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.

About the Knights of Columbus

In 1882, Blessed Michael McGivney, a young parish priest in New Haven, Conn., founded the Knights of Columbus to serve the needs of a largely immigrant Catholic community. What began as a small fraternal benefit society has since grown into one of the world’s leading international charitable organizations, with 2 million members in more than 16,000 local councils.  In 2020, Knights around the world donated more than 47 million service hours and $150 million for worthy causes in their communities.

The Knights of Columbus also offers extensive life insurance products to members and their families. Knights of Columbus Insurance currently has more than $119 billion of life insurance policies in force and was named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Insurance Companies 2022.

In addition, the Knights provide investment services in accord with Catholic social teaching through Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors, which holds total assets of more than $29 billion in assets under management. Based on the founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity, the Order remains committed to strengthening Catholic families and parishes and to practicing faith in action through service to all in need.

To learn more or to join the Knights of Columbus, please visit


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.

Each year the national organization along with its local units donate hundreds of thousands of dollars and service hours through its charitable arm, the Saint Peter Claver Foundation.

Giving and service are centered around: Scholarship awards and education resourced for urban, under-served communities; Clergy and religious support and development; Health and wellness; and programs that address the pressing social justice issues of Domestic Violence, Racism, Criminal Justice Reform, Human Trafficking, and the Dignity of Black Lives,
More information is available at: