How to join the Knights
he Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal charity organization. It was founded in 1882 by Fr. Michael J. McGivney (1852-1890) in New Haven, Connecticut at a time when Catholic families were discriminated against: men were turned down by fraternal organizations and couldn't get life insurance for their families, and widows were often left penniless since husbands couldn't get good paying jobs. The Knights sought to improve this situation by taking care of widows and orphans, and provide a means for Catholic men to get insurance. Today, the Knights of Columbus donate over $150,000,000 worldwide to various causes every year and volunteer millions of hours of labor through over 16,000 councils around the globe. The insurance arm of the Knights has over $100 billion worth of insurance in force and continues to garner the highest ratings in the industry.
We strongly encourage you visit the Supreme Council's site which goes into great detail about our Order.
To join the Knights you must meet three qualifications: be a "practical" Catholic man (go to Mass on Sundays, practice the Sacraments), be in communion with the Holy See (be in agreement and good standing with the Church), and be 18 years or older. While not required, a healthy desire to help others is good to have as well.
Council 971's territory covers several churches in Santa Cruz County: Holy Cross, Our Lady Star of the Sea, St. Joseph's in Capitola, The Shrine of St. Joseph (Oblates), and St. Vincent de Paul in Davenport.
Annual dues are $40. The initiation fee for the First Degree Exemplification is $15. Annual dues are prorated for new members. If you cannot pay due to financial hardship yet want to be an active knight, the council will make special arrangements. If you happen to be disabled in some way, you may qualify for a dues waiver. Priests are exempt from dues.
You get to know some really great guys! Aside from the company of selfless men doing good works, you will get a free subscription to the monthly Colubmbia magazine. You will also be eligible for the great Knights of Columbus insurance (which includes life insurance, long-term care, and annuity products). Higher education scholarship programs are available to members, their spouses, and their children. A Mass of Remembrance is said every day at St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Connecticut (the birthplace of the Order) for deceased members and their wives. Widows of members eat for free at all Council 971 dinners. You will be part of a global organization, where you will be welomed as a brother in any of 15,000 councils around the world. If you've put in 25 years with the Knights and are 70-years-old or older, your annual membership becomes free. There are other benefits as well.
"I WANT TO HELP, BUT I DON'T WANT THE INSURANCE."
Some knights take advantage of KofC life insurance, some don't. The insurance program is absolutely optional. As a member of the Knights, you do get an accidental death benefit simply for being a member. The accidental death benefit starts at $1,000 and increases $500 per year until it reaches $2,500. At about age 65 it decreases $500 per year until it settles back to $1,000 again. The KofC insurance field agent is at your disposal. If you want to investigate the program, great. If you don't, that's fine too. (Though for the benefit of your family, you should try to get some life insurance from somewhere. You know not when the master is coming, right? And what better place to get it than from The Knights of Columbus insurance program which donates profits to causes you can believe in?)
"YOU GUYS DO GREAT WORK, BUT I DON'T HAVE MUCH EXTRA TIME."
As a Knight, your rock bottom requirement is that you keep your dues current, though we hope that you would participate more. Some members only come to the monthly business meetings, others come to just our montly socials. Others do both. Some brother knights do the above as well as partake in charity activities. Some brother knights join in only for hands-on projects. Several of our Grand Knights (council leader) have held a 50-hour per week jobs and also had children under the age of 5, it can be done. You set your own participation level.
"ARE THE KNIGHTS A SECRET ORGANIZATION?"
Many Knights would bust up laughing at this question. No, contrary to some conspiracy theorists out there, the Knights are not a secret organization. At one time, we kept the ceremonials (initiations) a secret in order to keep these degree exemplifications a surprise and not spoil them, but that was changed and now initiations are public events. And business meetings, much like a corporate board meeting, are restricted to the membership to prevent distractions, but what happens at the business meetings is not a secret and can be freely discussed.
"WON'T MY WIFE TO FEEL LEFT OUT?"
While only members can come to the business meetings, wives of members are a very important part of the work of our Order. Wives are often very active with our monthly socials and participate in some of our charities activities too. (Some wives who do a better job reading our monthly bulletin than their husbands!) Just as an example, the annual KofC state convention includes a wives luncheon and other spouse activities. The Knights of Columbus is very much a family organization.
"CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DEGREES?"
There are only four degrees (or levels of membeship) in the Knights, each with a vitrue associated with it: First = Charity, Second = Unity, Third = Fraternity, Fourth = Patriotism.
Officers are required to be Third Degree members. At one time, those degrees were separate ceremonies. Today, the first three degrees are combined into a single exemplification event. Fourth Degree exemplification ceremonies have been traditionally offered twice a year, once in Southern California and once in Northern California as gala events where literally hundreds of people show up, but they have recently been offered more frequently in more diverse locations.
To qualify for the Fourth Degree (the Patriotic Degree of the Order), you have to be a U.S. citizen, and be a Third Degree member in good standing with your council. Each Fourth Degree assembly sponsors a Color Corps, which are the Knights you have traditionally seen with the tuxedos and swords, but now wear suits and berets as well as swords.
"I WANT TO JOIN NOW!"
Call Membership Director Doug Gallager at 425-0764 or long-time council member Rudy Quijance ("key-hawn-see") at 458-9169. Or e-mail us: firstname.lastname@example.org. First Degree "Exemplifications"initiation ceremoniestake place every month or two at various councils in the area. Under some conditions they can be done online. Our council hosts a First Degree Exemplification as often as needed. You could be a member in within weeks.
"I WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION"
Well, just send us e-mail or call us. We'll be very happy to answer any questions. We love to make new friends at the council! Truly!
In the meantime, here are some videos you may wish to watch to give you a flavor of the Knights.
Overview of the Knights (2 minutes):