The Knights of Columbus, founded by Father McGivney on March 29, 1882, was originally chartered by the State of Connecticut at the "Knights of Columbus of New Haven." Its purpose was to provide mutual aid and assistance to its members and their families. In 1889, a legislative amendment to the charter authorized the present mane "Knights of Columbus."
Originally the Order had only three degrees, exemplifying the principles of Charity, Unity and Fraternity. As the membership grew, the scope and purpose of the organization increased and became more diversified. Complying with the wishes of the membership, the Supreme Board of Directors approved the Fourth Degree in 1900 and on February 22nd of that year (George Washington's Birthday) the first Exemplification of the Fourth Degree was held in New York City.
In 1903, an Exemplification was held in St. Paul and the St. Paul Assembly (now Ravoux) and Nicollet Assembly (Minneapolis) were chartered. We now have 32 Fourth Degree Assemblies in the State of Minnesota, making it possible for every interested Brother Knight to join an assembly in his own area and actively participate in Fourth Degree activities.
Membership in the Patriotic Degree of the Order has flourished over the years. As of June 30, 1980 the total members numbered 195,550 with Minnesota claiming some 4,000 Sir Knights.
The Fourth Degree Emblem
The Knights of Columbus, an array of dedicated Catholic gentlemen, glory in the epithet: "The right arm of the Catholic Church." Sir Knights of the Fourth Degree deem it an honor and privilege to carry the triad emblem, which features the Dove, Cross, and Globe. Our honored Order cherishes its patron Christopher Columbus. Christopher "Christ bearer" Columbus. The Dove of Peace symbolizes the Paraciete. The Cross of Christ is the sign of our Christian faith; similarly, the Globe depicts the New World, the miraculous discovery of Columbus. Spiritually, the sacred symbols fashioned on our sword and lapel pin typify the union of the three divine Persons in one Godhead, the Most Holy Trinity.
The Globe - God the Father, Creator of the Universe
The Cross - God the Son, Redeemer of Mankind
The Dove - God the Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of Humanity
God willing, may we, Christian Soliders in the Columbian Crusade, lend loyalty to our honored Order, Patriotism to our beloved America, and Devotion the Holy Mother Church, all for the greater glory of God Almighty.
The primary purpose of the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus is to inculcate a love of country and impress the duties of citizenship. Its motto is Patriotism - a patriotism enlightened and informed by religion.
Rank and Organization
While the Fourth Degree is the highest and the Honorary Degree of the Order, a member must maintain his council membership in good standing in order to retain his Fourth Degree membership. The Third Degree, through its elected officers, on the Supreme and the State Council levels is the governing body of the Order, with the Supreme Board of Directors, the highest authority. This Board appoints the Supreme Master and the Vice Supreme masters of the Fourth Degree.
A Vice Supreme Master presides over a Province which consists of a number of Districts. The District of Minnesota is part of the Marquette Province which encompasses seven districts located in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. The Supreme Master appoints the Master of the District who supervises the Assemblies in his jurisdiction. The Assemblies, in turn, are composed of members of one or more Councils in the Assembly area.
Application for membership in the Fourth Degree may be made to any assembly provided the applicant is:
- Over eighteen years of age.
- A citizen of the country in which he resides.
- A Third Degree member in good standing in his council, and who was initiated in the Admission (First) Degree at least one year prior to his Exemplification of the Fourth Degree.
- Or, a former member, whose membership was terminated for failure to pay dues, or by a withdrawal card, if he has been readmitted to good standing in his council, and if he was a Third Degree member for a period of more than six months, prior to his loss of good standing in his council.
- A practical Catholic in union with the Holy See.
The Exemplification fee is set annually by the Board of Directors and includes a lapel pin, social baldric and one ticket to the Exemplification Banquet and Ball. Members of the Clergy are exempt from the payment of initiation fees and Assembly dues.
The official dress of the Fourth Degree is black tuxedo, white pleated formal shirt, black tie and cummerbund, black shoes and socks, black studs and cuff links, white suspenders and white gloves. White tie and tails is permissible for those members who have not as yet made the change over.
The social baldric identifies you as a Sir Knight and must be worn at all social functions. Officers should wear their jewel of office. The service baldric is used whenever the sword is carried. The lapel pin is never worn on the uniform, but should be pinned on the left lapel of the dress coat.
All Fourth Degree members are encouraged to obtain the full regalia which includes the white plumed chapeaux, red lined cape, service baldric and sword. You will then be ready whenever you are called upon to participate.
One of the most important functions of the Fourth Degree is providing Guards of Honor at Mass, wakes, funerals, dedications and many other civic or patriotic functions. In full Regalia, with colorful capes and plumed chapeaux, the Knights of Columbus are always recognized in any public appearance. These Sir Knights add dignity and a pride of church and country to any event. By these public demonstrations, their loyalties bring credit to themselves and to the Knights of Columbus.
The colors of the Fourth Degree are:
- Blue - Vice Supreme Master
- Gold - Master
- White - Faithful Navigator
- Green - District Marshal
- Purple - Honor Guard Commander
- Red - Honor Guard
Participation in parades is an ideal way to bring the Knights of Columbus to the people! Everybody loves a parade and several Fourth Degree assemblies have entered units in their local celebration. This is one of the primary projects of Nicollet Assembly. Its float, color guard and marching unit have appeared in more than 25 parades since 1969, earned over 100 trophies and awards and continue to promote the individual councils and assemblies each year while gaining tremendous exposure for the Order.
The float is completely maintained and redecorated each year by members of the marching unit, certainly a most dedicated group of Sir Knights. These men have logged some 30,000 miles, and contributed more that 14,000 man hours in float work, drills and parades.
In addition to the Fourth Degree State programs and projects listed here, each of the 32 Minnesota Assemblies conducts its own activities on a local level. They meet once each month with the ladies included on several occasions during the year when a special "Ladies Night" is designated. The monthly meetings always include instructive and informative programs which are of interest to the membership. The assemblies promote many programs and activities such as Honor Guards, Scholarships for Catholic Schools, Perpetual Communion for Deceased Sir Knights, Works of Charity, Sponsoring Radio and Television Programs, Social Events such as Dinner Dances (which are usually formal) and many other activities too numerous to list here.
The event of the year is the Fourth Degree Exemplification at which Brother Knights are initiated into the order. This most impressive and edifying ceremony, held in a different city each year, makes it possible for every Sir Knight and his Lady to attend the largest and finest formal banquet and ball they will ever attend.
Projects of the Minnesota Fourth Degree
Near the city of Red Wing, the Fourth Degree Knights have made plans to rebuild the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel within the walls of a rebuilt Fort Beauharnois on the spot where the first mass was held in Minnesota over two hundred and fifty years ago.
Fort St. Charles
At Fort St. Charles, located in teh Northwest Angle of Lake of the Woods, a permanent granite Memorial Altar was erected by the Fourth Degree Knights in 1951. A Chapel of pre-cast concrete logs was built in 1953 and the entire Fort was restored in 1960. The altar marks the burial place of Minnesota's first martyr priest, Rev. Jean Pierre Aulneau, S.J. in 1732.
Crow Wing Memorial Chapel
In the early 1960's, the fourth Degree Knights erected a chapel on the site of the original log church and dedicated it to the great missionary priest, Father Xavier Pierz. An honor guard of Sir knights participates at a Mass held annually in July. An outdoor Mass is celebrated each Saturday during the summer and is well attended by vacationers.
Father Hennepin Statue
In front of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, stands the statue of Father Louis Hennepin, who discovered the Falls of Saint Anthony in 1680. This memorial was a project undertaken by the Minnesota Knights of Columbus shortly after World War I. The monument has now been thoroughly cleaned and re-set on a new block of granite, increasing its height by three feet.
Although the project is now completed, with new landscaping, lighting and water, the support of all Brother Knights is needed to fulfill all of our financial obligations. We owe a great deal of gratitude to the man who was responsible for bringing this project to its completion . . . the man who devoted countless hours to the numerous details involved . . . the man who made it all happen . . . Sir Knight, John Symanitz.
Why should I join the Fourth Degree?
Because the Fourth Degree:
- Is a group of outstanding Knights of Columbus dedicated to promoting patriotism enlightened by the Catholic Faith.
- Works for the application of Christian principles in all levels of democratic government.
- Calls upon its members to distinguish themselves with heroic deeds for God, for Country and for our Order.
- Supports such religious, civic and charitable causes as are consistent with its high ideals.
- Opposes the institution and development of forces inimical to good Christian government.
- Educates its members and the world as large to be defenders of our democratic institutions.
- Is the highest degree in the Knights of Columbus, giving a greater knowledge and appreciation of our Catholic heritage.
How do I Become a Fourth Degree Member?
Joining the Fourth Degree is not a difficult thing to do. Simply contact a member of the Fourth Degree, ask for a Membership Application, complete the application, and submit it with proper fee to a member of the assembly you wish to join. Or, if you prefer, email the information below to me firstname.lastname@example.org