The Knights support the efforts of the Church with programs of evangelization, educations, civic involvement and aid to the needy.
By Nicole Bowman
he Knights of Columbus, the largest lay organization in the Catholic Church, was founded in 1882 in New Haven, Connecticut by a 29-year-old parish priest, Father Michael J. McGivney. Currently numbering more than 1.6 million members, the Knights support the efforts of the Church with programs of evangelization, education, civic involvement and aid to the needy.
The influence of the Knights of Columbus, named in honor of Christopher Columbus who brought the Catholic faith to America, is widespread. With the reputation as "the strong right arm of the Church," it financed the restoration of the façade of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, as well as its historic Maderno Atrium. In the past decade, the Knights donated nearly $1 billion to numerous charitable causes and nearly 400 million hours of volunteer service.
In the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks, the Order established $1 million "Knights of Columbus Heroes Fund" for families of all full-time professional law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who lost their lives in rescue and recovery efforts. Those families will each receive $3,000.
As part of its educational and service mission, the Knights established Columbus University in Washington, D.C. in 1922 to encourage part-time and evening professional education for World War I veterans and others who could not afford full-time studies. The Columbus University School of Law merged with the Catholic University Law School in 1954. The newly-merged law school continued to operate in the Columbus University facilities in downtown Washington until 1966 when it returned to the Catholic University campus and the newly-constructed Leahy Hall.
The Knights have maintained a continuing relationship with the law school throughout its history. In 1989, the Knights of Columbus created the Bicentennial of the U.S. Hierarchy Fund to serve as a continuous gift to The Catholic University of America. The proceeds from this fund helped to finance the construction of the current law school building. In recognition of this contribution and the continuing relationship between the law school and the Knights, the courtyard at the campus entrance to the law building was named the Knights of Columbus Courtyard. The contribution of the Knights to legal education at CUA was memorialized with a plaque installed during the courtyard's dedication on October 2, 1994.
New Supreme Knight
Last October, Carl A. Anderson
became the Order's 13th supreme knight, the chief executive officer of the fraternal service organization. Since his appointment, he has met with Pope John Paul II and President George W. Bush, served as a reader - the only U.S. layman to participate - at the opening Mass of the World Synod of Bishops at St. Peter's Basilica, and he was appointed by the Pope as auditor to the synod.
Anderson is proud of the Knights long association with the CUA School of Law and looks forward to a strong relationship with the law school in the future. "As the world's largest Catholic fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus is committed to carrying out the mission of the laity to renew society articulated by the Second Vatican Council," he said. While this task is multi-dimensional, it necessarily implies a strong commitment to social justice and so we greatly value the work of legal education."
Prior to becoming supreme knight, Anderson served as supreme secretary. From 1987 to 1997, he was Knights of Columbus vice president for public policy in Washington, D.C. He is also the vice president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.
Anderson, an educator, attorney and corporate executive, served in the Executive Office of President Ronald Reagan as special assistant to the president and acting director of the Office of Public Liaison from 1983 to 1987. For two years prior, he was the legal advisor in the office of the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.
As an attorney, Anderson knows first hand the importance of combining faith with the practice of law. "Few things are more important than the successful integration of a person's faith with his or her work and this is especially true for the Catholic lawyer," Anderson said. "But it is not only a matter of faith; it is also a matter of reason. The Catholic tradition brings not only faith to bear on great moral questions, it also brings a well articulated tradition of natural law and moral philosophy grounded in respect for the dignity of each person. This is tremendously important today in a society as diverse as ours is since law can act as a bridge between persons of different faiths or of no faith."
Anderson holds degrees in philosophy from Seattle University and in law from the University of Denver. One of his five children, Carl Anderson Jr., is currently a law student at the School of Law.