Columbus councils, Fourth Degree assemblies, Columbian Squires circles and other jurisdictional entities responding to the Knights’ annual Survey of Fraternal Activity.
From 1994 to 2004, the Knights gave more than $1.1 billion and volunteered 545 million hours. Independent Sector estimates that the dollar value of a volunteer hour in 2003 was $17.19. Using that figure, 545 million hours of volunteer service was worth $9.3 billion!
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.
Broward’s first Catholic Church was dedicated in December of 1922, under the guidance of Father G.J. Plunkett. The church was built from formidable gray stone hauled in from quarries in northern Florida. Saint Anthony was originally located on the northeastern corner of Third Avenue and East Las Olas Boulevard. At that time there were 65 Catholic families located in the area.
When the church was originally built there was ample space to cater to all its members with room to spare. Two masses were held each Sunday morning during the Season and one during the summer months.
Some 2,000 people called Fort Lauderdale home in 1921. Two years later, the town had grown to more than 3,000 souls. By 1926, the city’s population had increased to 13,000.
Then in September of 1926 a violent hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour devastated the southeastern coast from Miami to Pompano Beach.
The population had dropped to approximately 8,600.
However, as the 1930’s ended, the number of winter tourists flocking to Fort Lauderdale proved too great for the 250 seats in the gray stone Saint Anthony Church on Las Olas Boulevard.
In August of 1946, Msgr. John J. O’Looney announced that the Saint Anthony community would raise $350,000.00 to build a new church that would accommodate more than 1,000 people. This new church would be built on the corner of northeast third street and northeast ninth avenue.
On June 6, 1948, Bishop Thomas J. McDonough of Saint Augustine presided that Sunday at the laying of the cornerstone for the new Saint Anthony Catholic Church. Elaborate ceremonies marked the occasion, with a sealed copper box containing the history of the church to this day and the current state of affairs in the world and in this area to be placed therein for posterity.
On February 6, 1949, Bishop McDonough made another trip to Fort Lauderdale to formally dedicate the new Saint Anthony Church. It was a great day for the community of more than a thousand people who attended the Solemn High Mass and dedication ceremony.
Saint Anthony parish proved itself a nurturing and maternal community of faith as Broward’s “mother church” – spawning new parish churches to meet the spiritual needs of the county’s skyrocketing population in central and northern Broward.
Saint Anthony Church stands as a beacon of faith and hope to all who gather here to worship our Lord.
Charity – Our Catholic faith teaches us to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Members of the Knights of Columbus show love for their neighbors by conducting food drives and donating the food to local soup kitchens and food pantries, by volunteering at Special Olympics, and by supporting, both spiritually and materially, mothers who choose life for their babies. Knights recognize that our mission, and our faith in God, compels us to action. There is no better way to experience love and compassion than by helping those in need, a call we answer every day.
Unity – None of us is as good as all of us. Members of the Knights of Columbus all know that – together – we can accomplish far more than any of us could individually. So we stick together…we support one another. That doesn’t mean that we always agree or that there is never a difference of opinion. It does mean that – as a Knight of Columbus – you can count on the support and encouragement of your brother Knights as you work to make life better in your parish and community.
Fraternity – The Venerable Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, in large part, to provide assistance to the widows and children left behind when the family breadwinner died – often prematurely. The Order’s top-rated insurance program continues to do this today, as do individual Knights, who last year gave more than 10 million hours of their time to assist sick and/or disabled members and their families. In the Knights of Columbus, we watch out for and take care of one another.
Patriotism – Members of the Knights of Columbus, be they Americans, Canadians, Mexicans, Cubans, Filipinos, Poles, or Dominicans, are patriotic citizens. We are proud of our devotion to God and country, and believe in standing up for both. Whether it’s in public or private, the Knights remind the world that Catholics support their nations and are amongst the greatest citizens.