Some Notable National Projects in the Jurisdiction
The Order’s first response to a call from the American Church, its first big national project, culminated on April 13, 1904 with the presentation of a check for $50,000 to Cardinal Gibbons to establish a chair in American history at Catholic University in DC. Ten thousand Knights were on campus for the ceremony. The huge check, ten feet high and four feet wide and decoratively executed in calligraphy on vellum, has for over fifty years hung in a place of honor at the University, an icon of the Order most Knights have never seen.
Two years later, in 1906, the interest of local Knights in establishing a Columbus memorial in the capital bore fruit when the former Advocate of Potomac Council arranged to have a bill introduced in Congress that led to design and construction of the Columbus Memorial and Fountain in front of Union Station.
The national Order strongly supported the project and was in charge of the unveiling ceremonies on June 8, 1912. There was an elaborate four-day celebration and an estimated 20,000 Knights and their families in attendance. The parade, led by 4,000 uniformed Fourth Degree Knights, was said to have attracted the largest crowd since the victory parade after the Civil War. William Howard Taft. who as Secretary of War had been part of the committee that planned the memorial, attended the ceremonies as President. The next year, he visited his friends at the joint K. of C. home on his last evening in office.
In 1914 the Order responded to another appeal from Catholic University by raising and presenting $500,000 to establish graduate fellowships in lieu of an endowment originally planned. The building to house the graduate fellows, known as Graduate Hall, has hosted meetings of Washington Assembly and at least one state convention, in recent years provided the offices and meeting spaces of the Catholic University Council, and for over half a century to the present time has served as the repository of the magnificent framed 1904 check.
In 1920 the site blessing and later cornerstone laying of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception again brought thousands of Knights to Washington. The crypt church was completed in 1926, and then expanded by 1932, when, in its 50th anniversary year, the Order held its first Supreme Convention in DC. At that time the Order dedicated the Cardinal Gibbons memorial statue it had erected on land donated by the city at 15th and Park Road NW in front of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart. There was a parade, including Fourth Degree Knights from eight provinces, reviewed by President Hoover and other dignitaries. Until a few years ago Labor Day ceremonies were held annually at the statue, with Color Corps participation; they were later moved to the Shrine.
In 1942 death claimed local resident Daniel J. Callahan, Supreme Treasurer, who had served in that position since 1909. He had been charter Grand Knight of the first council south of DC (Norfolk #367 in 1898) and Virginia state deputy, later moving to DC where he served as an officer of Riggs Bank and chairman of the Chamber of Commerce. In 1949 DC got another notable area resident when Francis Matthews, Supreme Knight from 1937 to 1945, was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Truman. He held that post through the darkest year of the Korean War until appointed Ambassador to Ireland on June 27, 1951, where he died the following year.
In 1954 the bishops launched a funding drive to complete the National Shrine. With construction work begun again in 1995 and funds running out, the Order in 1957 responded to a request from the bishops to raise $1,000,000 to erect the bell tower. On November 10, 1959 the Shrine was dedicated in the largest ecclesiastical ceremony in the history of the American church, with over 1,000 Knights in the Color Corps honor guard alone.
In 1965 the Order established the $500,000 Fourth Degree Pro Deo and Pro Patria Scholarship trust to provide 12 undergraduate scholarships at Catholic University.
In 1979 new Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant dedicated his administration to Mary at the National Shrine and later that year the Order established a $500,000 fund for the Shrine to promote devotion to Mary and to preserve the Shrine in perpetuity. The Pope visited DC in November, and Fourth Degree Knights provided a special honor guard for his Mass on the Mall.
In the Order’s centennial year, 1882, the Supreme Council established the uniformed usher program at the National Shrine, run by Knights from DC, Maryland, and Virginia to provide ushers for weekend Masses, holydays, and special events. On the 10th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, DC Knights began in 1983 the continuing annual project of assembling and distributing Supreme-supplied posters at the annual March for Life, which brings thousands of Knights to DC every January.
DC hosted its second Supreme Convention in 1985, which had to be moved at the last minute to three other hotels when a transformer fire put the Washington Hilton out of commission.
The Order celebrated the millennial anniversary of the Ukrainian Church in 1988 by donating the seven carillon bells in the open tower of the Ukrainian National Catholic Shrine of the Holy Family opposite Catholic University. That same year also saw the establishment at the Dominican House of Studies (also opposite the campus) of the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family, funded entirely by the Knights.
The 1989 Supreme Convention in Baltimore. attended by many from DC, celebrated the bicentennial of the establishment of the U.S. hierarchy by giving a $1,000,000 gift to the bishops’ university, CUA. The following month the bells and ringing mechanism of the National Shrine, donated by the Knights 25 years earlier and now refurbished by the Order, were blessed in a special ceremony. In later years the Order also undertook to pay $250,000 annually to support television broadcasts of events at the Shrine by the Eternal Word Television Network.
In 1989 Knights from the area joined in establishing what later became the National Columbus Day Celebration Association, to put the Columbus Day observances at the Columbus Memorial on a continuing basis and to prepare for the Quincentenary celebration of the discovery. The Order-wide celebration of the Quincentenary was opened in 1991 with an especially elaborate Columbus Day celebration at the national memorial with the Supreme Board of Directors participating, followed by a large reception in Union Station’s Columbus Club. The Order’s Columbus Quincentenary celebration culminated the following year, 1992, at the Supreme Convention in New York.
The next year, 1993, the Supreme Convention was again hosted by DC, with great success.
In 1995 Pope John Paul II visited Baltimore and many DC Knights served in the Color Corps honor guard. That same year, the Supreme Convention in Kansas City committed $5,000,000 toward the proposed Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in DC, dedicated in 2001.
The millennial year saw the centennial anniversary of the Fourth Degree and on April 1 the Knights’ millennial pilgrimage to the National Shrine, which had a huge overflow crowd and a Color Corps turnout exceeding that at the Shrine’s 1959 dedication. Cardinal Hickey was honored at this event with the Order’s Gaudium et Spes award. Then in 2002 there were two more special events at the Shrine: the Knights’ national Eucharistic Congress on June 22-23 (which had a turnout somewhat less than anticipated) and the national anniversary commemoration of the 2001 attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on September 11. The latter was a special Fourth Degree event, involving about 800 Color Corps members.
Some Notable Local Projects
From their earliest days DC Knights had a special interest in helping the several Catholic orphanages, as well as the Little Sisters of the Poor. The last became over a century the oldest and largest charity of the DC Knights, as it is today.
Following World War I the Order nationally established various job placement, training, and educational programs, but when national funding was discontinued, evening educational programs in DC were continued by local Knights. They drew largely on K. of C. faculty members from Catholic University, and were chartered as Columbus University in 1922. A number of men at Catholic University belonged at the time to Washington Council, which over the years included a number of distinguished faculty members.
In 1938, Washington Assembly of the Fourth Degree collaborated with the National Committee of Catholic Societies to sponsor an annual Memorial Mass at Arlington cemetery, which achieved some prominence and continued for many years. And in 1941, on the eve of World War II, the Assembly commenced what became the highly successful annual Pan American diplomatic receptions, continuing for over two decades during the war and afterwards and bringing together diplomatic representatives from Latin America and their co-religionists, the Knights of Columbus.
In 1939 Washington had became an archdiocese separate from Baltimore, but Archbishop Curley of the latter also served as Archbishop of Washington until his death in 1947, when Archbishop O’Boyle succeeded him. In 1952 the annual charity ball for the Archbishop O’Boyle fund was initiated at the Mayflower Hotel by DC and Maryland councils, with proceeds going to Archbishop Carroll High School. Then, just four days after the dedication of the Shrine in 1959, the Kennedy Institute was dedicated, and two years later the annual Charity Ball was dedicated to its support, and remains so today.
In 1954 the Catholic University law department merged with the Knights’ evening school, Columbus University, to form the Columbus School of Law of Catholic University, which was housed in the downtown facilities of the former Columbus University until 1966., when it moved into a new building on the university campus. In 1994 a much more impressive new building of the Columbus School of Law was dedicated on campus, with the courtyard named in honor of the Knights of Columbus, a plaque in it recalling the 1989 $2,000,000 gift to the University.
Also in 1954 the annual K of C Invitational Scholastic Basketball Tournament was established under the DC State Council, lasting for over two decades with great success, and bringing together teams from the local area and a number of other states.
The annual Columbus Day celebrations sponsored by the Knights and Italian organizations were enlarged for 1971 as the “”National Columbus Day Celebration”” when Columbus Day became for the first time a federal holiday. Then in the bicentennial year, 1976, another very special celebration took place with President Ford among those laying a wreath at the Columbus monument.
The DC State Council in 1990 was awarded the Caritas Medal by Catholic Charities, the first year the annual award was given, for its leadership in supporting the annual Catholic Charities Gala.
O’Boyle Council, established in 1994, began a strong emphasis on programs for youth (something Cardinal Hickey had especially wanted the Knights to do), as part of which St. Dominic Savio Squires Circle #4215 and a companion group for girls, the Squire Roses, were established in DC. Later, St. Cassian of Tangiers Squires Circle #4458 was instituted by St. Thomas More Council.
Development and Growth of the Order in DC
The K. of C. was first established in the Washington area in 1897 with the institution of Washington Council #224 on April 25. (One of its charter members would, thirty-four years later, become Mayor of New York.) When Keane #353 was established June 5, 1898 by people connected with Catholic University, and Carroll #377 on December 15 of that same year, DC qualified to have a State Council, chartered on March 27, 1899. Then on April 23 Spalding (now St. Anthony) Council #417 was instituted, followed by Potomac Council #433 on June 5. There would be no other new councils in DC for another 55 years. When the Fourth Degree was instituted in New York City on Washington’s Birthday, 1900, DC had 11 members in the first exemplification class.
In 1901 the five DC Councils purchased a former Baptist church at 606 E St. NW for a joint home. They sold it three years after World War I and bought the Carroll Institute building at 918 10th St. NW. Twenty years later, two days after the Pearl Harbor attack, Washington Council, the largest in DC, bought its own building at 1601 R St., NW. After both wars there was a great increase in DC membership. In 1954 Washington Council, which alone had over 2,000 members, sold its building, met at the Mayflower for six months, then rejoined the other councils at their 10th Street home, the same year that Bishop Byrne Council #3877 was instituted with a focus on Southeast DC, the first new council in DC since 1899 (though in DC environs five councils had been established in Maryland and two in Virginia by this time).
Following the dedication of the National Shrine in 1959, men on the CUA campus established Immaculate Conception Shrine Council #4944 in March, 1960. A charter member, and first chaplain, was Fr. Theodore McCarrick, later to return as Archbishop of Washington, today again a member of the council.
The first black members in DC were admitted to Carroll Council in 1961 and three years later Washington Assembly admitted its first black members, half of whom were later ordained in 1971 in the first class of permanent deacons, giving Carroll Council the nickname “”Council of Deacons.””
Washington Council’s present home at 5034 Wisconsin Avenue, NW was dedicated in 1962. Four years later, in 1966, the other councils sold the Tenth street building and dispersed to different parts of the city, Byrne Council dedicating their own newly-built home on Southern Avenue that year. (Washington and Byrne are the only two councils owning their own homesâ€” one in the extreme northwest of DC and the other in the extreme southeast.) Two years later, the 69-year-old Potomac Council then merged with Spalding Council in 1968.
DC added another new council, Georgetown University Council #6375 in 1972, but after a year it became inactive. By 1979, DC reached a low point with only 1,050 members, but then growth picked up. St. Josaphat Council #7530 was added in 1980â€” the first Ukrainian Council in the U.S. and the first DC council to be oriented toward one specific parish. Six years later the establishment of St. Martin dePorres Council #9386 in the eastern part of DC accelerated new council development, with Catholic University Council #9542 added in 1987 and St. Charles Lwanga #9938 and St. Cyprian #10008 in 1988. In 1990 Georgetown University #6375 was reinstituted, as was Potomac Council #433 in downtown DC the following year. Then came O’Boyle Council #11302 serving Southwest and near Southeast DC in 1994, followed in 1995 by Our Lady of Victory #11487 in western DC, Fr. Cyprian Tansi #11496 (Nigerian), and St. Thomas More #11578 in 1995 in southernmost DC.
The CUA Council chaired the annual college council conference in 1993, and won the trophy as Outstanding College Council of the entire Order at the following year’s conference.
Washington Council celebrated its centennial in 1997, followed by the other four original councils in the next two years. The State Council celebrated its own centennial in 1999. Participating in the celebration was new Supreme Secretary, PSD Carl Anderson, who had originally transferred to the DC jurisdiction from Virginia in 1991 as founding Grand Knight of the reinstituted Potomac Council. (In DC he had also served as the Order’s Vice President for Public Policy and Dean of the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family.) The following year he was elected to succeed the retiring Virgil Dechant as Supreme Knight.
Georgetown University Council #6375 chaired the college council conference in 1998, won the trophy as Outstanding College Council of the Order in 2002, and sponsored the establishment of DC’s third college council at George Washington University Council No. 13242 the following December 8.
Howard University Council #13730 was established on March 24, 2005, becoming the eighteenth Council and fourth College Council in the District of Columbia.
For many years Washington Assembly was the only Fourth Degree assembly in the area, drawing membership from councils in Maryland and Virginia as well as DC, and at one time it was one of the largest, if not the largest, assembly in the Order. In 1960, spin-off assemblies began to be instituted in the neighboring jurisdictions, and later Washington Assembly #151 drew its membership only from Washington, DC Councils. Proportionally about twice as many knights in DC are Fourth Degree as in the rest of the Order, the ratio in DC being about one in three, while it is about one in six in the rest of the Order. In 1998 a second assembly, Prince of the Church #2435 was also established in DC.
Washington and Prince of the Church assemblies are two of the eleven assemblies comprising the Archdiocese of Washington District of the Fourth Degree, which is a part of Calvert Province. Geographically, the district includes the District of Columbia and the five counties that, with it, comprise the Archdiocese of Washington, and it is the only Fourth Degree District named for such an ecclesiastical jurisdiction. In view of the central role this area plays both in government and in the Church, there are rather more extensive calls on the Fourth Degree color corps in this area than elsewhere in the Order.
The Knights of Columbus have been in the District of Columbia since 1897, when Washington Council #224 was instituted, just a couple of months after Baltimore Council #205 first established the Order below the Mason-Dixon line. Both were at the time in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, then headed by James Cardinal Gibbons, a supporter of the Knights. By 1899 DC was a state jurisdiction, with five councils in the city.