|Formation||November 7, 1909|
|Type||Catholic fraternal service organization|
|Headquarters||1825 Orleans Ave,|
New Orleans, Louisiana
|Registered knights, ladies, junior knights, and junior daughters|
|Dr. Christopher Pichon|
|Micaela J. LeBlanc|
|Councils (men) and courts (women)|
|Affiliations||Saint Peter Claver Foundation|
|Part of a series on|
The Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary is an international Catholic fraternal service order. Founded in 1909 by the Josephites and parishioners from Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Mobile, Alabama, it is the largest and oldest Black Catholic lay-led organization still in existence.
The organization was founded in 1909 by a group including Josephite father Conrad Friedrich Rebesher, a native of Kłodawa, Poland and pastor of Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish; 3 other Josephite priests: Father Samuel Joseph Kelly, Father Joseph Peter Van Baast, and Father John Henry Dorsey; and 3 Black laymen: Gilbert Faustina, Francis Xavier "Frank" Collins, and Francis "Frank" Trenier. Their initiation ceremony was attended by their bishop, Edward Patrick Allen.
The organization's model was based on other Catholic fraternal orders such as the Knights of Columbus, who at the time did not allow Black members in all of their councils. This reality illustrated the need for a Black Catholic fraternal order.
The Sublimed and Meritorious Fourth Degree was organized in 1917. This division is open to Knights who after two years of continual membership have proven themselves to be active workers in the Church, the community, and the Noble Order.
A program for Junior Knights existed from the Order's earliest days. The constitution of the Junior Knights Division was adopted in 1917 and the division formally recognized in 1935.
In 1922, a Ladies Auxiliary was formed to provide the same opportunities for Catholic action to African American lay women. The Auxiliary was officially recognized as a division of the Order in 1926. The Junior Daughters division was officially recognized in 1930.
During the 1920s, Thomas Wyatt Turner's Federated Colored Catholics locked horns with the KPC over their reticence to speak out on racism and segregation.
The conflict eventually resulted in the expulsion of Bro. Marcellus Dorsey, the brother of KPC co-founder Fr Dorsey (a member of the Josephites, which then restricted Black applicants). This was mainly due to Marcellus criticizing the Josephites in the press.
The order would come to oppose segregation openly beginning in 1939.
In more recent years, order has responded to the charitable appeals of many national and international organizations such as the NAACP, the United Negro College Fund, Catholic elementary and secondary schools, Xavier University of Louisiana, the National Urban League, the Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation, The Sister Thea Bowman Black Catholic Educational Foundation, the International Alliance of Catholic Knights, the National Black Catholic Congress, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, the National Black Sisters Conference, and the National Council of Negro Women.
A Fourth Degree for the Auxiliary, the Ladies of Grace, was established for members of the Ladies Auxiliary in 1979.
In 2006, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops renewed a grant to the organization to continue the National Environmental Health and Justice Literacy Project, a program designed to educate citizens of poor communities about environmental health hazards. Recently, the organization has provided disaster relief support on several occasions and has adopted numerous social justice causes as its mantra. Most notably, the Junior Division (youth) are promoting clean water initiatives and sufficient housing for the world's underserved in addition to their efforts to eradicate diabetes in the black community.
The order established their first and only collegiate units in 2018, at Xavier University of Louisiana.
The order is named after St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit priest from Spain who ministered to African slaves in Cartagena, Colombia, South America, in the 17th century. Peter Claver is said to have converted over 300,000 slaves to Catholicism.
The organization is active in the United States of America and South America. It has over 400 Councils (men) and Courts (ladies) throughout the U.S. and on San Andres Island in Colombia. For youths between the ages of 7 and 18 years old, the organization has Junior Councils (young men) and Junior Courts (young ladies).
Members of the Fourth Degree Knights are addressed as "Sir Knight," and members of the Fourth Degree Ladies of Grace are addressed as "Gracious Lady."
The Knights are member of the worldwide International Alliance of Catholic Knights.
The Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary provides opportunities for all Catholics to be actively involved in their faith by living the Gospel message. The Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary engages in a variety of church and community service projects.
The following is a list of the Most Worthy Supreme Knights who have served as chief executive officers of the Knights of Peter Claver (and their terms of service):
The following is a list of the Most Esteemed Supreme Ladies who have served the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary (and their terms of service):