By: Michele DiPasquale
The KOC is the largest Catholic-based Fraternal Organization in the world, with over 2 million members worldwide. Their purpose is dedicating themselves to promoting and organizing educational, charitable, religious, and social welfare contributions while providing aid and assistance to those in need (along with their families), and to provide insurance products and annuities to benefit members’ spouses and children.
Based on the four vital principles of charity, fraternity, patriotism, and unity, each branch of the Knights of Columbus focuses its efforts to support people in need in each church parish, community, state, and country.
The East Hanover Council of the KOC has 200 members and has been in service for 46 years. Some of the East Hanover KOC activities include an annual fundraising drive for people with intellectual disabilities, financial support for parish and community fundraising drives, and financial support for special circumstances like hurricane and wildfire victims. The KOC also provides the highest quality insurance, annuity, and long-term care products to its members and their spouses and children, along with many other fraternal benefits.
“The East Hanover Knights of Columbus also supports many social events for the community, like the annual St. Rose parish picnic, the East Hanover Easter egg hunt, and big participation in the Memorial Day and Columbus Day parades,” shared East Hanover KOC Grand Knight Andrew Liebhauser.
“Some of our events this coming Fall and Winter season are a fundraising Texas Hold-Em poker tournament on Sunday, October 6, 2019, and an annual East Hanover Christmas tree lighting with Toys for Kids on Sunday, December 1, 2019,” he said.
The Knights of Columbus began on October 2, 1881, when a small group of men and their 29-year-old parish priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, met in the basement of St. Mary’s Church on Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut. This group would form a fraternal society that would one day become the world’s largest Catholic family/fraternal service organizations known throughout the world.
The Knights of Columbus, while still searching for a name for their organization, felt that they were compelled by the quintessential representative of Christopher Columbus, the discoverer of North and South America, and the one who brought Christianity to the then “New World.” This title of the group would emphasize that it was a Catholic who discovered, explored, and colonized the North American continent. Simultaneously, “Knights” would signify that the membership embodied knightly ideals of spirituality and service to Church, country, and most importantly, to fellow men, women, and children in need.
The group was officially incorporated “The Knights of Columbus” on March 29, 1882, and has been praised by popes, presidents, and other world leaders for their support of programs of civic involvement, aid to those in need, and Catholic education.
By the end of 1897, the KOC was thoroughly rooted in New England, along the upper Atlantic seaboard, and into Canada. Within the next eight years, it branched out even more, including to Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Panama, Poland, Cuba, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas. All the members belong to many races and speak many different languages, yet they are of one mind and purpose and have dedicated themselves to the ideals of charity, fraternity, patriotism, and unity.
The Knights’ work is all about numerous programs and projects directed to the benefit of their fellow man. They also maintain that the involvement of the widows and children of deceased members in the activities of the KOC are crucial to the benefit of the organization. To that end, a resolution passed at the annual meeting of the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus in 1977 which called for the establishment of a committee in every unit of the KOC to be held responsible for keeping in contact with widows and dependent children of deceased members. Said children remain eligible for all educational benefits of the Knights of Columbus, such as student loans, and all the society’s fellowships and trusts.
The Knights of Columbus has a long and enviable tradition of providing aid for furthering Catholic education. As early as 1904, the KOC endowed a chair in American History at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and later, the Knights of Columbus provided an endowment of $500,000 for graduate fellowships which still reap benefits today.
Presently, there are many charitable works the KOC are involved in. Since 2014, the Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund has committed more than $17 million to aid persecuted Christians in Iraq, Syria, and the surrounding regions.
In 2016, the Knights of Columbus led a major advocacy and publicity campaign to support the U.S. congressional and state department declarations of ISIS’s genocide against Christians and gathered 140,000 signatures for a petition calling for the declaration of the genocide.
The Knights of Columbus has also advocated for U.S. government relief funds to be directed to those communities targeted for genocide by ISIS, which has executed thousands of Christians by barbaric methods, including crucifixions and beheadings. An ISIS-affiliated group had declared that Christians are their “favorite prey,” and ISIS members have organized the kidnapping and sale of Christian women into sexual slavery, while mass graves of Christians have been documented in Syria, and the KOC is committed to aiding in the relief of these atrocities.
Among the projects to which Knights of Columbus funding has been committed are the resettlement of the town of Karamles in Nineveh, Iraq; general humanitarian relief in Syria; new housing units built in Iraq; assistance for Christians targeted by ISIS in Egypt; assistance for Christian refugee programs in Lebanon and Jordan; food programs in Iraq; rental assistance for uprooted Christians in Iraq; and support for educational programs for displaced families.
KOC support for persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East is consistent with the Knights’ tradition of standing for religious liberty and diversity since its founding more than a century ago. Furthermore, the KOC was a vocal opponent of the Ku Klux Klan’s bigotry and led an international effort on behalf of Catholics being persecuted in Mexico in the 1920s.
To assist those affected by the persecution, the Knights of Columbus launched its Christian Refugee Relief Fund in August 2014 and has since raised more than $8 million.