The Order was founded Nov 7, 1909 at Mobile Alabama.; by four priests of the St. Joseph's Society of the Sacred Heart
The Former Headquarters of the Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary 1821 Orleans Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana Dedicated, August, 1951.
(The Josephite Fathers) of Baltimore, Maryland - Fathers: Conrad F. Rebesher, John H. Dorsey, Samuel J. Kelly, and Joseph P. Van Baast, S.S.J.'s and the three lay men of the Diocese of Mobile - Messrs: Gilbert Faustina, Frank Collins and Frank Trenier, they have all now passed to their eternal rewards. The following are key events in the Order’s history:
- The order was incorporated July 12, 1911
- The Fourth Degree was authorized in 1917
- The Constitution for Junior Knights was compiled by the Reverend Joseph P. Van Baast, S.S.J. and his committee
- The Ladies Auxiliary was authorized and their constitution adopted at Opelousas, Louisiana, August, 1922
- The constitution of the National Council was revised by committee August, 1925; August, 1929; October, 1936; August, 1948; August, 1951; August, 1971 and August, 1979 August, 1989 and August, 1999.
- The Ladies Auxiliary was recognized as a Division of the National Council at Galveston, Texas, August, 1926
- The Junior Daughters was established in 1930
- The Constitution of the Junior Knights was revised establishing the Junior Knights as a Division of the National Council, effective October 1, 1935
- The first official organ of the Order was The Shield published for the first time at Mobile, Alabama, November 1910, with Frank Trenier, Charter Member and National Secretary, as Editor.
- The successor to The Shield is The Claverite, authorized in 1922 as a monthly publication, and its first Editor was Joseph H. Rieras who served until 1928.
- The Claverite changed to a Quarterly Publication in 1948 at which time it was edited by the National Secretary. Presently, The Claverite is published biennially by the Executive Director.
The following excerpt from the Josephite Colored Harvest tells the story:
AN IMPORTANT MOVEMENT FOR COLORED CATHOLICS
Article taken from The Colored Harvest Vol. VI, No. 2 - March 1910
On Sunday, November 7, 1909, in the city of Mobile, Ala., took place the “Initiation” of the first band of forty colored men, the nucleus of a fraternal society, which will be known as “The Knights of Peter Claver.” This is undoubtedly the most important movement for colored Catholics that has taken place for many a day.
From the beginning, the missionaries to the colored people have been very much hampered by the fact that most all the men belonged to one or other of the fraternal organizations, which they would not, or could not, leave. They simply joined them for social and beneficial purposes. Time and again they have told the missionaries that they would gladly leave them if there were anything else to take their place. The missionaries tried in vain to have the ban to these secret societies removed, so that the Catholics could practice their duties. Finally, it was determined to form a new society for colored men which would be Catholic, and, at the same time, include all the fraternal and beneficial qualities of the secret organizations. This has been done, and the Josephite Fathers on the “Coast” (Alabama) are the leading spirits in this movement, with Father Conrad Rebesher, pastor of the Church of the Most Pure Heart of Mary, Mobile, Ala., as the prime mover. More than a year ago Father Rebesher spoke of the projected movement to his superior, and was promised all the assistance possible to carry out the plan.
On the morning of the initiation, forty colored men (forty men in a small mission parish) went to Holy Communion in a body in the presence of Right Rev. E. P. Allen, D.o. Bishop of Mobile, and Fathers Kel¬ly, Rebesher and Dorsey.
The Bishop was evidently pleased, as he is deeply interested in the work for colored Catholics. The congregation was very much impressed (for never before had any of them seen such a sight), and the work of making converts and of bringing back “the stray sheep to the fold” got a mighty impetus.
Father Dorsey, the colored priest attached to St. Joseph’s College, Montgomery, Ala., preached the sermon, in which the reverend preacher endeavored to impress on his hearers the necessity of good Christian operation among the members, with an unflinching obedience to the laws and by-laws of the order.
The “initiation” of the new members of the Knights of Peter Claver, “K.O.P.C.,” took place at 5 o’clock in the evening. The ceremony was preceded by the Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The Josephite Fathers, Kelly, Van Baast, Dorsey and Rebesher, the pastor, were present.
Two new councils more have already been organized, one of Mon Louis, Ala., 22 members, and one at Chastang, Ala., 20 members. The Josephite Fathers will do all in their power to organize and increase the membership in the Knights of Peter Claver. It shall be their endeavor to open councils along the “Coast” to New Orleans, La., through Louisiana, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
The home of the national council is in Mobile, Ala. There are already two subordinate councils, one at Mon Louis, Ala., and one at Chastang, Ala.
Subordinate councils may be formed in any city or state, subject to the National council, where fifteen men wish to form a council, by applying to the national secretary and complying with the constitution.
The National Council and the two sub-councils are in excellent financial condition, having already a substantial bank account. The initiators are an intelligent body of men, many of them already well acquainted with organization business.
The Knights of Peter Claver have a safe and practical constitution of laws and by- laws. The writer has personally met many of the members of the national and sub-councils, and he entertains high hopes of their ability to manage their business affairs.
The address of the national secretary is Mr. Frank Trenier, 606 Dearborn Street, Mobile, Ala., He will gladly furnish any information desired.
To date, the Order has had 16 Supreme Knights namely: Gilbert Faustina, Charter Member and Supreme Knight up
National Headquarters of the Knights of Peter Claver
and Ladies Auxiliary
1825 Orleans Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana
Dedicated, August, 1976.
to 1926; Louis Israel, 1926 to 1940; Alphonse Pierre August 1941; John H. Clouser, 1941 to 1946; J. Roland Prejean, 1946 to 1952; Beverly V. Baranco, Jr., K.S.G., 1952 to 1958; Eugene B. Perry, M.D., 1958 to 1964; Shields G. Gilmore, Jr., 1964 to 1970; Ernest Granger, Sr., K.S.G., 1970 to 1976; Murray J. Frank 1976 to 1982; Chester J. Jones, K.S.G., 1982 to 1988; Paul C. Condoll, 1988 to 1994; A. Jackie Elly, 1994-2000; Hon. Arthur C. McFarland, 2000-2006; Gene A. Phillips, Sr., 2006-2010; F. DeKarlos Blackmon, 2010 to the present.
In the Ladies Auxiliary, there have been 10 Supreme Ladies: Mrs. M.L. Lunnon, 1926 to 1928; Mrs. A.R. Aubry, 1928 to 1952; Mrs. E.B. Jones, 1952 to 1958; Mrs. Inez Y. Bowman, 1958 to 1964; Mrs. Thelma P. Lombard, 1964 to 1970; Mrs. Florence W. Lee, 1970 to 1976; Mrs. Elise LeNoir Morris, 1976 to 1982; Mrs. Consuella M. Broussard, 1982 to 1988; Mrs. Dorothy B. Henderson, 1988 to 1994; Ms. Leodia Gooch, 1994-2000; Mrs. Mary L. Briers, 2000-2006; Dr. Geralyn C. Shelvin, 2006 to the present.
In the Meritorious Fourth Degree Division there have been 12 Supreme Navigators: Gilbert Faustina, from 1926 to 1940; Oscar Figaro, 1940 to 1943; Edward E. Cross, Sr., August 1943 to November, 1943; Peter Chenier, November 1943 to August 1946; Ernest E. Delpit, 1946 to 1956; Thomas R. Lee, Jr., 1950 to 1958; Felton Lawrence, 1958 to 1970; Reginald Rouzan, 1970 to 1982; James M. Seals, Jr., 1982 to 1988 and Dr. Charles D. Proctor, 1988 to 1990; Sylvester Davis, 1990 to 1995; Dwight Alexander, 1995-2001; Harry Beevers, 2001-2008; James Neal 2008 to the present.
In the Meritorious Fourth Degree, Ladies of Grace Division there have been five Supreme Navigators: Mrs. Mattie Lampkins, from 1981-1982; Mrs. Rose A. Labostrie, 1982-1986; Mrs. Henrietta R. Porter, 1986-1992; Ms. Irene T. Green, 1992-1998; Mrs. Juanita Burden, 1998-2004; Dr. Geralyn C. Shelvin, 2004-2006; Ms. Michelle Jackson, 2006-2008; Mrs Audrey C. Woods, 2008 to the present.
The Order has received the Apostolic Benediction of the Most Holy Father in Rome on many occasions. The Order also has the Approbation of Their Eminences and of Their Excellencies, The Cardinals and The Most Reverend Archbishops and Bishops, throughout the Archdioceses and Dioceses in which the Order has Councils and Courts. In the United States of America the Order operates in over 58 Archdioceses and Dioceses.
The Order has participated in the charitable appeals of many Catholic institutions, and made many noteworthy contributions to various local, state and national organizations including, but not limited to, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Urban League, Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation, Xavier University Development and Expansion Fund, The Sister Thea Bowman Black Catholic Educational Foundation, International Alliance of Catholic Knights, National Black Catholic Congress, National Black Clergy, National Black Sisters Conferences and the National Council of Negro Women.