His Legacy: The Knights of Columbus
"In fidelity to the vision of Father McGivney, may you continue to seek new ways of being a leaven of the Gospel in the world and a spiritual force for the renewal of the Church in holiness, unity and truth."
-- Pope John Paul II,
welcoming Knights of Columbus Board of Directors to Rome in October, 2003
© Knights of Columbus Museum
Through the Knights of Columbus, Father McGivney gave Catholic laymen a new opportunity – the chance to grow in holiness while contributing to their parishes, communities and the security of their families. Today, more and more Church leaders are recognizing his spiritual genius in animating the laity.
The Knights of Columbus has grown to more than 14,000 local units in the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Guatemala, Guam and Saipan. Over the past decade, Knights have raised and donated nearly $1.4 billion to charity and given nearly 653 million hours in humanitarian service.
Knights have donated countless hours of service and over $508 million to programs and charities advancing the cause of intellectually and physically disabled individuals, including $61 million to Special Olympics, which the Knights have partnered with since the games began in 1968. In 2003, the Order began a collaboration with the Global Wheelchair Mission, which provides durable, low-cost wheelchairs to those in need. To date, Knights in the United States and Canada have sponsored the distribution of some 20,000 wheelchairs in nearly 20 countries. The nature of most service by Knights is determined locally. Knights in Illinois, for example, have devised a sophisticated system for providing interest-free financing for group homes for people with developmental disabilities; councils in the Philippines regularly conduct free medical and dental clinics for the poor.
Recently, the Knights have given an immense amount of aid and support to the victims of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake and the 2005 Katrina and Rita Hurricanes.
In response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which ended the lives of over 316,000 people and left over a million people homeless, the Knights organized a donation project and initiated their “Helping Haiti’s Children” campaign. The donation project contributed more than $500,000 in aid, as well as 1,000 wheelchairs for the disabled. After this initial contribution, the Knights of Columbus joined forces with Project Medishare to aid the numerous Haitian Children left disabled after the earthquake. The program, backed by a $1 million commitment from the Knights of Columbus, provides free prosthetics and a minimum of two years of rehabilitation to every Haitian child who lost a limb in the calamity.
The Knights of Columbus conducted an unprecedented relief effort in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The effort included both immediate and spontaneous responses from local councils in the Gulf region and a national effort by the Supreme Council headquarters in New Haven, Conn., to raise needed funds and coordinate the efforts of state councils throughout the U.S. and Canada. In total, more than $10 million was donated to Gulf States relief efforts and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours were donated by individual Knights. The money donated by the Knights of Columbus program was used in a multitude of different ways, including food, medicine, clothing, home repairs and the rebuilding of the Catholic school infrastructure.
Wherever they exist, Knights continue the tradition of support for bishops and parish priests exemplified by Father McGivney. Each year tens of thousands of Catholics attend the Marian Hour of Prayer programs, rosary prayer services, and Knight-sponsored, pro-life Masses.
Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal benefit society offering low-cost life insurance to immigrant families facing destitution if a breadwinner died. Today the Knights of Columbus has more than $86 billion of life insurance in force. Its insurance program has received the highest possible ratings from both the A. M. Best Co. and Standard & Poor's.