While many know the story about how Fr. McGivney originally wanted to name the order “Sons of Columbus” and that it was James T. Mullen, the first Supreme Knight who suggested “Knights of Columbus” would better capture the ritualistic nature of the new organization. But, why take on the name Columbus at all? To get to the heart of this matter we must look at what was going on in America at the time of our founding. In the late 19th century there were many still divided over the outcome of the civil war, Catholics were regularly excluded from labor unions and other organizations that could provide social services to them and their families. Also, Catholics were usually barred from most of the popular fraternal organizations, or in the case of Freemasonry, forbidden from joining if one was truly living as a “Practical Catholic”. Fr. McGivney wished to provide Catholic men with a true alternative, believing that Fraternalism and Catholicism were compatible, he was determined to found a society that would encourage men to be proud of their Catholic – American heritage.
Fr. McGivney’s research into founding a fraternal order for Catholic men included research into both the Catholic Order of Foresters, a group out of Boston Massachusetts and the Catholic Benevolent League, of Brooklyn New York, however, both were lacking in either excitement or were not interested in expansion. Fr. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus 10 years before the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the New World, at that time there was a renewed interest in him and he stood as a hero to many American Catholics, naming Columbus as patron was partly done in order to bridge the gap between the Irish-Catholic founders of the Order and the other Catholic immigrants of other nationalities living in the region at the time. Naming Columbus the patron was also partially intended as a rebuke to Anglo-Saxon Protestant leaders, who upheld the explorer (a Catholic Italian working for Catholic Spain) as an American hero, but also simultaneously sought to marginalize recent catholic immigrants. In taking Columbus as our patron the Knights of Columbus would be sending the message that not only could Catholics be full members of American society, but we were in fact, instrumental in Americas discovery, exploration, founding and settlement.
As we enter the final quarter of our Fraternal Year, let us all remember the energy, vision and effort put into the founding and establishment of our great Order, take the initiative to play a part in helping its continuance by recruiting a new member this month.
Marybeth and I wish each and every one a most blessed and joyous Easter.
Scott A. O’Connor, State Treasurer – Florida State Knights of Columbus
Grand Knight Felix Hodges (954) 790-3023 [email protected]