Brief History of the Knights of St. Columba
The Knights of Saint Columba is a world-wide Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded in Glasgow in 1919, it was named in honour of Saint Columba (Colum Cille), a catholic missionary from Ireland who helped introduce Christianity to the people of northern Britain and whose legacy is very prominent in Scotland. Saint Columba is also known as a Scottish saint. In 563 AD, St Columba left Ireland and settled with the Gaels of Dal Riata, where he was given the Island of Iona to found his monastery. Columba himself would have remained an enigmatic and little known person if not for Adomnan, the ninth Abbot of Iona who wrote a book titled “Vita Colum Cille”.
On 5th October 1919, Patrick Joseph O’Callaghan, an Irish migrant from Cork, gathered a meeting of 24 Catholic men at Central Hall, Bath Street, Glasgow and agreed to form a fraternal organisation – The Knights of St Columba. In 1882, the United States’ Knights of Columbus was founded by Fr. Michael J. McGivney. The founders, known as the Incorporators, modelled the Knights of St Columba on their example. The first initiation of members began on 11th November 1919, while the following year a concert was held on Saint Patrick’s Day which strongly boosted the membership numbers of the organisation into the hundreds. The Order is set at three levels: councils are local groups which are arranged into larger groups called provinces. The highest level is a Board of Directors led by the Supreme Knight. There is a Head Office located in Glasgow, Scotland, where the Order was founded. The highest constitutional meeting of the Knights of Saint Columba is the annual conference or Supreme Council and is the body that decides national policy. The Supreme Knight is elected annually and can serve for a maximum of three years. Councils and Provinces are chaired by Grand Knights and Provincial Grand Knights respectively and these, too, are in office for a maximum of three years or an additional one year if approval is given by the Supreme Knight. At local level, members belong to a Council, led by the Grand Knight, and meet on a monthly basis. The Councils in an area (often corresponding to a Catholic Diocese) come together to form a Province.
This body whose members refer to themselves as Brothers are dedicated to the principles of Charity, Unity and Fraternity and has about 3,000 members across England, Scotland and Wales. In the UK, the Order of the Knights of St. Columba is divided into 8 Regions, 24 Provinces, and approximately 1,000 Councils. Membership is limited to practising catholic men from ages 16 and above. They support the mission and doctrine of the Church. They also work for the material good of its members and their families. The Knights of St. Columba vigorously support, promote and live out the teachings of the catholic church, particularly the Catholic social teachings. The Knights ministry include the promotion of the spiritual, moral and social welfare of their communities and in particular the spiritual development of young people. They are also a foundation member of the International Alliance for Catholic Knights (IACK).