Father Michael McGivney's Vision
The profound impact and success of the Knights of Columbus that has been realized for well over a century must be attributed to the vision of its founder Fr. Michael J. McGivney. During the latter half of the 19th century, Fr. McGivney witnessed serious social problems for which his fellow Catholic brethren faced, of which included anti-Catholicism, ethnic prejudice, under-employment, and familial poverty due to the loss of the “breadwinner.”
Fr. McGivney's solution was the creation of an organization of Catholic men who would join together for the following purposes:
- To aid their brethren in times of sickness or death by way of a simple life insurance plan, which would help families fight poverty upon the death of a loved one, particularly the breadwinner.
- To strengthen each other in their Catholic Faith;
- To strengthen family life;
- To be a pillar of support for priests and bishops;
- And to serve their Church and the community through aid to those most in need.
This organization, which became known as the Knights of Columbus, has succeeded in keeping Fr. McGivney's vision alive through the bonds of four principles: Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism. These principles have become central to the ceremonial themes of the organization, each of which represents a “degree” that members achieve upon completion of its corresponding ceremony.
First Degree: Charity
As the first principle of the Order, knowledge and works of Charity are required by all members of the Knights of Columbus. While each local council demonstrates Charity in their own ways, they do so through the imitations of Christ's teaching; mainly, through the love for their neighbor.
Our council in Harrison, AR, named Msgr. Adam A. Micek Council #8410 in honor of the priest who played a central role in the founding of our council, demonstrates acts of Charity by supporting our home parish, seminarians in our diocese, and charities throughout the city of Harrison. Each year, our Knights log thousands of hours volunteering and raise thousands of dollars for numerous charities.
Second Degree: Unity
Through Unity comes strength. For no one of us can be as great as all of us. It was through this understanding that Fr. McGivney's Knights were successful in remaining steadfast in Faith through the face of rampant anti-Catholicism during his time. Today, the Knights of Columbus unite to support each other in Charity and Faith, while also using the Order's strength to speak out for religiously-grounded moral values in a culture that has forsaken them. The Knights of Columbus fight for the less fortunate and the unborn, using its strength to foster in a culture of life.
Third Degree: Fraternity
At the heart of fraternity is the successful life-insurance plan offered exclusively to members of the Knights of Columbus. The Knights of Columbus life-insurance plan, one of the most successful in the world, has aided families of brother Knights through the most trying of times. In the 19th century, life-insurance was not an option for poor Catholics and social services were nonexistent. The simple life-insurance plan offered by the Knights of Columbus, then and now, has provided a way for even the poor to have some financial security in the event that a loved one dies.
Fourth Degree: Patriotism
While not officially a founding principle of the Order, patriotism played a central role in the Knights' purpose. The Order was founded to emphasize that Catholics are proud of their Faith and country. The Order's name was chosen as a reminder that Catholics were the backbone and bulwark of America's growth and greatness from its beginnings.
As the visible arm of the Knights of Columbus, “Sir Knights,” as they are called, remind those in public as well as private that Catholics support their nations and are dedicated citizens.