History of the fourth degree


The administration of the Supreme Knight, Edward L. Hearn established the Fourth Degree based upon the Catholic concept of Patriotism. The Fourth Degree was originally conceived to fulfill the vast number of requests from members with whom the first three degrees were so popular. In 1886, James T. Mullen made a verbal report to the Board of Directors recommending the addition of two new degrees: the Fourth and Fifth, to be known as commandery degrees. The Fifth never became a reality. The Fourth is the Highest Degree in the Order.  

The ceremonials of the Fourth Degree are based on a theme of Catholic Citizenship  and detail the contributions made by the Catholic Church to North America, from its discovery, exploration and development to its present greatness. We are challenged to be always ready to sacrifice every thing for our Faith and our Country. The response of our Order to the needs of our Country in times of war attests to the fact that we are true to our commitment  

Edward L. Hearn, the Supreme Knight, appointed a special committee to design a new degree. Serving on the committee were Daniel Colwell, National Secretary, and an author of the original first three degrees; Charles A. Weber, a National Director; John J. Delaney, First State Deputy of New York and nationally recognized Master of Ceremonials; Right Reverend Monsignor Joseph H. Conroy, Vicar General and later Bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York; Patrick T. McArdle, National Director and an outstanding fraternalist of the Midwest. Also included were John Hogen of Syracuse, William H. Bennet of Brooklyn and from Boston, William T. Cashman and William S. McCary. A subcommittee consisting of Charles Weber, Msgr. Conroy and John Delaney was authorized to prepare the ceremonials, while the other committee members dwelt on qualification and organizational procedures. The ceremonials for the degree were approved in August 1899.  Initially to qualify for the Fourth Degree, one had to have been a member for three years and have served the Order, the Church and the Community with distinction.  

Presently, any Third Degree member in good standing, one-year after the anniversary of his First Degree, is eligible for membership in the Fourth Degree. The first exemplification of the new Degree took place on Washington's birthday, February 22, 1900. The Order had intended to use the Astor Hotel in New York, but with 1100 candidates qualified to receive the Degree, the Lenox Lyceum, a building erected to display an immense painting of the Civil War, was available and selected for the gala occasion. Charles A. Weber was the Master of Ceremonials at this exemplification. Sir Knight Weber became the First Master of the Fourth Degree in the United States.  Other members of the Degree Team were: William A. Burns, Historian; William A. Pendergast, Defender of the Faith; Honorable George F. Roesch, Exponent of the Constitution; John T. Brennan, Narrator; James E. McLarney, Recorder; and the Reverend Joseph H. Conroy, Chaplain.  

The Fourth Degree was enthusiastically received throughout the Order and further exemplifications were held in 1900 in Boston, Massachusetts, and Brooklyn, New York. At the very first exemplification of the new- Fourth Degree, held on February 22,1900 in New York City, included 55 third degree members from the councils representing the Philadelphia area. The assemblies formed between 1900 and 1910 consisted of scattered or segregated units, each governed by its own by-laws and a few general rules lay down by the National Board of Directors. Most councils had their own local assembly and functioned independently. There was no attempt to combine these self-administered units.  

The Supreme Board of Directors, on October 17, 1910 approved the organization of the Fourth Degree as we know it today. It was not until 1913, when all local assemblies were dissolved and formed into General Assemblies. The following officers were appointed to head the Fourth Degree:  

John H. Reddin, Supreme Master;  William J. McGinley, Supreme Secretary; Vice Supreme Masters M. J. Boyd of Ottawa, Canada; Captain D. J. Gorman of Boston; W. J. Boyd of New York; George W. Young of New Orleans; August Rebhan of Milwaukee and T.J. Gorman of Seattle. These officers constituted the Supreme Assembly and its first meeting was held in Quebec, Canada on July 29,1910.  

Today, the Supreme Assembly is the governing body and is composed of the Supreme Master, Charles H. Foos, the Supreme Knight, Virgil C. Dechant, the Supreme Secretary Carl A. Anderson and 20 Vice Supreme Masters. The Chester County Assembly is affiliated with the Calvert Province - PA East District of the Fourth Degree. Sir Knight (SK) Francis M. Feeley is the Vice Supreme Master of the Province. The Calvert Province was instituted July 12, 1910 and incorporates the states of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The Master for the Pennsylvania East District is Sir Knight Bernard A. Pallo and the Master for the Pennsylvania West District is Sir Knight Stephen J. Cash.  

The pioneering sir knights, who deserve recognition for bringing the Fourth Degree into Pennsylvania, were the 55 members from councils representing the Philadelphia area at the First exemplification in New York at the Lenox Lyceum.  

In 1911, in accordance with a call issued by Master Philip A. Hart, the members of the Fourth Degree assembled at the K of C Headquarters in Philadelphia to form a new assembly consisting of all the local assemblies.  At the meeting, Michael J. Ryan was elected the Faithful Navigator and the name selected for the first assembly in Philadelphia was Archbishop Ryan General Assembly, subject to the approval of the Board of Directors.  

After the approval in December 1912, by the Board of Directors, the Archbishop Ryan Assembly was formally organized in its present form in 1913,and all Fourth Degree members in the Philadelphia area became members of the new assembly. During the following decades when many new Councils had been formed and number of members increased, the Archbishop Ryan Assembly grew in excess of 3400 members. The formation of new assemblies in the Greater Philadelphia area became imperative: Cardinal Dougherty Assembly in Springfield, St. John Neumann Assembly in Bristol, Fr. Joseph C. Tomko Assembly in Bridgeport, Archbishop Wood Assembly in Warminster, Pius IX Assembly in Reading, and the Chester County Assembly in West Chester were founded in succession.  

The organizational structure of the Fourth Degree is similar to that of the lower degrees, but with different titles. At the Supreme level, the Supreme Master is in charge of the Fourth Degree. Administratively, the Fourth Degree is divided into areas called Provinces. A Vice Supreme Master is appointed by the Supreme Board of Directors for each of the Fourth Degree Provinces. The Vice Supreme Master is the head of all Fourth Degree matters within the Province and exercises general supervision over all Masters and assemblies located in the Province. The Vice Supreme Master is distinguishable at Fourth Degree functions by the light blue Cape and Chapeau that he wears.   

Each Province is divided into Districts. Two of the Calvert Province districts are located in the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania (PA). PA East District and PA West District are placed under the leadership of a Master.  SK Bernard A. Pallo is the Master for the PA East District, which the Chester County Assembly is an affiliate member. The Master is identified by the gold Cape and Chapeau, and is often accompanied by a District Marshall (District level Color Corps Commander) identifiable by his green Cape and Chapeau. Districts are made up of assemblies similar to Councils in structure and operation.  

Many are named after, Saints, Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, priests, patriots, or war heroes. There are twenty-nine assemblies that make up the PA East District of the Calvert Province.  

The Presiding Officer of the Assembly is called the Faithful Navigator he wears a white Cape and Chapeau. He is assisted by a Captain and a Pilot, which are similar to the offices of Deputy Grand Knight and Warden on the council level. The fourth Chair Officer is the Admiral, which is the same as Chancellor at the council level, always the immediate Past Faithful Navigator. At the council level, Officers are referred to as Worthy, while at the assembly level, Officers are referred to as Faithful.  

The other officers are similar to Council officers and include: The Friar, The Purser, The Scribe, The Comptroller, The Sentinels, and the Trustees.  

The Color Corps of each assembly is trained and drilled by a Color Corps Commander who is appointed by the Faithful Navigator. Large assemblies may have one or more Vice-Commanders. The Commander is identified by the purple or violet Cape and Chapeau. At District level events, the District Marshall, is in charge of the Color Corps and may be assisted by one or more Color Corps Commanders. Other Members of the Color Corps wear red Capes and white Chapeaux.  

Exemplifications in the PA East District are normally held in May and June each year. As a First or Second Degree member, you are a "Member" of the Knights of Columbus. After the Ceremonies of the Third Degree you are a full Knight in the Order. After the Exemplification of the Fourth Degree you are a complete Knight in the Knights of Columbus. Not all Knights of Columbus wear plumes, capes and  swords, only those Knights who belong to the Fourth or "Patriotic Degree".  

These Knights are called "Sir Knights". We volunteer at public functions to add color and dignity to the occasion, and to demonstrate publicly their loyalty to the church, or to their country. There is a tendency today to dress "casually" as much as possible, slacks, no tie, old clothes, etc. It takes pain, it takes nerve, and it takes discomfort to be dressed up in black clothes, with white collar, lined cape and carrying a sword, wearing a chapeau with feathers. Why do it ??  

To demonstrate in a positive way that Church, Law and Country are concepts that deserve our esteem and high regard, especially during times when authority, law and decency are being trampled upon and disrespected by so many. It is by one's example that most preaching is done !!  


Fourth Degree Emblem


The triad emblem of the Fourth Degree features the dove, the cross and the globe. The dove, classic symbol of the Holy Spirit and peace, is shown hovering over the orb of the Earth (globe). Both are mounted on a variation of the Crusader's cross, which was found on the tunics and capes of the Crusading knights who battled to regain the Holy Land from the pagans.  

Spiritually, the sacred symbols on the emblem typify the union of the Three Divine Persons in one Godhead, the most Blessed Trinity.  

The Globe -- God the Father, Creator of the Universe. The Cross -- God the Son, Redeemer of Mankind. The Dove -- God the Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of Humanity.  

The colors of the symbols are:  

A blue globe with the land of the Western Hemisphere in white. A red cross with gold borders and gold knobs at the end of the points forming the ends of the arms of the cross, also known as the Isabella cross. A white dove.  

Red, white and blue are the colors of the flag of the country in which the Knights originated. They are used to stress patriotism, the basic principle of the Fourth Degree 


Fourth Degree Club


In 1970, the Sir Knights from various councils in Chester County met and held an exploratory meeting at the Msgr. Henry C. Schuyler Council home in West Chester, PA., to consider forming a new assembly for the area. Members present at this initial meeting included: From Msgr. Henry C Schuyler Council, Edward B. Bridge, Henry P. Corcoran, Charles Gruber, Franklin P. Hemphill, Robert Hillenbrand, W. Lewis Reilly, Joseph F. Sullivan, Jr.; From Christ the King Council, Eugene 0. Ahearn, George F. Bodner, Samuel Forese, Wilber J. Derr; From Bishop Michael A. Corrigan Council, Francis A. Coccagna, Frank Antonini, Peter D'Andrea, Joseph Wimmer, Edward J. Jablonski; From St. Pius X Council, Thomas D. Cecco, Samuel Rizzotte; and From Pope John XXIII Council, James E. Lyons, Joesph J. McGough, Joseph Durning, James A. Fennelly. These members decided to organize a Fourth Degree Club, rather than going forward and organizing a General Assembly in the Chester County area.  

The by-laws of the club were written; and the aim and purpose of the Chester County Club were to foster membership in the Fourth Degree, to develop a spirit of brotherhood, to exemplify patriotism and to maintain the ideals of Columbianism, and to encourage social activities for members and their families. Fourth Degree Knights of any council in Chester County were eligible for membership in this club provided:  

1.) He is in good standing with his council. 

2.) He is in good standing with the Church.  

The officers of the club shall consist of the following: President, Vice-President's (one from each council), Secretary, Treasurer, Trustees (3), and a Chaplain. The Club met once a month on the last Wednesday of the month. The monthly meetings were rotated among the participating councils. The standing committees included: Membership, Honor Guard, and Reception for the new candidates to be exemplified each year.  

The first officers of the Fourth Degree Club in 1970 were as follows:  

President - SK Wilber Derr  

Vice-President - SK Frank Hemphill  

Vice-President - SK George Bodnar  

Vice-President - SK Frank Antonini  

Vice-President - SK Joseph McGough  

Sec./Treasurer - SK W. Lewis Reilly  

Trustee 1st Yr. - SK Edward Bridge  

Trustee 2nd Yr.- SK Eugene Ahearn  

Trustee 3rd Yr.- SK John Morris  

Presidents that followed were as follows;  

1971 SK Frank Hemphill 

1972 SK George Bodnar 

1973 SK Frank Coccagna  

At the end of 1973, the Fourth Degree Club decided that each council should continue to foster the Fourth Degree in their own councils, and in a few years when more councils are formed in Chester County, then make an attempt to organize a formal assembly in Chester County.  

Each of the years that the club was in existence, members participated in various activities such as: Visits to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Coatesville, PA., to celebrate Mothers Day with Mass and present a gift to the chapel in memory of their own Mothers, on Flag Day, the Fourth Degree Club members would help veterans organize a party in honor of the Flag. The Fourth Degree Club Chaplain, Father Edward G. Lyons was instrumental in organizing these veterans' projects.  

The club participated in many Fourth of July parades in Downingtown. The members of the club were present as Honor Guard, at the dedication of the new St. Joseph Church in Downingtown 


The Flag and the fourth degree


I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. 

How the words "UNDER GOD" came to be added to the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.  The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States originated on Columbus Day, 1893. It contained no reference to Almighty God, until in New York City on April 22,195 1, the Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus adopted a resolution to amend the Pledge of Allegiance as recited at the opening of each of the meetings of the 800 Fourth Degree Assemblies of the Knights of Columbus by addition of the words '(under God" after the words "one nation". The adoption of this resolution by the Supreme Board of Directors had the effect of immediate initiation of this practice throughout the aforesaid Fourth Degree Assembly meetings. At their annual State meetings, held in April and May of 1952, the State Councils of Florida, South Dakota, New York and Michigan adopted resolutions recommending that the Pledge of Allegiance be so amended and that Congress be petitioned to have such an amendment made effective.  

On August 21, 1952, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus at its annual meeting adopted a resolution urging that the change be made general and copies of this resolution were sent to the President, the Vice President (as Presiding Officer of the Senate) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The National Fraternal Congress meeting in Boston on September 24, 1952, adopted a similar resolution upon the recommendation of its President, Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart. Several State Fraternal Congresses acted likewise almost immediately thereafter.  

At its annual meeting the following year, on August 20,1953, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus repeated its resolution to make the amendment to the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag general and sent copies of this resolution to the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, and to each member of both Houses of Congress.  

From this latter action, many favorable replies were received, and a total of seventeen resolutions were introduced into the House of Representatives to so amend the Pledge of Allegiance as set forth in Public Law relating to the Flag. The resolution introduced by Congressman Louis C. Rabaut of Michigan was adopted by both Houses of Congress, and it was signed by President Eisenhower on Flag Day, June 14, 1954, thereby making the official amendment conceived, sponsored and put into practice by the Knights of Columbus more than three years before.  

In a message to Supreme Knight Luke E. Hart at the meeting of the Supreme Council in Louisville, August 17, 1954, President Eisenhower, in recognition of the initiative of the Knights of Columbus in originating and sponsoring the amendment to the Pledge of Allegiance, said:  

"We are particularly thankful to you for your part in the movement to have the words "under God" added to our Pledge of Allegiance. Those words will remind Americans that despite our great physical strength we must remain humble. They will help us to keep constantly in our minds and hearts the spiritual and moral principles which alone give dignity to man, and upon which our way of life is founded. For the contribution which your organization has made to this cause, we must be genuinely grateful."  

In August 1954, the Illinois American Legion Convention adopted a resolution whereby recognition was given to the Knights of Columbus as having initiated, sponsored and brought about the amendment to the Pledge of Allegiance; and on October 6, 1954, the National Executive Committee of the American Legion gave its approval to that resolution.  


The Liberty Bell


The Liberty Bell, Let Freedom Ring. In 1976 during our nations bicentennial celebration, the Liberty Bell was moved from Independence Hall in Philadelphia to its knew home at the pavilion located on Market Street between 5th and 6th streets. The Fourth Degree Assemblies donated the oak flooring for that pavilion from the Delaware Valley. A plaque was placed inside the pavilion that states, "The oak floor is presented to the people of the United States by the First Pennsylvania District - Calvert Province Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus May 16, 1976".  

The Liberty Bell will be moving to a new location in the future and the pavilion will be demolished. The plaque is a part of the buildings history and the National Park Service intends to retain it as part of its archives. The Superintendent of the United States Department of the Interior - National Park Service noted in her letter to Former Vice Supreme Master, William M. Harper, dated April 14,1999. "The National Park Service is grateful to the Knights of Columbus for its generosity and public spirit. Your donation made it possible for millions of visitors to see the Liberty Bell in a fitting context".