Knights of Columbus

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Not to be confused with Knights of St Columba.
Knights of Columbus
The Knights of Columbus emblem consists of a a shield mounted on a Formée cross.  Mounted on the shield are a fasces, an anchor, and a dagger.

Knights of Columbus Emblem
Abbreviation KofC
Motto In service to One,
In service to all.
Formation March 29, 1882; 132 years ago
Type Catholic fraternal service organization
Headquarters 1 Columbus Plaza,
New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Founder Venerable Michael J. McGivney
Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori

The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded by the Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882, it was named in honor of the mariner Christopher Columbus. Originally serving as a mutual benefit society to low-income immigrant Catholics, it developed into a fraternal benefit society dedicated to providing charitable services, promoting Catholic education and actively defending Catholicism in various nations.[1][2]

There are more than 1.85 million members in nearly 15,000 councils, with nearly 200 councils on college campuses. Membership is limited to “practical”[3] Catholic men aged 18 or older. Membership consists of four different degrees, each exemplifying a different principle of the Order. The Order is a member of the International Alliance of Catholic Knights.

Councils have been chartered in the United States (including some territories), Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Guatemala, Guam, Saipan, South Korea, and on US military bases around the world.[4] The Knights’ official junior organization, the Columbian Squires, has over 5,000 circles and the Order’s patriotic arm, the Fourth Degree, has more than 2,500 assemblies.[5]

For their support for the Church and local communities, as well as for their philanthropic efforts, Pope John Paul II referred to the Order as a “strong right arm of the Church.”[6] In 2013, the Order gave over US$170.1 million directly to charity and performed over 70.5 million man-hours of voluntary service. [7] Over 413,000 pints of blood were donated in 2010.[8] The Order’s insurance program has more than $90 billion of life insurance policies in force, backed up by $19.8 billion in assets,[9] and holds the highest insurance ratings given by A. M. Best and the Insurance Marketplace Standards Association.[10] Within the United States on the national and state level, the Order is active in the political arena lobbying for laws and positions that uphold the Catholic Church’s positions on public policy and social issues.



A painting of the Michael J. McGivney.

Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus

An Irish-American Catholic priest, Michael J. McGivney, founded the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Connecticut. He gathered a group of men from St. Mary’s Parish for an organizational meeting on October 2, 1881 and the Order was incorporated under the laws of the state of Connecticut on March 29, 1882.[2] Although the first councils were all in that state, the Order spread throughout New England and the United States in subsequent years. By 1889, there were 300 councils comprising 40,000 knights. Ten years later, in 1909, there were 230,000 knights in 1,300 councils.[11]

The primary motivation for the Order was to be a mutual benefit society. As a parish priest in an immigrant community, McGivney saw what could happen to a family when the main income earner died, and wanted to provide insurance to care for the widows and orphans left behind. He had to temporarily leave his seminary studies to care for his family when his father died.[12] In the late 19th century, Catholics were regularly excluded from labor unions and other organizations that provided social services.[13] In addition, Catholics were either barred from many of the popular fraternal organizations, or, as in the case of Freemasonry, forbidden from joining by the Catholic Church itself. McGivney wished to provide them an alternative. He also believed that Catholicism and fraternalism were not incompatible and wished to found a society that would encourage men to be proud of their American-Catholic heritage.[14]

McGivney traveled to Boston to examine the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters and to Brooklyn to learn about the recently established Catholic Benevolent League, both of which offered insurance benefits. He found the latter to be lacking the excitement he thought was needed if his organization were to compete with the secret societies of the day. He expressed an interest in establishing a New Haven Court of the Foresters, but the charter of Massachusetts Foresters prevented them from operating outside their Commonwealth. The committee of St. Mary’s parishioners which McGivney had assembled then decided to form a club that was entirely original.[15]

A painting of Christopher Columbus.

Christopher Columbus is the patron and namesake of the Knights.

The name of Columbus was also partially intended as a mild rebuke to Anglo-Saxon Protestant leaders, who upheld the explorer (a Catholic Genovese Italian working for Catholic Spain) as an American hero, yet simultaneously sought to marginalize recent Catholic immigrants. In taking Columbus as their patron, they were sending the message that not only could Catholics be full members of American society, but were, in fact, instrumental in its foundation.[16] McGivney had originally conceived of the name “Sons of Columbus”, but James T. Mullen, who would become the first Supreme Knight, successfully suggested that “Knights of Columbus” would better capture the ritualistic nature of the new organization.[17]

By the time of the first annual convention in 1884, the Order was prospering. In the five councils throughout Connecticut there were 459 members. Groups from other states were requesting information.[18] The Charter of 1899 included four statements of purpose, including “to promote such social and intellectual intercourse among its members as shall be desirable and proper, and by such lawful means as to them shall seem best.”[19] The new charter showed members’ desire to grow the organization beyond a simple mutual benefit insurance society.

The original insurance system devised by McGivney gave a deceased Knight’s widow a $1,000 death benefit. Each member was assessed $1 upon a death, and when the number of Knights grew beyond 1,000 the assessment decreased according to the rate of increase.[20] Each member, regardless of age, was assessed equally. As a result, younger, healthier members could expect to pay more over the course of their lifetimes than those men who joined when they were older.[21] There was also a Sick Benefit Deposit for members who fell ill and could not work. Each sick Knight was entitled to draw up to $5 a week for 13 weeks (roughly equivalent to $125.75 in 2009 dollars[22]). If he remained sick after that, the council to which he belonged regulated the sum of money given to him.[23]

Creation of the Fourth Degree

From the very early days of the Order there were calls to create some sort of recognition for senior members,[24] and a special plea was made at the National Meeting of 1899.[25] As early as 1886 Supreme Knight James T. Mullen had proposed a patriotic degree with its own symbolic dress.[26] The Grand Cross of the Knights of Columbus was established, but the only recipient was Cristobal Colón y de La Cerda, Duke of Veragua and descendant of Columbus, when he visited the US in 1893.[24]

About 1,400 members attended the first exemplification of the Fourth Degree at the Lenox Lyceum in New York on February 22, 1900,[24][25] and it was infused with Catholic and patriotic symbols and imagery that “celebrated American Catholic heritage.”[27] The two knights leading the ceremony, for example, were the Expositor of the Constitution and the Defender of the Faith.[27] The ritual soon spread to other cities.[24] The new Fourth Degree members then went back to their councils and formed assemblies composed of members from several councils. Those assemblies then chose the new members going forward.[28]

In 1903 the Board of Directors officially approved a new degree exemplifying patriotism Order-wide, using the New York City model.[24] There was from early on a “desire to receive within its ranks only the best,” and each candidate was required to produce a certificate from his parish priest attesting that he had received Holy Communion within the past two weeks.[29]

Persecution by the Ku Klux Klan

Not long after the establishment of the Fourth Degree, during the nadir of American race relations, a bogus oath was circulated claiming that Fourth Degree Knights swore to exterminate Freemasons and Protestants, as well as flay, burn alive, boil, kill, and otherwise torture anyone, including women and children, when called upon to do so by church authorities.[30][31] “It is a strange paradox,” according to some commentators, that the degree devoted to patriotism should be accused of anti-Americanism.[32]

The “bogus oath” was based on a previous oath falsely attributed to the Jesuits more than three centuries earlier.[33] The Ku Klux Klan, which was growing into a powerful force through the 1920s, spread the bogus oath far and wide as part of their campaign against Catholics,[34] and in the 1928 Presidential election a million copies were printed to hurt Catholic Democratic candidate Al Smith.[35] The oath was even read into the Congressional Record by Thomas S. Butler,[35] and refuted by the Committee of Public Information, a war time propaganda agency of the US Government.[32]

Among other statements made by the Klan, it was claimed that Knights were only loyal to the pope and that they advocated for the overthrow of the United States government.[36] Across the country, local, state, and the Supreme Councils offered rewards to anyone who could prove that the oath was authentic.[37] No one could, but that did not stop the Klan from continuing to publish and distribute copies. As it was believed that this “violent wave of religious prejudice was actuated by mercenary motives,” and that publication would stop if fines were imposed and jail time assessed, numerous state councils and the Supreme Council began suing distributors for libel.[36] It did, but the Order did not wish to be seen as if they were motivated by a “vengeful spirit,” and so asked for leniency from judges when sentencing.[36]

To help combat this misconception of what the Fourth Degree was about, the actual oath taken by Fourth Degree members was also submitted to various groups of prominent non-Catholic men around the country for them to examine, many of whom made public declarations attesting to the loyalty and patriotism of the Knights.[38] After examining the actual oath, a committee of high ranking California Freemasons, a group singled out for violence in the bogus oath, declared in 1914 that “The ceremonial of the Order [of the Knights of Columbus] teaches a high and noble patriotism, instills a love of country, inculcates a reverence of civic duty and holds up the Constitution of our Country as the richest and most precious possession of a Knight of the Order.”[39]

Pierce v. Society of Sisters

After World War I, many Americans were concerned about the influence of immigrants and “foreign” values and looked to public schools for help. The states drafted laws designed to use schools to promote a common American culture, and in 1922 the voters of Oregon passed the Oregon Compulsory Education Act. The law was primarily aimed at eliminating parochial schools, including Catholic schools,[40][41] and was promoted by groups such as the Scottish Rite Masons, the Knights of Pythias, the Federation of Patriotic Societies, the Oregon Good Government League, the Orange Order, and the Ku Klux Klan.[42]

The Compulsory Education Act required almost all children in Oregon between eight and sixteen years of age to attend public school by 1926.[42] Roger Nash Baldwin, an associate director of the ACLU and a personal friend of then-Supreme Advocate and future Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart, offered to join forces with the Order to challenge the law. The Knights of Columbus pledged an immediate $10,000 to fight the law and any additional funds necessary to defeat it.[43]

The case became known as Pierce v. Society of Sisters, a seminal United States Supreme Court decision that significantly expanded coverage of the Due Process Clause in theFourteenth Amendment. In a unanimous decision, the Court held that the act was unconstitutional and that parents, not the state, had the authority to educate children as they thought best.

Racial integration in the U.S.

In the 1920s there was growing anti-Semitism in the United States, a lingering anti-German sentiment left over from World War I, and anti-black violence was prevalent throughout the country. To combat the animus targeted at racial and religious minorities, including Catholics, the Order formed a historical commission which published a series of books, among other activities. The “Knights of Columbus Racial Contributions Series” of books included three titles: The Gift of Black Folk, by W. E. B. Du Bois, The Jews in the Making of America by George Cohen, and The Germans in the Making of America by Frederick Schrader.[44]

As the 20th century progressed some councils were integrated, but increasing pressure came from Church officials and organizations to change its blackball system. Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart was actively encouraging councils to accept black candidates by the end of the 1950s.[45] In 1963 Hart attended a special meeting at the White House hosted by President Kennedy to discuss civil rights with other religious leaders. A few months later, a Notre Dame alumnus’ application was rejected because he was black. Six council officers resigned in protest and the incident made national news. Hart then declared that the process for membership would be revised at the next Supreme Convention, but died before he could see it take place.[46]

The 1964 Supreme Convention was scheduled to be held at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. A few days before the Convention, new Supreme Knight John W. McDevittlearned the hotel only admitted white guests and immediately threatened to move to another venue. The hotel changed its policy and so did the Order. The Convention amended the admissions rule to require one-third of those voting to reject a new member and in 1972 the Supreme Convention again amended its rules to require a majority of members voting to reject a candidate.[47]

Recent history

In 1997, the cause for McGivney’s canonization was opened in the Archdiocese of Hartford, and then was placed before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 2000. The Father Michael J. McGivney Guild was formed in 1997 to promote his cause and currently has more than 140,000 members.[48] Membership in the Knights of Columbus does not automatically make one a member of the guild, nor is membership restricted to Knights; members must elect to join.

On March 15, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree recognizing McGivney’s “heroic virtue,” significantly advancing the priest’s process toward sainthood. McGivney can now be referred to as the “Venerable Servant of God.” If the cause is successful, he will be the first priest born in the United States to be canonized as a saint.[49]

Degrees and principles

The Order is dedicated to the principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. A First Degree exemplification ceremony, by which a man joins the Order, explicates the virtue of charity. He is then said to be a First Degree Knight of Columbus; after participating the subsequent degrees, each of which focuses on another virtue, he rises to that status. Upon reaching the Third Degree, a gentleman is a full member. Priests do not participate directly in Degree exemplifications as laymen do, but rather take the degree by observation.

The first ritual handbook was printed in 1885, but contained only sections teaching Unity and Charity. Supreme Knight Mullen, along with primary ritual author Daniel Colwell, believed that the initiation ceremony should be held in three sections “in accord with the ‘Trinity of Virtues, Charity, Unity, and Brotherly love.'” The third section, expounding Fraternity, was officially adopted in 1891.

Fourth degree

A photograph of a Knights of Columbus Color Corps marching in a Parade.

Knights of Columbus Color Corps marching in full regalia for a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Fort Collins, Colorado

Rank Color
Supreme Master Dark Blue Cape and Chapeau
Vice Supreme Master Light Blue Cape and Chapeau
Master Gold Cape and Chapeau
District Marshal Green Cape and Chapeau
Faithful Navigator White Cape and Chapeau
Assembly Commander Purple Cape and Chapeau
Color Corps Members Red Cape and White Chapeau

After taking their third degree, knights are eligible to receive their fourth degree, the primary purpose of which is to foster the spirit of patriotism and to encourage active Catholic citizenship. Fourth degree members, in addition to being members of their individual councils, are also members of Fourth Degree assemblies which typically comprise members of several councils. As of 2013, there were 3,109 assembilies worldwide.[50]

Fewer than 18% of Knights join the Fourth Degree, which is optional, and whose members are referred to as “Sir Knight.” Of a total 1,703,307 Knights in 2006 there were 292,289 Fourth Degree Knights.[5] This number increased to 335,132 in 2013.[50] A waiting period of one year from the time the third degree was taken was eliminated in 2013, and now any Third Degree Knight is eligible to join the Fourth Degree.[50]

A new Military Oversees Europe Special District was established in 2013 to oversee assemblies of military personnel serving on that continent.[50][51] Over 100 Department of Defense civilian employees and active-duty personnel based in Germany, Italy, and Britain took part in a special Fourth Degree Exemplification Ceremony at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany in 2013,[50][51] and in that year exemplifications were also held in Camp Zama, Japan, and Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, Korea, where there are existing assemblies.[51]

Knights volunteer at 136 of the 153 Veteran’s Affairs Medical Centers.

Color corps

Fourth Degree Knights may optionally purchase and wear the full regalia and join an assembly’s Color Corps. The Color Corps is the most visible arm of the Knights, as they are often seen in parades and other local events wearing their colorful regalia. Official dress for the Color Corps is a black tuxedo, baldric, white gloves, cape and naval chapeau. In warm climates and during warm months a white dinner jacket may be worn, if done as a unit.[52]

Baldrics are worn from the right shoulder to left hip and are color specific by nation. In the United States, Panama and the Philippines, baldrics are red, white and blue. Red and white baldrics are used in Canada and Poland; red, white and green in Mexico; and blue and white in Guatemala[53] Service baldrics include a scabbard for a sword and are worn over the coat while social baldrics are worn under the coat.

The colors on a Fourth Degree Knight’s cape and chapeau denote the office he holds within the Degree. Faithful Navigators and Past Faithful Navigators are permitted to carry a white handled silver sword. Masters and Vice Supreme Masters, as well as Former Masters and Former Vice Supreme Masters, are also denoted by their gold swords.[52]

Charitable giving

Year US dollars donated[50] Volunteer hours donated[50]
2012 $167,549,817 70,113,207
2011 $158,000,000 70,053,000
2010 $155,000,000 70,049,000
2009 $151,000,000 69,252,000
2008 $150,000,000 68,784,000

Charity is the foremost principle of the Knights of Columbus. In 2013, the Order gave more than $170.1 million directly to charity and performed over 70.5 million man hours in volunteer service. According to Independent Sector, this service has a value of more than $1.6 billion. The total charitable contributions, from the past decade, ending December 31, 2013 rose to $13.8 Billion. Finally in 2013, Knights of Columbus, on an average per member basis, donated $91.80 and contributed 38 hours of community service. [54]

More than $1.2 million were donated to Habitat for Humanity in 2012, in addition to 1.4 million volunteer hours.[50] Over 42,000 winter coats were distributed in 2012 to children in cold weather areas as well.[50]

The very first ever national blood drive was sponsored by the Order in 1938.[50] In 2012, council blood drives attracted more than 423,000 donors.[50]

United in Charity, a general, unrestricted endowment fund, was introduced at the 2004 Supreme Council meeting to support and ensure the overall long-term charitable and philanthropic goals of the Order. The fund is wholly managed, maintained and operated by Knights of Columbus Charities, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Before United in Charity was formed, all requests for funds were met with the general funds of the Order or in combination with specific appeals.[55]

Global Catholic donations

A photograph of the façade of St. Peter's Basilica.

The Order funded the first renovation of the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica in over 350 years.[56]

The Vicarius Christi Fund has an endowment of $20 million and has earned more than $35 million since its establishment in 1981 for thePope‘s personal charities. The Knights’ Satellite Uplink Program has provided funding to broadcast a number of papal events, including the annual Easter and Christmas Masses, as well as the World Day of Peace in Assisi, World Youth Days, the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica for the Millennial Jubilee, Pope John Paul II‘s visit to Nazareth, and several other events. In missionary territories the Order also pays for the satellite downlink.[57]

The Order also has eleven separate funds totaling $18 million to assist men and women who are discerning religious vocations pay tuition and other expenses.[58] The multimillion dollar Pacem in Terris Fund aids the Catholic Church’s efforts for peace in the Middle East. In 2012, $1.8 million was given by state and local councils to seminaries, with an additional $5.9 million in direct assistance to seminarians.[50] A further $20 million went to church facilities and $7.4 million to Catholic schools from state and local councils.[50]

The disabled

The Knights have a tradition of supporting those with physical and developmental disabilities. More than $382 million has been given over the past three decades to groups and programs that support the intellectually and physically disabled,[5] with $4.1 million donated in 2012 alone.[50]

One of the largest recipients of funds in this area is the Special Olympics.[50][50] In 2012, there were more than 107,000 Knights who donated 315,000 hours of service at nearly 20,000 Special Olympics events.[50] Individual councils donated $3.7 million to the Special Olympics in 2013.[50] The Order’s support for the Special Olympics goes back to the very first games in 1968.[50]

In 2012, more than 5,000 wheelchairs were distributed in 10 countries in a partnership with the Global Wheelchair Mission.[50]

Disaster relief

Aside from their other charitable activities, The Knights of Columbus gave significant charitable contributions to the people of Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakein January 2010. The Order also donated 1,000 wheelchairs to the people of Haiti in partnership with the Global Wheelchair Mission.[59] Recognizing that the need was still great in Haiti some seven months after the disaster, the Knights of Columbus partnered with Project Medishare in August 2010 for an initiative entitled, “Healing Haiti’s Children.” The initiative, backed by a more than $2.5 million commitment from the Knights of Columbus provides free prosthetic limbs and a minimum of two years of rehab to every child who suffered an amputation from injuries sustained during the earthquake.[50][60] As of 2013, more than 800 children had already been aided by the program.[50]

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a local council in Newtown, CT, established a program asking people to pray a minimum of three Hail Marys for the victims and their families. Over 100,000 people pledged to say 3.25 million prayers.[50]

More than $500,000 was donated to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, and $202,000 to victims of the April 2012 tornadoes in Oklahoma.[50] After West Fertilizer Company explosionin Texas, nearly a quarter of a million dollars were raised.[50] In total, more than $3.3 million were donated by individual councils for disaster relief in 2012.[50]

Insurance program

Year Insurance in
force (billions)
2012 $88.4 $19.4
2011 $83.5 $18.0
2010 $79.0 $16.9
2009 $74.3 $15.5
2008 $70.1 $14.1

The Order offers a modern, professional insurance operation with more than $90 billion of life insurance policies in force and $19.8 billion in assets as of June 2013,[9] a figure more than double the 2000 levels.[9][50] Nearly 80,000 life certificates were issued in 2013, almost 30,000 more than the Order’s closest competitor, to bring the total to 1.73 million.[50] The program has a $1.8 billion surplus.[50]

Over $286 million in death benefits were paid in 2012 and $1.7 billion were paid between 2000 and 2010.[50] This is large enough to rank 49th on the A. M. Best list of all life insurance companies in North America.[61] Since the founding of the Order, $3.5 billion in death benefits have been paid.[62] Premiums in 2012 were nearly $1.2 billion, and dividends paid out totaled more than $274 million.[50] Over the same time period, annuity deposits rose 4.2%, compared to an 8% loss for the industry as a whole.[50]

Every day in 2012 more than $10 million was invested, for a total of $2.7 billion on the year, and an annual income of $905 billion.[50] The Order maintains a two prong investment strategy. A company must first be a sound investment before stock in it is purchased, and secondly the company’s activities must not conflict with Catholic social teaching.[50] The Order also provides mortgages to churches and Catholic schools at “very competitive rates” through its ChurchLoan program.[50]

Products include permanent and term life insurance as well as annuities, long term care insurance, and disability insurance.[9] The insurance program is not a separate business offered by the Order to others but is exclusively for the benefit of members and their families.[63] According to the Fortune 1000 list, the Knights of Columbus ranked 900 in total revenue in 2011[64] and, with 1,504 agents, was 909th in size in 2013.[50] All agents are members of the Order.

The Order’s insurance program is the most highly rated program in North America.[50] For 38 consecutive years, the Order has received A. M. Best‘s highest rating, A++.[50][65]Only two other insurers in North America have received the highest ratings from both A. M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. Additionally, the Order is certified by the Insurance Marketplace Standards Association for ethical sales practices.[5] Standard & Poor’s downgraded the insurance program’s financial strength/credit rating from AAA to AA+ in August 2011 not due to the Order’s financial strength, but due to its lowering of the long-term sovereign credit rating of the United States to AA+.[66][67][68] Additionally, the insurance program has a low 3.5% lapse rate of the 1.7 million members and their families who are insured.[9][50]


Year Membership[50] Councils[50]
2013 1,843,587 14,606
2012 1,830,000 14,400
2011 1,820,000 14,200
2010 1,810,000 14,000
2009 1,790,000 13,700

As of 2013 there were 1,843,587 knights, and membership has grown each year for 41 consecutive years. Each member belongs to one of 14,606 councils around the world. In the 2012 fraternal year, 229 new councils were established, including two in the Ukraine, eight in Mexico, 10 in Poland, 13 in Canada, 80 in the Philippines, and 117 in the United States. In addition, there is a “round table”[69] presence in Lithuania.

Knights of Columbus councils, Fourth Degree assemblies, and Columbian Squire circles have similar officers. In the councils, officer titles are prefixed with “Worthy,” while in assemblies officer titles are prefixed with “Faithful.” In addition to the Columbian Squires’ officers listed below, there is an adult position of “Chief Counselor” that helps oversee the circle.

Council Assembly Circle
Grand Knight Navigator Chief Squire
Chaplain* Friar* Father Prior
Deputy Grand Knight Captain Deputy Chief Squire
Chancellor Admiral Marshal Squire
Recorder Scribe Notary Squire
Financial Secretary** Comptroller Bursar Squire
Treasurer Purser Bursar Squire
Lecturer* nonexistent nonexistent
Advocate nonexistent nonexistent
Warden Pilot Marshal Squire
Inside Guard Inner Sentinel Sentry
Outside Guard Outer Sentinel Sentry
Trustee (3 Year) Trustee (3 Year) nonexistent
Trustee (2 Year) Trustee (2 Year) nonexistent
Trustee (1 Year) Trustee (1 Year) nonexistent
nonexistent Color Corp Commander nonexistent

(*Appointed annually by each council’s Grand Knight or assembly’s Navigator)

(**Appointed for a 3-year term by the Supreme Knight)

Supreme Council

Supreme Knight Supreme Chaplain
Carl A. Anderson Bishop William E. Lori
Deputy Supreme Knight Logan Ludwig
Supreme Secretary Charles E. Maurer Jr.
Supreme Treasurer Michael O’Connor
Supreme Advocate John Marrella
George Hanna
Dennis Stoddard

The Supreme Council is the governing body of the Order and is composed of elected representatives from each jurisdiction. In a manner similar to shareholders at an annual meeting, the Supreme Council elects seven members each year to the Supreme Board of Directors for three-year terms. The twenty-one member board then chooses from its own membership the senior operating officials of the Order, including the Supreme Knight.[70]


Fourth degree members belong to one of 3,109 assemblies, including 75 created in 2012.[50] The first assembly in Europe was established in 2012,[50] and in 2013 a new assembly for Boston-area college councils was created at Harvard University.[71] As of 2013 there were 335,132 Fourth Degree members, including 15,709 who joined the ranks of the Patriotic Degree the year before.[50]

College councils

In 1898 Keane Council 353 was established at The Catholic University of America, though in later years it moved off campus.[72][73] TheUniversity of Notre Dame Council 1477 was founded in 1910,[74] and was followed by the councils at Saint Louis University and Benedictine College.[75] In 1919, Mount St. Mary’s College and Seminary Council 1965 became the first council attached to a college and seminary, at what is now Mount St. Mary’s University.[76][77]

In each autumn since 1966, the Supreme Council has hosted a College Council Conference at their headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut.[78] Awards are given for the greatest increases in membership, the best Youth, Community, Council, Family and Church activities, and the overall Outstanding College Council of the year. The most recent winner of the Outstanding College Council Award was The Catholic University of America Council.[79]


Since its founding, the Knights of Columbus has been involved in evangelization. In 1948, the Knights started the Catholic Information Service (CIS) to provide low-cost Catholic publications for the general public as well as for parishes, schools, retreat houses, military installations, correctional facilities, legislatures, the medical community, and for individuals who request them. Since then, CIS has printed millions of booklets, and thousands of people have enrolled in CIS correspondence and on-line courses.[80]


The Order sponsors a number of international awards. The first, the Gaudium et Spes Award, is named after the document from the Second Vatican Council, and is the highest honor bestowed by the Order. It “is awarded only in special circumstances and only to individuals of exceptional merit” and comes an honorarium of $100,000.[81] Since its institution in 1992, it has only been awarded five times. The award “recognizes individuals for their exemplary contributions to the realization of the message of faith and service in the spirit of Christ as articulated in the document for which it is named.”[81]

The second international award, also only given “when merited,” is the Caritas Award. Named for the theological virtue alternatively translated as either charity or love, it recognizes “extraordinary works of charity and service.” It has been awarded once since its establishment in 2013.[82] The Saint Michael Award was established in conjunction with the Caritas Award to recognize members of the Order who have exemplified a lifetime of service on behalf of the Knights of Columbus.[82]

Additionally, at its annual convention each year, the Order recognizes other individuals and councils with awards. These include the Family of the Year award, and prizes for the best activities in the categories of church, community, council, culture of life, family, and youth. Additionally, top selling general and field insurance agents are recognized, as are top recruiting individuals and councils.[82]

Political activities[edit]

While the Knights of Columbus support political awareness and activity, United States councils are prohibited by tax laws from engaging in candidate endorsement and partisan political activity due to their non-profit status.[83] Public policy activity is limited to issue-specific campaigns, typically dealing with Catholic family and life issues. The Order has adopted resolutions advocating a Culture of Life,[84] defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,[85] in defense of religious liberty,[86] and promoting faithful citizenship.[87]

United States

A photograph of a placard at the March of Life that reads defend life on the bottom with the emblem of the Order in a blue band on top.

Tens of thousands of Knights of Columbus placards are handed out at the March For Life.

In 1926, a delegation of Supreme Council officers met with President Calvin Coolidge to share with him their concerns about the persecution of Catholics in Mexico. The Order subsequently launched a $1 million campaign to educate Americans about the attacks on Catholics and the Church in the Cristero War.[88] Twenty-five martyrs from the conflict would eventually be canonized, including six knights.[89]

Several decades later, in 1954, lobbying by the Order helped convince the U.S. Congress to add the phrase “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. President Dwight Eisenhower wrote to Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart thanking the Knights for their “part in the movement to have the words ‘under God’ added to our Pledge of Allegiance.”[90] Similar lobbying convinced many state legislatures to adopt October 12 as Columbus Day and led to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s confirmation of Columbus Day as a federal holiday in 1937.

On April 9, 2006 the Board of Directors commented on the “U.S. immigration policy [which] has become an intensely debated and divisive issue on both sides of the border between the U.S. and Mexico.” They called “upon the President and the U.S. Congress to agree upon immigration legislation that not only gains control over the process of immigration, but also rejects any effort to criminalize those who provide humanitarian assistance to illegal immigrants, and provides these immigrants an avenue by which they can emerge from the shadows of society and seek legal residency and citizenship in the U.S.”[91]

The Knights have also been active in political campaigns across the United States in the area of gay rights, contributing over $14 million to help groups limit the legal recognition of same-sex relationships and other civil rights for gay men and lesbian women. In 2008, they were the largest single donor in support of Proposition 8. A financial contribution of £1.4 million was made to support the successful initiative to define marriage within the California State Constitution as a union solely between a man and a woman.[92][93]The Knights have also made financial contributions of $1 million to support similar “ballot” campaigns in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. Darren Hurwitz, writing for the Huffington Post has claimed that the Knights of Columbus has now become “one of the nation’s largest funders of discrimination against gays and lesbians”.[94]


In a 2005 attempt to stop the Canadian parliament from legalizing gay marriage, the Order funded a campaign that included 800,000 postcards encouraging members of parliament to reject the measure.[95] As it was in the United States, this effort was criticized by some gay marriage supporters.

Also in 2005, a local Knights of Columbus council in Canada was fined $2,000 by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.[96] The council’s Hall Manager signed a contract for the use of their facilities with Tracey Smith and Deborah Chymyshyn, but canceled it and returned their money after they became aware that it was for a lesbian wedding reception.[96] The tribunal found that the local council did not have to rent the hall if in so doing they would violate their religious beliefs, but “could have taken additional steps that would have recognized the inherent dignity of the complainants and their right to be free from discrimination.” Instead of simply canceling the appointment, the court said, the council could have directed the complainants to other halls and assisted them in finding another place to hold their event.[96]


Main article: Cristero War

Following the Mexican Revolution, the new government began persecuting the Church. To destroy the Church’s influence over the Mexican people, anti-clerical statutes were inserted into the Constitution, beginning a 10-year persecution of Catholics which resulted in the death of thousands, including several knights who were later canonized.

Leaders of the Order began speaking out against the Mexican government, and Columbia, the official magazine of the Knights, also ran articles critical of the regime. The November 1926 cover of Columbia portrayed Knghts carrying a banner of liberty and warning of “The Red Peril of Mexico,” the Mexican legislature banned both the Order and the magazine throughout the country.[97]

Heads of state[edit]

A photograph of President George Bush shaking hands with fourth degree knights.

George W. Bush greets Fourth Degree Knights at the 122nd Annual Convention.

The Knights of Columbus invites the head of state of every country they operate in to the Supreme Convention each year.[98] In 1971, U.S. President Richard Nixon gave the keynote address at the States Dinner; Secretary of Transportation and Knight John Volpe was responsible for this first appearance of a U.S. President at a Supreme Council gathering.[99] President Ronald Reagan spoke at the Centennial Convention in 1982.[88] President George H.W. Bush appeared in 1992. President Bill Clinton sent a written message while he was in office, and President George W. Bush sent videotaped messages before he attended in person at the 2004 convention.[100]President Barack Obama has also sent written messages during his term in office.

John F. Kennedy, the only Catholic to be elected President of the United States, was a Fourth Degree member of Bunker Hill Council No. 62 and Bishop Cheverus General Assembly. Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart visited Kennedy at the White House on Columbus Day, 1961. The president told Hart that his younger brother, Ted Kennedy, had received “his Third Degree in our Order three weeks before.” Hart presented Kennedy with a poster of the American Flag with the story of how the Order got the words “under God” inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance.[101]

In 1959 Fidel Castro sent an aide to represent him at a Fourth Degree banquet in honor of the Golden Jubilee of the Order’s entry into Cuba. Supreme Knight Hart attended a banquet in the Cuban Prime Minister’s honor in April of that year sponsored by the Overseas Press Club and later sent him a letter expressing regret that they were not able to meet in person.[102] Reagan also presented the Order with a President’s Volunteer Action Award at the White House in 1984.[88]

The Knights of Columbus were among the groups that welcomed Pope Benedict XVI on the South Lawn of the White House on April 16, 2008, the pontiff’s 81st birthday, duringhis visit to the U.S.[103]

Famous Knights

A photograph of President John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy was a Fourth Degree member of Bunker Hill Council No. 62.[104]

Many famous Catholic men from all over the world have been Knights of Columbus. In the United States, some of the most notable include John F. Kennedy; Ted Kennedy;[101] Al Smith;[105] Sargent Shriver;[106] Samuel Alito; John Boehner;[107] Ray Flynn;[108] Jeb Bush; and Sergeant Major Daniel Daly,[109] a two-time Medal of Honor recipient, once described by the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps as “the most outstanding Marine of all time”.[110]

Many notable clerics are also Knights, including Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston; and Cardinal Jaime Sin, former archbishop of Manila. In the world of sports, Vince Lombardi, the famed former coach of the Green Bay Packers;[111] wrestler Lou Albano;[112] James Connolly, the first Olympic gold-medal champion in modern times;[113] Floyd Patterson, former heavyweight boxing champion;[114] and baseball legend Babe Ruth[115] were all knights.

On October 15, 2006, Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia (1878–1938) was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome. In 2000, six other Knights were declared saints by Pope John Paul II.[116]

Emblems of the Order

Emblem of the Order

The emblem of the Order was designed by Past Supreme Knight James T. Mullen and adopted at the second Supreme Council meeting on May 12, 1883. Shields used by medieval knights served as the inspiration, and the emblem consists of a shield mounted on a Formée cross, which is an artistic representation of the cross of Christ. This represents the Catholic identity of the Order.[117]

Mounted on the shield are three objects: a fasces, an anchor, and a dagger. In ancient Rome, the fasces was carried before magistrates as an emblem of authority. The Order uses it as “symbolic of authority which must exist in any tightly-bonded and efficiently operating organization.”[117] The anchor represents Christopher Columbus, patron of the Order. The short sword, or dagger, was a weapon used by medieval knights. The shield as a whole, with the letters “K of C”, represents “Catholic Knighthood in organized merciful action.”[117]

Fourth Degree emblem

The Fourth degree emblem consists of an Isabella cross with a dove flying downward towards a globe.

Fourth Degree emblem

The Fourth Degree emblem features a dove, a cross, and a globe. In the tradition of the Knights these symbols “typify the union of the three Divine Persons in one Godhead, referred to as the most Blessed Trinity.”[117] The red, white and blue are taken from the American flag and represent patriotism, the basic principle of the Fourth Degree. Styled with the continents of the western hemisphere in white, the blue globe represents God the Father. A redIsabella cross, for the queen who sponsored Columbus, serves as a symbol of God the Son. The white dove is a symbol of peace and God the Holy Spirit. Columbus’ name in Italian (Colombo) also means “dove.”[117]

Colombian Squires emblem

The emblem of the Squires symbolizes the ideals which identify a squire. On the arms of a Maltese cross are the letters “P”, which represents the physical development necessary to make the body as strong as the spirit; “I”, which stands for the intellectual development needed for cultural and mental maturity; “S”, which represents the spiritual growth and practice of our faith and “C”, which stands for the development of citizenship and civic life. The larger letters: “C”, representing Christ and also Christopher Columbus; “S”, the Squires; and “K”, the Knights of Columbus, by whom the Squires program is sponsored, are intertwined in the center of the cross. They are the three foundations of the program.

The Latin motto, “Esto Dignus”, encircles the emblem. Translated into English, it means “Be Worthy.”

Auxiliary groups

Women’s auxiliaries

Many councils also have women’s auxiliaries.[118] At the turn of the 20th century two were formed by local councils and each took the name the Daughters of Isabella.[119] Using the same name, both groups expanded and issued charters to other circles but never merged. The newer organization renamed itself the Catholic Daughters of the Americas in 1921 and both have structures independent of the Knights of Columbus.[120] Other groups are known as the Columbiettes. In the Philippines, the ladies’ auxiliary is known as the Daughters of Mary Immaculate.[121]

Columbian Squires

Main article: Columbian Squires
Squire Advancement Program
Level 1: Page
Level 2: Shield Bearer
Level 3: Swordsman
Level 4: Lancer
Level 5: Squire of the Body of Christ

The Knights’ official junior organization is the Columbian Squires. Founded in 1925 in Duluth, Minnesota, this international fraternity for boys 10–18 has grown to over 5,000 circles.[122] According to Brother Barnabas McDonald, F.S.C., the Squires’ founder, “The supreme purpose of the Columbian Squires is character building.”[123]

Squires have fun and share their Catholic faith, help people in need, and enjoy the company of friends in social, family, athletic, cultural, civic and spiritual activities. Through their local circle, Squires work and socialize as a group of friends, elect their own officers, and develop into Catholic leaders.[124] When Squires process in a color guard, they wear blue cape, similar to those worn by members of the Fourth Degree, and black berets.[125]

Each circle is supervised by a Knights of Columbus council or assembly, and has an advisory board made up of either the Grand Knight, the Deputy Grand Knight and Chaplain, or the Faithful Navigator, the Faithful Captain and Faithful Friar.[123] Circles are either council based, parish based, or school based, depending on the location of the circle and the Knight counselors.[123]

Squire Roses

Main article: Squire Roses

The Squire Roses are a youth sorority run by individual state councils for Catholic girls between the ages of 10 and 19. Founded by Russell DeRose and the Virginia State Council of the Knights of Columbus in 1996, the Roses are a sister organization to the Squires.[126]

Similar organizations

The Knights of Columbus is a member of the International Alliance of Catholic Knights, which includes fifteen fraternal orders such as the Knights of Saint Columbanus in Ireland, the Knights of Saint Columba in the United Kingdom, the Knights of Peter Claver in the United States, the Knights of the Southern Cross in Australia and New Zealand, theKnights of Da Gama in South Africa, and the Knights of Saint Mulumba in Nigeria.[127]

Columbian Squires

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Columbian Squires

Maltese Cross emblem
Motto Esto Dignus (Be Worthy)
Formation 1925
Type Catholic youth organization
Headquarters New Haven, Connecticut
Key people Barnabas McDonald
Website Squires website

The Columbian Squires is an international youth fraternity run by the Knights of Columbus for Catholic boys between the ages of 10 and 18. It has been described as “an athletic team, a youth group, a social club, a cultural and civic improvement association, a management training course, a civil rights organization and a spiritual development program all rolled into one.”[1] “The Squires is designed to develop young men as leaders who understand their Catholic religion, who have a strong commitment to the Church and who are ready, willing and capable of patterning their lives after the Youth Christ.”[2]


The Squires were established under the direction of Brother Barnabas McDonald, F.S.C., together with Supreme Director Daniel A. Tobin on August 4, 1925.[3][4][5] At that time there was a national interest in youth in the United States, as reflected by the development of the Boy Scouts of America and the Big Brother movement.

The Boy Movement Committee of the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus sent questionnaires to each Grand Knight and after receiving the responses met with Brother Barnabas. Brother Barnabas had gained a national reputation for his pioneering work with delinquents and orphans.

According to Brother Barnabas, “The supreme purpose of the Columbian Squires is character building.”[6] Squires have fun and share their Catholic faith, help people in need, and enjoy the company of friends in social, family, athletic, cultural, civic and spiritual activities. Through their local circle, Squires work and socialize as a group of friends, elect their own officers, and develop into Catholic leaders.[7]


The Squires officers consist of Chief Squire, Deputy Chief Squire, Bursar Squire, Notary Squire, Marshall, Arm Captain and Pole Captain. Adults (members of the Knights of Columbus) fill the roles of Chief Counselor, Chancellor and the Priest fills the role of the Father Prior.Each Circle is supervised by a Knights of Columbus Council or Assembly and has an advisory board made up of either the Grand Knight, the Deputy Grand Knight and Chaplain or the Faithful Navigator, the Faithful Captain and Faithful Friar. Circles are either Council based, parish based, or school based, depending on the location of the circle and the Knight counselors.[6]

There are more than 25,000 Squires around the world.[1] The 5,000th Squires Circle was recently instituted at St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Phoenix,Arizona.[8] Squires circles have been instituted throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, Cuba, Panama, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, theBahamas, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and various United States Air Force bases abroad.[3]


The emblem of the Squires symbolizes the ideals which identify a squire. On the arms of a Maltese cross are the letters “P”, which represents the physical development necessary to make the body as strong as the spirit; “I”, which stands for the intellectual development needed for cultural and mental maturity; “S”, which represents the spiritual growth and practice of our faith and “C”, which stands for the development of citizenship and civic life. The larger letters: “C”, representingChrist and also Christopher Columbus; “S”, the Squires; and “K”, the Knights of Columbus, by whom the Squires program is sponsored, are intertwined in the center of the cross. They are the three foundations of the program.

The Latin motto, “Esto Dignus”, encircles the emblem. Translated into English, it means “Be Worthy.”

Sister Organization

In 1996 the Virginia State Council of Knights of Columbus endorsed the Squire Roses as the official youth group for young ladies, aged 10 to 18, in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Since then the Squire Roses have expanded into new Knights of Columbus jurisdictions, growing in both size and stature. The Squire Roses have their own ceremonials, logo, and slogan, each similar yet distinct from the Squires.

An unofficial logo for the Columbian Squires in Virginia shows a coin with the Squires logo on one side and the Squire Roses logo on the other. The slogan beneath this coin states: “Squires and Squire Roses – two sides of the same coin.”

In Canada, the Squire Roses are called Squirettes

International Order of Alhambra

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
International Order of Alhambra
Order of Alhambra Logo.gif
Formation February 29, 1904; 110 years ago
Type Catholic fraternal service
Supreme Commander André Beauchamp

The International Order of Alhambra is a Catholic men and women’s fraternal organization founded on February 29, 1904, in Brooklyn, New York, by William Harper Bennett. Since then it has spread throughout the United States and Canada, with plans to expand throughout the rest of the world.


The Order derives its name from the Moorish palace in Granada, Spain of the same name. It was the last Moorish stronghold in Spain conquered by the forces of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1492. It was after the completion of the Reconquista that the Spanish monarchs decided to fund Christopher Columbus‘ initial voyage. Spanish, and arguably European, culture changed significantly with this change of leadership, especially since the Catholic religion became the dominant religion in the Iberian Peninsula. The significance of the conquest of the Alhambra in the spread and free practice of the Catholic faith, in Iberia and the Americas, greatly inspired the founder, much as Columbus himself has inspired the Knights of Columbus.

The Moorish origin of the Order’s name carries over into the white fez and insignia worn by members, the names of parts of the Order’s structure, and the titles given to leaders.


Each year the Order of Alhambra honors the Past Grand Commanders of each Caravan.

The Order was founded on February 29, 1904, in Brooklyn, New York by William Harper Bennett who also designed the Knights of Columbus 4th Degree ceremony. The Order was originally conceived as a side degree for the Knights of Columbus although it was never formally recognized as such by the Knights of Columbus. For many years, membership was restricted to members of the Knights of Columbus but this requirement was later removed.

Membership in the Order was also restricted to men until July 2011 when membership was opened to women as well.

Many leaders of the Church are or have been members, including Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II.


Members of Galicia Caravan 77 taking part in the 2013 St. Clair Shores, Michigan Memorial Day Parade.

Members of the Order are known as Sir Nobles after undergoing a “qualifying ceremonial.” [1] Groups of members are known as Carvansand are given a number, as well as a name of Moorish/Spanish origin (for example, one Detroit, Michigan caravan is known as Galicia#77,[2] after a northwestern region of Spain). Every two years, representatives from each caravan meet in what is known as the Grand Divan to elect Supreme Officers to serve on the Council of Viziers and address other issues affecting the Order. The Council of Viziers provides support to the Order between Grand Divans, and is headed by a Supreme Commander.

Purposes and Works[edit]

At the caravan level, members engage in a variety of charitable works, usually related to the needs of their region. At a national level, the Order of Alhambra is committed to 3 initiatives, namely undergraduate scholarships, memorials, and the Alhambra House Project.

Ever since its founding, a peculiar focus of the Order has been finding, documenting, and memorializing persons, places, and events of significant historical value to North American Catholicism (including the Order’s namesake in Spain). Over 160 bronze plaques have been placed throughout the United States and Canada, mostly at places of worship.

Starting in 1993, the Order committed to establishing and maintaining group homes for developmentally disabled individuals. Houses are currently established in Virginia,California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.


Fraternal / sorority Orders around the world

Social or general fraternities and sororities, in the North American fraternity system, are those that do not promote a particular profession (as professional fraternities are) or discipline (such as service fraternities and sororities). Instead, their primary purposes are often stated as the development of character, literary or leadership ability, or a more simple social purpose. Some organizations in this list have a specific major listed as a traditional emphasis. These organizations are social organizations which cater to students in those majors. Other organizations listed have a traditional emphasis in a specific religion or ethnic background. Despite this emphasis, most organizations have non-discrimination membership policies.

Fraternity is usually understood to mean a social organization composed only of men, and sorority one of women, although many women’s organizations also refer to themselves as fraternities. For the purposes of this article, national also includes international organizations, and local refers to organizations that are composed of only one chapter. This list is not exhaustive and does not include local organizations that do not have Wikipedia articles.



Fraternities or lodges were an important part of Australian society in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. They were gradually replaced by “service clubs“, such asLions, Apex, Rotary, etc. By the end of the 20th century, all the fraternities had been wound up[clarification needed] except for the Freemasons and a few lodges of the Buffaloes. The reasons for their decline probably have something to do with generational change and bemusement at the secretive rites that all fraternities had, as the service clubs that succeeded them did fairly similar charitable work.

No general history has been written, but some of the many lodges that operated in the state of Victoria were:

  • Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes,
  • Druids,
  • Foresters,
  • Freemasons,
  • Odd Fellows ,

Of course in those sectarian times there had to be two different lodges for those of Irish descent:



South Africa

United States

Organization Symbol Founded Affiliation Traditional Emphasis
Acacia (Chapters) AKAKIA 1904 NIC Masonic (Masonic membership no longer required)[1]
Adelphikos Αδελφικοσ 1913 Local, Grove City College Christian
Alpha Beta Chi ΑΒΧ 1941 CIPFI Puerto Rican
Alpha Chi Alpha ΑΧΑ 1919 Local, Dartmouth College Traditional
Alpha Chi Rho (Chapters) ΑΧΡ 1895 NIC Traditional
Alpha Delta ΑΔ 1847 Local, Dartmouth College Traditional
Alpha Delta Gamma (Chapters) ΑΔΓ 1924 NIC Jesuit
Alpha Delta Phi (Chapters) ΑΔΦ 1832 NIC Originally a secret literary society, now traditional
Alpha Epsilon Pi (Chapters) ΑΕΠ 1913 NIC Jewish
Alpha Gamma Omega ΑΓΩ 1927 Unaffiliated Christian
Alpha Gamma Rho (Chapters) ΑΓΡ 1904 NIC Agricultural
Alpha Iota Omicron ΑΙΟ 1998 Unaffiliated South Asian[2]
Alpha Kappa Lambda (Chapters) ΑΚΛ 1914 NIC Traditional
Alpha Phi Alpha ΑΦΑ 1906 NIC, NPHC African-American
Alpha Phi Delta ΑΦΔ 1914 NIC Italian-American
Alpha Sigma Phi (Chapters) ΑΣΦ 1845 NIC Originally secret sophomore society, now traditional
Alpha Tau Omega (Chapters) ΑΤΩ 1865 NIC Founded on Christian principles, now traditional
Beta Chi Theta (Chapters) ΒΧΘ 1999 NIC, NAPA South Asian
Beta Epsilon Gamma Gamma Alpha Rho Sigma ΒΕΓΓΑΡΣ 1923 Local, Loyola University New Orleans Jesuit
Beta Kappa Gamma ΒΚΓ 1999 Unaffiliated Asian[3]
Beta Sigma Psi (Chapters) ΒΣΨ 1925 NIC Lutheran[4]
Beta Theta Pi (Chapters) ΒΘΠ 1839 NIC Traditional[5]
Beta Upsilon Chi ΒΥΧ 1985 Unaffiliated Christian
Bones Gate BG 1901 Local, Dartmouth College Traditional
Chi Gamma Epsilon ΧΓΕ 1905 (1987) Local, Dartmouth College Traditional
Chi Heorot ΧH 1897 Local, Dartmouth College Traditional
Chi Phi (Chapters) ΧΦ 1824 NIC Traditional
Chi Psi (Chapters) ΧΨ 1841 NIC Traditional
Delphic of Gamma Sigma Tau ΓΣΤ 1871 NMGC Multicultural
Delta Chi (Chapters) ΔΧ 1890 NIC Originally a law fraternity, now traditional
Delta Epsilon Psi ΔΕΨ 1998 NIC South Asian
Delta Gamma Iota ΔΓΙ 1965 Unaffiliated national Traditional[6]
Delta Kappa Epsilon (Chapters) ΔΚΕ 1844 NIC Originally secret society, traditional
Delta Lambda Phi ΔΛΦ 1986 NIC Gay, bisexual, progressive
Delta Rho Upsilon ΔΡΥ 1929 Local/Traditional
Delta Omega Epsilon ΔΩΕ 1985 Unaffiliated national Traditional[7]
Delta Phi (Chapters) ΔΦ 1827 NIC Originally secret society, traditional
Delta Sigma Phi (Chapters) ΔΣΦ 1899 NIC Traditional/Social
Delta Tau Delta (Chapters) ΔΤΔ 1858 NIC Originally literary society, traditional
Delta Theta Sigma ΔΘΣ 1906 Unaffiliated National Agricultural[8]
Delta Upsilon (Chapters) ΔΥ 1834 NIC Traditional
Epsilon Sigma Rho ΕΣΡ 1986 Unaffiliated national Multicultural[9]
FarmHouse (Chapters) FH 1905 NIC Agricultural
Gamma Omega Delta ΓΩΔ 1989 Unaffiliated national Multicultural[10]
Gamma Zeta Alpha (Chapters) ΓΖΑ 1987 NALFO Latino[11]
Iota Nu Delta ΙΝΔ 1994 NIC South Asian
Iota Phi Theta ΙΦΘ 1963 NIC, NPHC African-American
Kappa Alpha Order (Chapters) ΚΑ 1865 NIC Traditional/Social
Kappa Alpha Society (Chapters) ΚΑ 1825 NIC Originally literary society, traditional/social
Kappa Alpha Psi (Chapters) ΚΑΨ 1911 NIC, NPHC African-American
Kappa Delta Phi (Chapters) ΚΔΦ 1900 NIC Traditional
Kappa Delta Rho (Chapters) ΚΔΡ 1905 NIC Traditional
Kappa Kappa Kappa ΚΚΚ 1842 Local, Dartmouth College Traditional
Kappa Sigma (Chapters) ΚΣ 1869 Unaffiliated national Traditional[12]
Kappa Upsilon Chi ΚΥΧ 1993 Unaffiliated Christian[13]
Lambda Alpha Upsilon (Chapters) ΛΑΥ 1985 NALFO Latino
Lambda Chi Alpha (Chapters) ΛΧΑ 1909 NIC Traditional
Lambda Iota Society ΛΙ 1836 Local, University of Vermont Originally secret literary society, Traditional
Lambda Phi Epsilon (Chapters) ΛΦΕ 1981 NIC, NAPA Asian
Lambda Sigma Upsilon (Chapters) ΛΣΥ 1979 NALFO, NIC Latino
Lambda Theta Phi (Chapters) ΛΘΦ 1975 NALFO, NIC Latino
Lambda Upsilon Lambda (Chapters) ΛΥΛ 1982 NALFO Latino
Men of God 1999 UCCFS Christian[14]
Nu Alpha Kappa (Chapters) ΝΑΚ 1988 NIC Latino
Nu Sigma Beta ΝΣΒ 1937 CIPFI Puerto Rican
Omega Delta Phi (Chapters) ΩΔΦ 1987 NIC Latino
Omega Psi Phi (Chapters) ΩΨΦ 1911 NPHC African-American
Phi Beta Sigma (Chapters) ΦΒΣ 1914 NIC, NPHC African-American
Phi Delta Alpha ΦΔΑ 1884 Local, Dartmouth College Traditional
Phi Delta Gamma ΦΔΓ 1942 CIPFI Puerto Rican
Phi Delta Psi ΦΔΨ 1977 Unaffiliated national African-American[15]
Phi Delta Theta (Chapters) ΦΔΘ 1848 NIC Originally nonsectarian, Traditional
Phi Epsilon Chi ΦEX 1943 CIPFI Puerto Rican
Phi Eta Kappa ΦΗΚ 1906 Local, University of Maine Traditional
Phi Eta Mu ΦΗΜ 1923 CIPFI Puerto Rican
Phi Gamma Delta (Chapters) FIJI 1848 NIC Traditional
Phi Iota Alpha (Chapters) ΦΙΑ 1931 NIC Latino
Phi Kappa Pi ΦΚΠ 1913 Unaffiliated, Canadian national Traditional[16]
Phi Kappa Psi (Chapters) ΦΚΨ 1852 NIC Originally service, traditional
Phi Kappa Sigma (Chapters) ΦΚΣ 1850 NIC Originally secret order, traditional
Phi Kappa Tau (Chapters) ΦΚΤ 1906 NIC Traditional
Phi Kappa Theta (Chapters) ΦΚΘ 1889 NIC Catholic
Phi Lambda Chi (Chapters) ΦΛΧ 1925 NIC Traditional
Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia ΦΜΑ 1898 NIMC Music
Phi Mu Delta (Chapters) ΦΜΔ 1918 NIC Originally Commons Club, traditional
Phi Rho Eta ΦΡΗ 1994 Unaffiliated national African-American[17]
Phi Sigma Alpha (Chapters) ΦΣΑ 1928 CIPFI Puerto Rican/Hispanic
Phi Sigma Chi ΦΣΧ 1996 NMGC Multicultural[18]
Phi Sigma Gamma ΦΣΓ 1915-1916 Unaffiliated national Osteopathic Medicine
Phi Sigma Kappa (Chapters) ΦΣΚ 1873 NIC Traditional
Phi Sigma Nu ΦΣΝ 1996 Unaffiliated national Native American
Phi Sigma Phi ΦΣΦ 1988 NIC Traditional[19]
Pi Alpha Phi (Chapters) ΠΑΦ 1929 NAPA Asian
Pi Delta Psi (Chapters) ΠΔΨ 1994 NAPA Asian
Pi Kappa Alpha ΠΚΑ 1868 NIC Traditional
Pi Kappa Phi (Chapters) ΠΚΦ 1904 NIC Traditional
Pi Lambda Phi (Chapters) ΠΛΦ 1895 NIC Traditional
Psi Sigma Phi (Chapters) ΨΣΦ 1990 NMGC Multicultural
Psi Upsilon (Chapters) ΨΥ 1833 NIC Traditional
Seal and Serpent 1905 Local, Cornell University Traditional
Sigma Alpha Epsilon (Chapters) ΣΑΕ 1856 NIC Traditional
Sigma Alpha Mu (Chapters) ΣΑΜ 1909 NIC Jewish
Sigma Beta Rho ΣΒΡ 1996 NIC, NAPA South Asian/Multicultural
Sigma Chi (Chapters) ΣΧ 1855 NIC Originally literary society, traditional
Sigma Delta Alpha ΣΔΑ 1992 Unaffiliated National Latino
Sigma Lambda Beta (Chapters) ΣΛΒ 1986 NIC Latino
Sigma Nu (Chapters) ΣΝ 1869 NIC Originally anti-hazing, traditional
Sigma Phi Delta (Chapters) ΣΦΔ 1924 NIC Engineering
Sigma Phi Epsilon (Chapters) ΣΦΕ 1901 NIC Traditional
Sigma Phi Society ΣΦ 1827 NIC Originally secret society, traditional
Sigma Pi (Chapters) ΣΠ 1897 NIC Originally literary society, traditional
Sigma Tau Gamma (Chapters) ΣΤΓ 1920 NIC Originally literary society, traditional
Sigma Thêta Pi ΣΘΠ 2003 Unaffiliated national Francophone Greek
Tau Delta Phi ΤΔΦ 1910 NIC Jewish Social
Tau Epsilon Phi (Chapters) ΤΕΦ 1910 NIC Jewish Social
Tau Kappa Epsilon (Chapters) ΤΚΕ 1899 NIC Traditional
Theta Chi (Chapters) ΘΧ 1856 NIC Traditional/Social
Theta Delta Chi (Chapters) ΘΔΧ 1847 NIC Originally secret society, traditional/Social
Theta Gamma ΘΓ 1912 Unaffiliated national Traditional
Theta Xi (Chapters) ΘΞ 1864 NIC Engineering, social
Triangle Fraternity (Chapters) TriangleDeltaT.png 1907 NIC Engineering, architecture, and Science
Trojan Knights 1921 Local, University of Southern California Traditional
Zeta Beta Tau (Chapters) ΖΒΤ 1898 NIC Originally Jewish, traditional (no religious affiliation)
Zeta Phi Rho ΖΦΡ 1995 Unaffiliated national Multicultural
Zeta Psi (Chapters) ΖΨ 1847 NIC Traditional/social

Sororities and women’s fraternities[edit]

Organization Symbol Founded Affiliation Traditional emphasis
Alpha Chi Omega ΑΧΩ 1885 NPC Originally music, now Traditional
Alpha Delta Chi ΑΔΧ 1925 Unaffiliated Christian
Alpha Delta Pi ΑΔΠ 1851 NPC Originally secret society, traditional
Alpha Epsilon Phi ΑΕΦ 1909 NPC Originally Jewish, traditional
Alpha Gamma Delta (Chapters) ΑΓΔ 1904 NPC Traditional
Alpha Kappa Alpha ΑΚΑ 1908 NPHC African-American
alpha Kappa Delta Phi aΚΔΦ 1990 NAPA Asian
Alpha Nu Omega ΑΝΩ 1988 UCCFS Christian
Alpha Omicron Pi ΑΟΠ 1897 NPC Traditional
Alpha Phi ΑΦ 1872 NPC Traditional
Alpha Phi Gamma ΑΦΓ 1994 NAPA Asian
Alpha Pi Omega ΑΠΩ 1994 Unaffiliated Native American
Alpha Pi Sigma ΑΠΣ 1990 NALFO Latina[20]
Alpha Sigma Alpha (Chapters) ΑΣΑ 1901 NPC Traditional
Alpha Sigma Kappa ΑΣΚ 1989 Unaffiliated Math, architecture, engineering, and science
Alpha Sigma Omega ΑΣΩ 1997 Unaffiliated Latina and Caribbean[21]
Alpha Sigma Rho ΑΣΡ 1998 NAPA Asian[22]
Alpha Sigma Tau ΑΣΤ 1899 NPC Traditional
Alpha Xi Delta ΑΞΔ 1893 NPC Traditional
Ceres 1984 Unaffiliated Agricultural[23]
Chi Omega (Chapters) ΧΩ 1895 NPC Traditional
Chi Upsilon Sigma ΧΥΣ 1980 NALFO Latina
Delta Chi Lambda ΔΧΛ 2000 Unaffiliated National Asian[24]
Delta Delta Delta ΔΔΔ 1888 NPC Traditional
Delta Gamma ΔΓ 1873 NPC Traditional
Delta Gamma Pi ΔΓΠ 1998 Unaffiliated Multicultural[citation needed]
Delta Kappa Delta ΔΚΔ 1999 NAPA South Asian
Delta Lambda Chi ΔΛΧ 2002 Unaffiliated Asian
Delta Phi Epsilon ΔΦΕ 1917 NPC Non-sectarian
Delta Phi Lambda ΔΦΛ 1998 NAPA Asian
Delta Phi Mu ΔΦΜ 1991 Unaffiliated national Multicultural
Delta Phi Omega ΔΦΩ 1998 Unaffiliated national South Asian
Delta Psi Epsilon ΔΨΕ 1999 UCCFS Christian
Delta Sigma Chi ΔΣΧ 1996 Unaffiliated national Multicultural[25]
Delta Sigma Theta ΔΣΘ 1913 NPHC African-American
Delta Tau Lambda ΔΤΛ 1994 Unaffiliated national Latina
Delta Xi Nu ΔΞΝ 1997 Unaffiliated national Multicultural
Delta Xi Phi ΔΞΦ 1994 NMGC Multicultural
Delta Zeta ΔΖ 1902 NPC Traditional
Eta Gamma Delta ΗΓΔ 1928 CIPFI Puerto Rican
Gamma Alpha Omega ΓΑΩ 1993 NALFO Latina
Gamma Eta ΓΗ 1995 NMGC Multicultural
Gamma Phi Beta ΓΦΒ 1874 NPC Traditional
Gamma Phi Omega ΓΦΩ 1991 Unaffiliated national Latina[26]
Gamma Rho Lambda ΓΡΛ 2003 Unaffiliated national LGBTQ[27]
Kappa Alpha Theta ΚΑΘ 1870 NPC Traditional
Kappa Beta Gamma ΚΒΓ 1917 Unaffiliated national Traditional
Kappa Delta ΚΔ 1897 NPC Traditional
Kappa Delta Chi ΚΔΧ 1987 NALFO Latina
Kappa Delta Phi National Affiliated Sorority ΚΔΦ 1977 Unaffiliated Traditional
Kappa Kappa Gamma ΚΚΓ 1870 NPC Traditional
Kappa Phi Gamma ΚΦΓ 1998 Unaffiliated national South Asian
Kappa Phi Lambda ΚΦΛ 1995 NAPA Asian
Kappa Phi Chi KΦX 1991 Local, Brooklyn College Traditional
Lambda Pi Chi ΛΠΧ 1988 NALFO Latina
Lambda Pi Upsilon ΛΠΥ 1992 NALFO Latina
Lambda Psi Delta ΛΨΔ 1997 NMGC Multicultural
Lambda Sigma Gamma ΛΣΓ 1986 NMGC Multicultural
Lambda Tau Omega ΛΤΩ 1988 NMGC Multicultural
Lambda Theta Alpha ΛΘΑ 1975 NALFO Latina
Lambda Theta Nu ΛΘΝ 1986 NALFO Latina
Mu Alpha Phi ΜΑΦ 1927 CIPFI Puerto Rican
Mu Epsilon Theta ΜΕΘ 1987 Unaffiliated, national Catholic[28]
Mu Sigma Upsilon ΜΣΥ 1981 NMGC Multicultural
National Society of Pershing Angels 1962 Unaffiliated Military drill[29]
Omega Phi Beta ΏΦΒ 1989 NALFO Latina
Omega Phi Chi ΏΦΧ 1988 NMGC Multicultural
Phi Beta Chi ΦΒΧ 1978 Unaffiliated national Lutheran
Phi Mu (Chapters) ΦΜ 1852 NPC Traditional
Phi Sigma Rho ΦΣΡ 1984 Unaffiliated national Engineering
Phi Sigma Sigma (Chapters) ΦΣΣ 1913 NPC Non-sectarian
Pi Beta Phi (Chapters) ΠΒΦ 1867 NPC Originally secret, Traditional
Pi Lambda Chi ΠΛΧ 1994 Unaffiliated national Latina[30]
Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi ΣΑΕΠ 1998 Unaffiliated national Jewish
Sigma Delta Tau ΣΔΤ 1917 NPC Non-sectarian
Sigma Gamma Rho ΣΓΡ 1922 NPHC African-American
Sigma Iota Alpha ΣΙΑ 1990 NALFO Latina
Sigma Kappa ΣΚ 1874 NPC Traditional
Sigma Lambda Alpha ΣΛΑ 1990 NALFO Latina
Sigma Lambda Gamma (Chapters) ΣΛΓ 1990 Unaffiliated national Latina
Sigma Lambda Upsilon ΣΛΥ 1987 NALFO Latina
Sigma Omega Nu ΣΩΝ 1996 Unaffiliated national Latina[31]
Sigma Omega Phi ΣΩΦ 2008 Unaffiliated national “Aggressive” lesbian[32]
Sigma Omicron Pi ΣΟΠ 1930 NAPA Asian
Sigma Phi Omega ΣΦΩ 1949 Unaffiliated national Asian
Sigma Pi Alpha ΣΠΑ 2004 Unaffiliated Chicana/Latina[33]
Sigma Psi Zeta ΣΨΖ 1994 NAPA Asian
Sigma Sigma Rho ΣΣΡ 1998 NAPA South Asian
Sigma Sigma Sigma ΣΣΣ 1898 NPC Traditional
Theta Nu Xi ΘΝΞ 1997 NMGC Multicultural
Theta Phi Alpha ΘΦΑ 1912 NPC Originally catholic, traditional
Zeta Chi Phi ΖΧΦ 2003 Unaffiliated national Multicultural
Zeta Phi Beta ΖΦΒ 1920 NPHC African-American
Zeta Sigma Chi ΖΣΧ 1991 Unofficial national Multicultural
Zeta Tau Alpha ΖΤΑ 1898 NPC Traditional

Coeducational fraternities[edit]

Coeducational fraternities permit both male and female members. Occasionally coed groups use the term frarority.

Organization Symbol Founded Affiliation Traditional emphasis
Alpha Nu Omega (Chapters) ΑΝΩ 1988 UCCFS Christian coed fraternity
Zeta Phi Zeta ΖΦΖ 2001 UCCFS Christian[34]
Alpha Delta Phi Society ΑΔΦ 1832 Unaffiliated, national Literary and traditional
Alpha Psi Lambda ΑΨΛ 1985 NALFO Latino
St. Anthony Hall (Delta Psi) ΔΨ 1847 Unaffiliated, national Literary and social
Delta Psi Alpha ΔΨΑ 1998 Unaffiliated, national Multicultural
Lambda Lambda Lambda ΛΛΛ 2006 Unaffiliated, national Traditional
Theta Delta Sigma ΘΔΣ 2001 Unaffiliated, national Multicultural
Alpha Theta ΑΘ 1920 Local, Dartmouth College Traditional
Delta Lambda Psi ΔΛΨ 2005 Local, University of California at Santa Cruz LBGTQ
Zeta Delta Xi ΖΔΞ 1852 Local, Brown University Traditional
Kappa Gamma Psi ΚΓΨ 1913 Local, Ithaca College Performing arts
Nu Alpha Phi ΝΑΦ 1994 Local, SUNY Albany Asian
Phi Tau ΦΤ 1905 Local, Dartmouth College Traditional
Psi Upsilon ΨΥ 1833 Local, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Traditional

Defunct national organizations[edit]

Organization Symbol Operated/Merged
Alpha Delta Theta ΑΔΘ 1919 – 1939, Phi Mu
Beta Phi Alpha ΒΦΑ 1919 – 1941, Delta Zeta
Delta Sigma Epsilon ΔΣΕ 1914 – 1956, Delta Zeta
Iota Alpha Pi ΙΑΠ 1903 – 1971
Kappa Phi Lambda ΚΦΛ 1862 – 1874
Lambda Omega ΛΩ 1915 – 1933, Delta Zeta
Pi Delta Kappa ΠΔΚ 1907 – 1913, Chi Omega
Pi Kappa Sigma ΠΚΣ 1894 – 1959 Sigma Kappa
Pi Lambda Sigma ΠΛΣ 1903 – 1959 Beta Phi Mu
Sigma Iota ΣΙ 1904 – 1931 Phi Iota Alpha
Phi Omega Pi ΦΩΠ 1922 – 1946 Delta Zeta
Phi Lambda Alpha ΦΛΑ 1919 – 1931 Phi Iota Alpha
Theta Kappa Nu ΘKN 1924 – 1939 Lambda Chi Alpha
Theta Upsilon ΘΥ 1921 – 1962 Delta Zeta

See also