fraternal benefit societies came into being after the Civil War and by 1880
had grown quite popular. They
answered a real need--the need for affordable life insurance in an age when
the loss of a breadwinner frequently meant instant destitution for his family. Unfortunately for Catholics, the Vatican did not approve of
Catholics belonging to secret orders. And
poor Irish Catholics desperately needed the security the fraternal benefit
societies offered. One early solution was the formation of
Catholic branches of existing societies.
KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS
Michael J. McGivney, Founder of the Order
On October 2, 1881, Father Michael J. McGivney, 29-year-old assistant pastor
at St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Connecticut, brought together a group of
laymen with whom he discussed his dream for a Catholic fraternal benefit
society. It not only would assist widows and orphans of deceased members
through its life insurance program, but also would boost members' sense of
pride in their Catholic religion, then frequently challenged in the
anti-Catholic climate of 19th-century America. Father McGivney and his
associates met several more times over the next several months to continue
planning, and the new organization --the Knights of Columbus -- was formally
launched in early February, 1882.
The officers of the new Catholic organization chose the name Knights of
Columbus to honor Christopher Columbus, the Catholic discoverer of America.
The word knights is also significant. We are ever mindful of the knightly
qualities of spirituality and service to church that is embodied in the
Knights of Columbus. The Order has evolved into a service organization with a
strong family orientation. 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
Supreme Office, New Haven, CT
The Knights of Columbus remains headquartered in New
Haven, but is now present with nearly 12000 Councils in the United States,
Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, and several other countries. One of the
primary missions of the Knights of Columbus is to support local charities. The
Knights are a familiar sight around town during the annual Tootsie Roll®
drive, which raises funds for charities that support the retarded and
handicapped. We also support other fund raising drives to aid local parishes
and charities. The Knights of Columbus promotes family values by providing
numerous activities throughout the year that the entire family can participate
in. Additionally, the organization provides an opportunity to ensure that a
knight's family is provided for in the event of his death.
Hierarchical Structure of the Knights of Columbus
members of the Knights of Columbus are Brothers, and belong to a local
Council, and any group of at least thirty men may apply to found a new Council
in their area. The highest elected officer of each Council is the Grand
Knight, who, with the other Council Officers, is elected by the membership
each year. The Grand Knight appoints various Program Directors and Chairmen to
run the Council's activities for the year. All Council activities except
Membership activities, fall into one of five Program Areas, each with a
Director. The five Directors of Church Activities, Community Activities,
Council Activities, Family Activities and Youth Activities report to a General
Programs Director, who in turn reports to the Grand Knight. Several Councils
within the same geographic area are grouped together in a District under the
guidance of the District Deputy and his assistant, the District Warden.
The District Officers are appointed by the State Deputy, the highest elected
officer of the State Council. State Officers and Program Chairmen are
analogous to those at the Council level and coordinate the activities of all
the Councils throughout the State. Each Spring, the State Deputy hosts a
Convention to elect officers and conduct other State business. Every Grand
Knight and one elected Delegate represent every Council in the state at this
Convention. The highest level within the Knights of Columbus is the Supreme
Council, headed by the Supreme Knight. At the Supreme Convention each summer,
State Deputies and Representatives from each State, Territory, or Country meet
to conduct business concerning the international operation of the Order.
Ceremonials of the Order
There are four "Degrees" of Knighthood within the Knights of Columbus. The
initiation ceremonies into each of these Degrees (the ceremonies themselves
are also called "Degrees") are the only facets of the Order which are not made
known to non-members.
Each of the Degrees is designed to exemplify one of the four Principals of the
Order: Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. The Degrees must be taken in
order. Every applicant must take the First, or Membership, Degree before he
can be considered a Member of the Knights of Columbus. Once he has taken his
First Degree, he becomes a member in good standing in the Order. To reach full
Knighthood, members must also take the Second and Third Degrees, and all
members are strongly encouraged to do so.
Members must have taken the Third degree to be elected to Council offices or
to enter into the Fourth Degree. Once a man has been a member of the Knights
of Columbus for a year and has taken his Third Degree, he is eligible to join
a Fourth Degree Assembly. The Fourth Degree has its own structure separate
from that of the Council. Fourth Degree Assemblies gain their membership from
Third Degree members of several Councils within a larger geographic area. The
most visible members of the Order are often the Fourth Degree Color Corps,
with their colorful capes, chapeaux and sabers.
Fourth or Patriotic Degree
Another degree open to members of the Knights of Columbus is that of the
Fourth (or Patriotic) Degree. On February 22, 1900, the first exemplification
of that degree was held in New York City. The ritual added patriotism to the
three original principles of the Order: Charity, Unity and Fraternity. Any
Third Degree member in good standing, one year after the anniversary of his
First Degree, is eligible for membership in the Fourth Degree. The primary
purpose of the Fourth Degree is to foster the spirit of patriotism by
promoting responsible citizenship and a love of and loyalty to the Knights'
respective countries through active membership in local Fourth Degree groups
called assemblies. Fourth Degree members must retain their membership as Third
Degree members in the local council to remain in good standing. Certain
members of the Fourth Degree serve as honor guards at civic and religious
functions, an activity which has brought worldwide recognition to the Knights
of Columbus organization.
and Jewels of Council Officers
Council Officer has his own ceremonial robe and a metal emblem called a jewel
worn on a ribbon around the neck. Officers' robes are all of the general
design called the Columbus Robe. It is a flowing robe with inserted yoke,
usually white. The opening is in the back with invisible clasps. There are
inner or coat sleeves and outer or flowing sleeves. There is a standing
collar, open in front, and a cowl or hood. Three belt straps are provided
around the waist for a cincture or belt containing two tabs. The cincture is
worn so that the tabs hang down along the left side of the body, but not on
the hip. The tabs are ended in fringe. The mantle, as prescribed for the State
Deputy, Grand Knight and Chancellor, is a sleeveless coat with large arm
holes, and is worn over the Columbus Robe.
Chaplain provides spiritual guidance to the Council. His emblem is the Cross,
worn on a black ribbon. The robe, too, is black with black trimming and yoke
with white projecting collar. The cincture is black with silver fringe.
Grand Knight is the Chief Executive Officer of the Council and is responsible
for all aspects of Council operation. He presides over Council meetings and is
ex-officio member of all committees. His emblem, the Anchor carried on a
purple ribbon, is indicative of Columbus, the Mariner. It has also been a
variant form of the Cross for centuries. His is a royal purple robe with white
cincture with silver fringe. A purple mantle with white roll collar is also
The Deputy Grand Knight acts on behalf of the Grand Knight in his absence and
also serves as General Programs Director at Fr. Rosensteel Council. His
emblem, the Compass, was also used by Columbus, the Mariner. The Knights of
Columbus Compass, with its points being Charity, Unity, Fraternity and
Patriotism, is known as the Compass of Virtue; its 32 flame-like rays
represent the 32 virtues which may be possessed by men. It is hung from a
purple ribbon. His robe is the same as the Grand Knight, but without the
Chancellor is the third ranking Council Officer. He is in charge of Vocations
and indoctrinating new members into Council activities. At Fr. Rosensteel
Council, the Chancellor usually acts as Council Activities Chairman as well.
His emblem is the Isabella Cross, with Skull and Crossbones; it is worn on a
black over white ribbon. The Cross is self-explanatory, while the Skull and
Crossed Bones are symbolic of man's mortality. The Chancellor wears a black
robe trimmed with white and a white cincture with silver fringe. He also wears
a black mantle with white roll collar.
Financial Secretary records all money transactions, issues and collects bills,
issues membership cards, and is otherwise responsible for all financial
matters of the Council except those allocated to the Treasurer. His emblem is
a Crossed Key and Quill. The Key has always been associated with an office
concerned with money, safekeeping and secrecy. The Quill is the symbol of a
scribe - a record keeper - one who writes letters, documents, etc. This jewel
is worn on a white over yellow ribbon. His robe is black, trimmed with black,
and a white cincture with silver fringe.
Treasurer keeps all funds, maintains the accounts of the Council, and issues
Council checks upon receipt of a proper voucher from the Financial Secretary.
Crossed Keys worn on a blue ribbon are symbolic of his complete authority over
funds, particularly responsibility for their safekeeping. His robe is black,
trimmed with black, and a white cincture with silver fringe.
Warden assures that all members at meetings possess the current membership
card. He is custodian of all Council property except funds and is in charge of
properly setting up the Council Chamber. He directs the activities of the
Inside and Outside Guards. His emblem, an Axe Bound with Rods, known as a
Faces, was traditionally carried by the guards or protectors of Roman
magistrates as a symbol of authority. The Warden ideally has and exercises
that authority. The ribbon is colored red over black. His robe is black
trimmed with scarlet with a scarlet cincture with silver fringe.
Recorder keeps the minutes of the meetings, conducts correspondence as
directed by the Grand Knight, and keeps official historic documents of the
Council. In the absence of the Grand Knight and Deputy Grand Knight, he
presides at Council meetings. Crossed Quills hung from a white over yellow
ribbon are symbolic of his responsibilities for letter and document (records)
writing and preservation. His robe is black, trimmed with black, with a white
cincture with silver fringe.
Lecturer provides entertainment for the members after meetings, particularly
the second meeting of the month, which is our social meeting, and handles
certain other major social events of the Council such as Family Dinners. His
emblem consists of Lyre and Scroll. These are traditionally symbols of music
and literature and the arts. Hence, the Lecturer is in charge of
entertainment. His ribbon is white over blue. The Lecturer wears a black robe
with national blue trimming and blue cincture with silver fringe.
The Advocate is the Chief Legal Officer of the Council, resolving procedural
matters, acting as parliamentarian, and otherwise handling all legal
activities. His emblem is the Scroll with Crossed Sword hung from a yellow
ribbon. The Scroll is emblematic of legal literature and law, while the Sword
indicates the power to defend and enforce the law. The Advocate's robe is
black with golden yellow trim and yellow cincture with silver fringe.
Trustees (three in number) oversee the financial transactions of the Council,
review all bills and financial reports and audit the Council's financial
records semi-annually. Their emblems, Crossed Key and Sword, indicate this
financial authority and are worn on green ribbons. Trustees wear black robes
trimmed in green.
Inside Guard (1) and Outside Guards (2) are charged with the security of the
Council Chamber and assist the Warden in meeting the duties of his Office.
Their emblems, Crossed Key and Axe hung from a white ribbon, represent their
power as sentries at the door. Their robes are gray with black trim and yoke.
The cincture is also black with silver fringe.
Not only are the Knights of Columbus concerned about young adults being able
to attend college, as demonstrated through the scholarship and student loan
programs, but they have implemented a plan to allow Catholic young men to
associate with others through membership in a Knights of Columbus council on
their college campus. Membership in one of the nearly 140 college councils
offers the student an opportunity to associate with fellow Catholics, to
participate in an active campus organization and thereby accept positions of
It also enables him to become involved in the college and local community
through the activities and projects sponsored by the council. A national
conference of representatives meets annually to discuss the particular
situation of college councils and makes recommendations for the growth and
improvement of the college council program.
Members in college councils are encouraged to transfer their membership to the
community council in which they locate after graduation. Their field of
education and their experience as an active knight on the college campus can
be of substantial benefit to the local council into which they transfer.
Each year, reports of the annual survey of fraternal activity conducted for
the National Fraternal Congress of America reveal an impressive Knights of
Columbus donation of time, money and energy. In one recent year alone, for
example, with approximately 78% of all units reporting, the Order generated
$100 million and 43 million volunteer hours of service for charitable causes.
In the category of charitable or benevolent disbursements, including
assistance to the sick, handicapped, disaster victims, hospitals and other
institutions, civic and community projects, schools and libraries, the Knights
contribute in the area of $80 million, in addition to substantial amounts from
the Supreme Council.
Another $48 million is spent on activities, in addition to $12 million for
work with young people. The Knights also average 4.3 million visits to the
sick and bereaved, give 300,000 donations of blood, contribute 43.3 million
volunteer hours of community service and 6.2 million hours of labor for sick
or disabled members.
In a world where the golden rule - "Do unto others as you would have them do
unto you" - sometimes becomes "Do unto others before they do unto you," the
Knights of Columbus stands out as an organization that takes fraternity
The dictionary defines fraternity as "the state or quality of being brothers."
lt also describes it as a "group of men joined together by common interests"
or "a group of people with the same beliefs, interest, work." The Knights of
Columbus form real fraternity in all three senses. As practical Catholics,
Knights carry fraternity to the limits of love: unselfish service to their
Church, country, community and council.
Faith, fellowship, philanthropy. These are the distinguishing marks of the
Knights. This brief record of some of their achievements shows that they have
remained true to their heritage and that they have continued to build on it
for future generations.
CATHOLIC ORDER OF FORESTERS
Established in 1883 at Holy Family Parish
in Chicago, Catholic Order of Foresters (COF) fraternal insurance society
began as a way to offer financial support to families who suffered the loss of
a breadwinner. Back then, impoverished immigrants came seeking a better life
in the United States. When tragedy struck, friends and neighbors often
collected money to cover burial expenses and keep survivors from starving.
Those making burial collections gradually
formed associations, usually based on religious or ethnic background. These
associations became focal points for community life. Fraternal benefit
societies, such as Catholic Order of Foresters provide many needed social
services throughout the nation. They offer material and financial assistance
to individuals and communities in times of disaster and are often among the
first to respond. Responding to the 9/11 tragedy, fraternal benefit societies
raised and contributed more than $16.8 million.
COF’s Founders chose the name “Catholic
Order of Foresters” to symbolize true foresters who care for and protect
woodlands and natural resources. That is still Catholic Order of Foresters’
mission today—offering members not only financial security, but also
opportunities for spiritual, social, and charitable growth.
Today Catholic Order of Foresters ranks
among the largest not-for profit membership-based fraternal life insurance
societies in the United States. Headquartered in Naperville, Illinois, since
1983, Catholic Order of Foresters’ membership numbers more than 139,000
Catholics and their non-Catholic family members.
Unique added-value fraternal benefits
enhance COF membership, setting the society apart from commercial competitors.
These benefits include twenty $5,000 college scholarships awarded annually to
qualified members as well as ten $600 educational grants for post high school
education, as well as tuition assistance for member youth attending Catholic
school or religious education programs.
Catholic Order of Foresters also provides
its members with outstanding financial protection and security through quality
term and whole insurance and annuities. A field force of more than 300
professional agents, in 30 states and the District of Columbia, provides
customers with friendly, personal service.
Catholic Order of Foresters’ business
success allows the society to develop, support, and provide resources for
charitable and fraternal activities, as well as community, school, and church
outreach and programs. At the local level, COF members raise money for school,
parish, community, and humanitarian needs through the organization’s Matching
Funds Program of charitable giving. COF member groups (courts) may organize
fundraisers to support a food pantry, build a habitat for humanity home, and
help a family with a critically ill child by providing assistance with medical
Catholic Order of Foresters’ commitment of
service to those in need is further exemplified by nationwide fundraising
efforts during 2005 that enabled Catholic Order of Foresters to present
$100,000 to Catholic Charities relief efforts in the hurricane ravaged states
of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Catholic Order of Foresters is a
not-for-profit fraternal benefit organization with more than 139,000 members
nationwide. Operations are conducted through a field force of nearly 300
representatives in 30 states and the District of Columbia. COF ranks among the
largest fraternal benefit societies in the United States.
We are a trusted, century-old Catholic
fraternal society dedicated to providing our members with financial security
and opportunities for spiritual, social, and charitable growth.
We pledge to accomplish our mission guided
by the following principles:
Recognize our interdependency
and the need to work in partnership to secure the society's success.
Listen, communicate openly,
respect other's ideas, and encourage initiative.
willingness to change, fairness and compassion.
Foster, support, and provide
resources for charitable and fraternal activities, community, school, and
Offer opportunities for
personal and professional growth; honor other's achievements.
Respond to changing needs by
developing new products and fraternal benefits that ensure the society's
Maintain the highest standard
of quality and accuracy.
Respect life and uphold
Christian values and ethics.
140,000 members in 31 states.
Admits both Catholic men and
women on an equal basis, admits children and non-Catholic spouses and family
members on non-voting basis.
No longer uses ritual to
initiate new members.
No longer uses regalia,
passwords, or signs.
Sells fraternal items to
Members earning 50-year,
75-year, and Legion of Honor, Third Degree status receive commemorative pins.
Had three degrees: The Degree
of Protection, the Exalted Degree, and the Legion of Honor Degree
Catholic Order of Foresters
- A Fraternal Benefit Life Insurance Society Since 1883
http://www.CatholicForester.com • Toll-free: 800-552-0145 • TTY
CATHOLIC DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAS
The Catholic Daughters of the Americas was
founded in Utica, New York in 1903 by John E. Carberry and several other
Knights of Columbus as a charitable, benevolent and patriotic sororal society
for Catholic ladies. It was originally called the National order of Daughters
of Isabella," and is dedicated to the principles of "Unity and
Charity," the order's motto. In 1921, the order changed its name to
the Catholic Daughters of America (CDA). By 1928, the CDA had 170,000 members
in 45 states, Canada, Puerto Rico, Panama and Cuba.
In 1954, the order changed its name to the Catholic Daughters of the
Americas, with 115,000 Catholic Daughters in the 1,450 local units called
"courts" throughout the United States, Mexico, Dominican Republic,
Puerto Rico, Saipan, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. Its international
headquarters are located in New York City. It donates generously to several
charitable causes, provides scholarships, works with Habitat for Humanity, and
supports the aged and infirm retired Catholic clergy, and is very
OF DAUGHTERS OF ISABELLA
This is a ladies Catholic benevolent and
charitable society that was
established in New Haven, Connecticut in May 1897 originally a ladies
auxiliary to the Rev. John Russell Council of Order of Knights of
Columbus. It presently operates as an independent order. It is
open to women, 16 years of age or older, who are practicing members of the
The local units are called "Circles," with State Circles and
Circles governed by an International Circle. The order has 75,000 members and
is located in the United States and Canada. The Daughters of Isabella
headquarters are located in New Haven, Connecticut. Its motto is "Unity,
Friendship, Charity," and its emblem is similar to the Knights Templar.
It is a gold crown with the inscription "D. of I" with a red Cross
of Christ in its center. The Daughters of Isabella uses degrees that are
conferred on new members when they are initiated into the order.
CATHOLIC KNIGHTS OF AMERICA
The Catholic Knights of America was established by James J. McLoughlin
in Nashville, Tennessee in April 23, 1877. It is composed of 25,000 Knights
organized in local "Branches" (lodges) throughout the United States.
It is a fraternal, patriotic and benevolent insurance society. It has a
Uniform rank with plumed chapeaux, uniforms and swords similar to the Knights
Templar of the York Rite.
ORDER OF HIBERNIANS IN AMERICA
Established at St. James R. C. Church on Oliver Street in New
York City on May 4, 1836, the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America (AOH) is
a fraternal order of Catholics of Irish birth or heritage. Dedicated to the
principles of "Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity," the
order traces its origins to County Kildare, Ireland, where it was founded as
"The Defenders" by Rory O'Moore. Adopting the title of Ancient
Order of Hibernians in 1648, from the Latin literary name for Ireland, "Hibernia."
The AOH in America utilizes four degrees, the first being the Degree of the
Shamrock, and the remaining three are exemplified at the same time, usually on
a Sunday afternoon. There are presently 100,000 Hibernians organized in local
"Divisions" (lodges) throughout the United States and Canada.
President John F. Kennedy was a Fourth Degree Hibernian.
There are also the Ladies AOH, founded in 1898 in Omaha, Nebraska, Junior
Divisions for boys and girls, and the original parent body, the Ancient Order
of Hibernians Board of Erin, located in the Republic of Ireland, Northern
Ireland and Scotland.
members in the United States and Canada
B) Local Divisions governed by County Boards, with State Boards in the United
States and Provincial Boards in Canada, all governed by the National Board.
INTERNATIONAL ORDER OF ALHAMBRA
The Order of Alhambra was founded in on February 29, 1904, in Brooklyn, NY by
William Harper Bennett, principle author of the Fourth Degree ritual of the
Knights of Columbus. Originally limited in membership to Sir Knights of the K.
of C. Fourth Degree, the order is now open to all Roman Catholic gentlemen 18
years of age or older.
Using a Shriner-like organization with Moorish titles for its officers, the
"Sir Nobles" of the Alhambrans wear white fezzes, use a two-degree
form of initiation, are organized in local "Caravans" (lodges), and
are dedicated to the care and well-being of persons who are disabled from
This Irish Catholic fraternal order was founded in 1895 in Cleveland,
Ohio. Governed by a Supreme Council headed by the Supreme Sir Knight,
the order's local units are called "courts." It operates in New
York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.
The Knights of Equity utilizes a four-degree system of initiation. The first
degree is called the "Hall of Emania," and the symbols of this
degree are the scales of justice, signifying "equity with justice,"
and augmented by crossed, symbolizing "aggressive determination."
The second degree is called the "Hall of Curchan," named after a
seminary of learning and a burial place of Irish kings of Ulster. the emblem
of the degree is the Red Hand of Ulster and the O'Neill Clan.
The third degree is called the "Hall of Kincora," and is when a
receives the ceremonies of knighthood. Third Degree Knights of Equity are
called "Sir Knights." Its symbol, is the Celtic Cross, symbolizing
Christianity and Irish heritage.
The fourth degree is the "Hall of Tara," the ancient site of Irish
scholars, lawyers called "brehons," and warrior knights. Its symbol
is the shamrock, symbolic of the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Jesus Christ,
and the Holy Spirit.
There order is under the patronage of the martyred Saint Oliver Plunkett, the
Archbishop of Ireland who was hanged, drawn and quartered by the English on
July 1, 1681 in London for "treason against the crown."
The order's ladies auxiliary is the Daughters of Erin, founded on
October 9, 1954. It uses an initiation ceremony called the "Conversion at
KNIGHTS OF PETER CLAVER
The Knights of
Peter Claver is an African-American Catholic men's fraternal order that was
founded in Mobile, Alabama in 1909 by four priests of the Order of St. Joseph
(Josephite Fathers) and three Catholic laymen after African-American men had
been denied membership in a local Council of the Knights of Columbus.
The Order is patterned after the Knights of Columbus, and takes Saint Peter
Claver as their order's patron. Saint Peter Claver converted 300,000 slaves to
Christianity, and cared for and ministered to the slaves of the Spanish
colonies in South America in the 1600s. He brought slaves fresh food and
water, and brandy and tobacco for those who wanted it. He would preach
the Good News of the Gospel of Christ to the slaves and tried to comfort these
poor people in their misery. In his 44 years of ministry, Saint Peter Claver
is credited with performing many miracles, including the cure of leprosy.
The Knights and Ladies of Peter Claver is presently composed of 100,000 men
and women, 25% of which are white members. It is organized in local units in
47 states called Councils for the men, with Courts for the ladies, and
utilizes a four-degree ritual of initiation. It often cooperates with
the local membership of the Knights of Columbus, and both provide uniformed
honor guards for religious and patriotic occasions and processions. There is a
junior branch for young men and one for young ladies, making it a family
special "Thanks" to Brother Bart P. Snarf who provided the pictures
of the above jewelry and to
Brother Denis McGowan, Past Grand Knight, Henry J. Stolzenthaler Council No.
1675, and Sir Knight of Governor Thomas Dongan Assembly of the Fourth Degree,
Knights of Columbus.