KANSAS CITY — The Missouri Knights of Columbus are offering all men in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph an opportunity to learn more about the Order on two upcoming weekends. At Masses the weekend of Feb. 11-12, a letter from Bishop Robert W. Finn about the Knights of Columbus will be read, and the following weekend, Feb. 18-19, Knights will be available at each parish to answer questions about membership and the programs offered by the 130-year-old Catholic service organization.
In October, 1881, Father Michael J. McGivney called the men of his parish to a meeting in the basement of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn. With Father McGivney, the men formed a fraternal society as a way of supporting and helping immigrant families, at that time mostly Irish, in times of sickness and death. The goal was to ensure that families would not face poverty in the event of the death of their husband and father, the breadwinner. The society they founded would one day become the world’s largest Catholic family fraternal service organization.
In Feb. 1882, the organization adopted the name, Knights of Columbus. The title of Knights paid tribute to the faith, courage, strength and patriotism of medieval knights. As their patron, the members chose Christopher Columbus, the Catholic explorer who brought the faith to the New World, emphasizing their pride as Catholic Americans.
Today there are more than 14,000 active Knights councils spanning the globe.
Since their beginnings, the Knights have protected the families of their parishes. The Knights of Columbus is one of the largest life insurance companies in North America, with more than $53 billion of insurance in force.
The Knights of Columbus serve their church and the global community through fund raising, vocations support and strengthening family life through a variety of activities in accordance with the church’s social teaching. In 2010 alone, the Knights donated more than 70 million hours of volunteer service and $154 million in charitable contributions. The Order is also one of the strongest proponents of the sanctity of human life, with its own pro-life initiatives plus assistance and financial support to pro-life programs of bishop’s conferences in nations where Knights of Columbus councils exist.
The 260 Missouri Knights of Columbus Councils have proven through the years to be leaders in the Order with their charitable donations and hours of service, evangelization, protection of families and programs for the men and their families.
In a letter written last year to Catholic men of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop Robert W. Finn, a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus, said he was “excited to share a great and wonderful opportunity” for Catholic men “to answer the call to a life of service” by becoming a Knight of Columbus.
“As a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus,” the bishop wrote, “I have personally witnessed the tremendous work that these men accomplish in this Diocese. However there is much work which needs to be done in the name of charity. I strongly encourage each man in this Diocese, who considers himself to be a practicing Catholic and is at least 18 years old, to prayerfully consider joining the ranks of this fine organization.”
Missouri Knights proudly sponsor numerous programs, including the Religious Information Bureau, which promotes evangelization of the faith and the annual Drive for People with Developmental Disabilities, the “Tootsie Roll Drive,” which benefits the Knights of Columbus Developmental Center at Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis.
Through the Msgr. Mancuso Catholic Education Program, each year more than $40,000 is donated to parish schools and religious education programs. Through the vocations programs, funds are raised for each diocese to provide aid and support to seminarians as well as priests and parishes.
Knights of Columbus Family and Youth programs promote family life and education through scholarships, youth opportunities, essay and poster contests, Soccer and Free Throw competitions, and countless athletic tournaments and programs.
The Meet Life Campaign is the newest Missouri Knights of Columbus initiative. Through this campaign, the state councils have been challenged to reduce abortions in Missouri by 50 percent by 2016. A joint effort of the Missouri Knights of Columbus, the Vitae Foundation and In His Image Ultrasound, the goal is to raise $2 million to offer pregnant women the opportunity to meet their unborn child with a free ultrasound screening.
In his letter last year, Bishop Finn wrote encouraging men to visit with the Knights of Columbus and consider joining “in our mission to promote Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. I promise the experience of a lifetime.”