Four Core Principles and Four Degrees
Charity – First Degree
New candidates begin their journey to Knighthood by completing the First Degree ceremony wherein they honor the virtue of charity. Our Catholic faith teaches us to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Members of the Knights of Columbus show love for their neighbors by conducting food drives for needy soup kitchens and recipient families; by volunteering at Special Olympics; and by supporting, both spiritually and materially, mothers who choose life for their babies. Knights recognize that our mission, and our faith in God, compel us to action. There is no better way to experience love and compassion than by helping those in need, a call we answer every day.
Following a First Degree ceremony, a candidate becomes a Knight of Columbus, eligible for all council activities.
Unity – Second Degree
The next level is the Second Degree, and acknowledges unity. None of us alone is as good as all of us together. Members of the Knights of Columbus all know that together, we can accomplish far more than any one of us could individually. So we stick together…we support one another. That doesn’t mean that we always agree or that there is never a difference of opinion. It does mean that – as a Knight of Columbus – you can count on the support and encouragement of your brother Knights as you work to make life better in your parish and community.
Fraternity – Third Degree
Venerable Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, in large part, to provide assistance to the widows and children left behind when the family breadwinner died, often prematurely in the late 19 Century. The Order’s top-rated insurance program continues to provide such support today, as do the good works of brother Knights, who annually provide more than 75 million service hours, assisting each other in Catholic fraternity and mercy.
A Third Degree member receives full honors of Knighthood and is “Knighted.” Privileges of Third Degree membership include capacity to serve as a local council officer, and admission to state and Supreme Council business meetings.
First and Second Degree members can attend state and Supreme Council meetings, but cannot participate in business sessions.
Members who've been in the Knights for one year and who have attained Third Degree membership are eligible to become Fourth Degree Knights.
Patriotism - Fourth Degree
On February 22, 1900, the first Fourth Degree exemplification (degree ceremony) was held in New York City. The Fourth Degree honors the virtue of patriotism. This degree is intended to foster the spirit of patriotism in members and in the community at large, and to encourage active Catholic citizenship. Today, there are some 300,000 Fourth Degree Knights out of the total 1.6 million member Knights of Columbus.
Local units, called assemblies, draw members from Knights of Columbus councils. Qualifications for membership in the Fourth Degree are these two: (1) Knights membership for at least one year and (2) status as Third Degree Knight.