The Knights Of Columbus was the dream of Father Michael McGiveney. The idea for the organization arose in response to the problems which were plaguing the Irish immigrants living in the New England area. Father McGiveney was concerned with the image of the Irish people as drunkards and the poverty which they were forced to endure. His vision was to organize the Irish immigrants to raise their image of themselves by swearing off liquor and by providing a vehicle to insure that the widows would have enough money to bury their husbands upon their deaths.
The first organization meeting was held in the basement of St. Mary's Church, New Haven, CT. From these modest beginnings has grown the largest Catholic lay organization in the world today. Our ranks have grown to over 1.5 million members meeting in over 10, 000 councils. These 10, 000 local councils are the backbone of the order.
The order functions on three different levels: The local council level, and the state and supreme levels in pyramid fashion. The local level councils are organized into districts of 4 to 5 councils. The district concept is intended to provide forums for councils in the various geographic areas to meet to discuss ideas particular to their area. The state council represents the next level in the organizational chart. It is intended to provide direction to the local councils on projects and ideas of state wide concern. The supreme council is the highest level which is intended to provide organization and guidance, on an international level, on issues affecting our faith and our society.
With all of the structure and organization, the local councils remain the most important unit in The Knights Of Columbus. These councils spring from local parishes or communities. Members band together out of concern for their parish or to further the goals and ideals of our church and our nation in community based councils. Whatever the motivation for instituting a council the underlying principals remain the same: God, country, and family.
From our humble beginnings has grown and insurance company designed to service the needs of our members just as our founder originally envisioned. The insurance company currently has over $17 billion of coverage in effect and it ranks in the top 100 of the nation's insurance companies while enjoying one of the highest ratings of any life company according to A.M. best, considered by the insurance industry to be the foremost authority when it comes to rating insurance companies.
In short, we are extremely proud of our contributions to our church, our community and our nation. We have accomplished a great deal but there is still more that needs to be done, witness our fight to protect the rights of the unborn and the handicapped. We vow to continue our fight in the hope that one day all of the citizens of this great nation will be treated with the dignity and respect that is guaranteed by our constitution. As in every struggle, however, we need help. New members bring new ideas and enthusiasm. If you are a Catholic man over 18 years of age who can identify with any of the programs I have touched upon today or would like to help is in our unending struggle we welcome you and we offer you, in return, an opportunity to feel good about yourself. Pride in one's self and his community can not be bought. It can only be earned. We offer you that opportunity.
The members of The Knights contribute annually over 27 million man hours of volunteer work in their communities while contributing in excess of $80 million to charitable and benevolent causes.
As a state, we provide educational assistance to the children of our members in the form of scholarships and loans. We contribute to the PA association of retarded citizens, giving over $200,000 to the organization last year alone.
On a local level we, at De La Salle council 590, sponsor a string band which plays for nursing homes and other worthwhile organizations and events, regardless of the organization's religious affiliations.
We provide food for the needy of our community at Thanksgiving and Christmas and provide mush needed financial support to The Deborah Heart And Lung Hospital.