INITIAL contactS with france
France’s history with the Knights of Columbus dates back to World War I, when the American army was sent to reinforce allied troops in Europe. As part of that effort, numerous supply stations and shelters were set up in France to assist the troops and local populations.
At the end of November 1918, the Knights of Columbus held a Te Deum mass that drew thousands of believers to L’Église de la Madeleine (Church of St. Mary Magdalene), along with France’s senior civilian, military and religious authorities.
Pilgrimages were organized to various French sites such as Lourdes or the Saint Martin route in Tours.
The congregation in Verdun presented the Knights of Columbus with a relic of an ostensorium in tribute to the Knights' active presence during WW I.
Marshal Ferdinand Foch, a devout Catholic and war hero, was an honorary member of the Knights of Columbus.
In 1919, several hundred Knights embarked upon a pilgrimage to visit France (Paris, Versailles, Verdun and Metz) and to meet with religious and lay leaders.
On this occasion, the French Republic awarded the Legion of Honor to the greater Knights of Columbus family, in appreciation for services rendered during the First World War.
In November 2017, to commemorate 100 years of its presence in France, the Knights of Columbus sponsored the production of a major sound and lights show, entitled Dame de Cœur, designed to celebrate Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral and the relevance of its cultural and spiritual message.
Knights of Columbus encourages the French to continually strive to assimilate their spiritual and intellectual heritage, not as a source of pride, but as part of their duty to educate other nations.
established PRESENCE IN FRANCE
Other Catholic leaders in France have subsequently worked with the Knights of Columbus (such as Jean Vanier and Professor Jerome Lejeune).
Since 2013, Knights of Columbus has sponsored several hundred veterans and wounded military personnel for the International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes. This participation facilitated initial contacts with French laypeople.
The establishment of the first Knights of Columbus councils in France was officially announced in August 2016 at the Annual Convention in Toronto.
To date, fourteen parish councils have been set up in France with about 220 members in eight dioceses.
Numerous other projects are being developed under the impetus of a passionate commitment to community service and missionary discipleship.
The founder’s vision is relevant still today: serving families, supporting priests and the parish, and promoting evangelization.