Catholic Lay Organizations

These facts are for 2014, unless otherwise noted.

Over one hundred  national and hundreds more local Catholic lay organizations serve the church and provide direct services in communities throughout the United States. Here is a spotlight on just four of these organizations: the Knights of Columbus, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Catholic Extension Society and the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary.

More information is available at the USCCB's Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.

Knights of Columbus

The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic men's fraternal benefit society founded in 1882. Today, it is the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization. The Knights of Columbus have been involved in a large number of service projects that include programs with groups like Habitat for Humanity and Special Olympics, providing new winter coats to children, stocking food pantries, and helping victims of disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, the explosion in West Texas and the tornados in Oklahoma.  

The Knights have more than 14,000 councils and 1.8 million members throughout the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Guatemala, Guam and Saipan.

More information is available at:

Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Council of the United States

One of the largest charitable organizations in the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international, nonprofit, Catholic lay organization of almost 800,000 men and women who as volunteers provide person-to-person service to the needy and suffering in 149 countries.

  • The United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1845 and has more than 150,000 members in 4,400 communities.
  • Charity and assistance programs include home visits, housing assistance, disaster relief, job training and placement, food pantries, dining halls, clothing, transportation and utility costs, care for the sick, the incarcerated and the elderly, and prescription medicine.
  • In 2013, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provided more than $794 million in tangible and in-kind services, made more than 1.7 million in-person visits, and helped almost 12 million people.

More information is available at:

The Catholic Church Extension Society of America

Catholic Extension uniquely contributes to the growth and vibrancy of the church in the U.S. by strategically investing in poor mission dioceses to unleash the power of faith that transforms hearts, lives and society. Based in Chicago, this national organization provides funding resources to dioceses and parishes to support programs and services investing in people, infrastructure and ministries. This support is given based on need, as well as passion and commitment to the growth of the Catholic faith. Since 1905, Catholic Extension has distributed more than half a billion dollars to communities across the country.

In 2014, Catholic Extension:

  • Served 94 dioceses in 37 states throughout the U.S., impacting 13 million Catholics.
  • Awarded 1,600 grant payments to help strengthen faith-filled communities.
  • Provided educational assistance to 600 seminarians in 50 different U.S. dioceses.
  • Supported Native Americans in 20 Catholic dioceses with funding totaling $1 million.
  • Provided $2 million in funding to the border dioceses supported by Catholic Extension, including emergency funding to assist with the immigration crisis.
  • Benefitted 100,000 Catholic students through campus ministries supported by Catholic Extension.

For more information visit

Knights of Peter Claver, Inc.

The Knights of Peter Claver and its Ladies Auxiliary is the nation’s only historically African American Catholic fraternal organization. It was founded in 1909 and has over 17,000 members nationwide. In addition to serving as a support to pastors and bishops, they contribute to the Knights Award Scholarship Fund, mentor youth and contribute to numerous charitable organizations. They have about 1,000 units in the United States.

During 2014 the national organization donated a total of $96,200 to the following charity programs, in addition to the more than $70,000 that was donated to charitable causes by their subordinate units and charitable Saint Peter Claver Foundation.

  • $28,800 to programs managed by churches, schools and social services.
  • $40,000 to scholarship funds.
  • $5,000 to human development and social justice programs.
  • $11,000 to academic support programs.
  • $11,400 to various health initiatives and research.

More information is available at: