Our Local Council
The George Washington Council #359 was founded in Morristown, New Jersey on July 7, 1898. Our Council is the only Council named after a non-Catholic. George Washington, the first President of the United States of America, was an Episcopalian. Morristown, New Jersey is known as the ‘Military Capital of the Revolution’. General Washington and the Continental Army wintered in and around Morristown during the winters of 1776-1777 and 1779-1780.
Council 359 is located on The Green, the central square of Morristown, the County Seat of Morris County. Recently the Council performed a multi-phase renovation of our Council Hall in order to restore it to its original glory. Council leadership and membership are committed to various acts of Charity, Service, Fraternity and Patriotism. These acts are based upon the Knights of Columbus Four Pillars. Additional information is included in the Charity and Events sections of this site.
We are a growing organization with 300+ local members and nearly 2 million members, worldwide. For over 130 years, the Knights have committed to overcome the challenges of the less fortunate including the need for food, shelter, warm clothing and financial security, as well as, provide aid for widows and orphans in our local communities.
History of the Knights of Columbus
The Knights of Columbus were founded on March 29, 1882 by Father Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, Connecticut with the intent of benefitting society. Father McGivney presided over a parish that primarily consisted of immigrants, and was quick to recognize the turmoil that could fall upon a family if the breadwinner died. McGivney also recognized that during that time (the 19th century), Catholics were often excluded from labor unions and other organizations that provided social benefits, as well as many fraternal organizations such as the Freemasons.
Father McGivney wanted to provide services to his fellow Catholics, such as providing financial aid to the widows and children of deceased members, and encourage a general pride of Catholicism. After traveling to Brooklyn and Boston to examine some other Catholic societies, McGivney formed an original organization called the “Sons of Columbus”.
McGivney named the organization after Christopher Columbus because Columbus was not only an American hero who happened to be Catholic, but because Columbus would attract immigrants, the membership base that McGivney sought after, and that the organization would symbolize the epitome of American society. James T. Mullen, who would later become the organization’s first Supreme Knight, suggested changing the name to the “Knights of Columbus”, as the word “knight” would better capture the ritualistic nature of the new organization. After two years of existence, the Knights of Columbus grew to five councils throughout the state of Connecticut with 459 members.
After Father McGivney passed away from pneumonia in 1890, the organization continued to grow, with their purpose being “[promoting] 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.” McGivney’s original insurance system provided a deceased Knight’s widow $1,000 upon their death. They have continued their public services into the 21st century, growing to over 14,000 councils with over 1.8 million members.
The Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney
Father Michael J. McGivney was born on August 12, 1852 in Waterbury, Connecticut to two Irish immigrants. In 1868, he entered Seminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe in Quebec, Canada. He went on to attend Niagara University in 1871 and St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore in 1873. McGivney left St. Mary’s prematurely when his father died so he could care for his younger siblings. McGivney was ordained as a priest on December 22, 1877 by Archbishop James Gibbons at the Baltimore Cathedral. McGivney went on to become a pastor at Saint Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut.
While at Saint Mary’s, McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus with a group of parishioners. On August 14, 1890, just two days after his 38th birthday, McGivney died of pneumonia, unable to live long enough to see the organization that he founded truly flourish. In 1996, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford began the process of canonizing Father McGivney to officially make him a saint. On March 15, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree recognizing his heroic virtue and giving him the official Catholic title of “Venerable Servant of God”. The Pope’s actions have greatly advanced the process of Father McGivney becoming a saint.