Preface- Special thanks to the following pepole in their assistance in gathering this information: Kyle Gallien (College Council Associate, Knights of Columbus Supreme office), Alton Pelowski (Managing Editor of Columbia Magazine), Susan Brosnan (Archivist for the Knights of Columbus Supreme office) and Patrick Korten (Senior Vice President of Communications, Knights of Columbus Supreme office).
The phrase Vivat Jesus comes from the book , "With God's Help- Memoirs of Bishop Charles P. Greco”. Below is a photo copy of the page of that book which describes his use of that phrase.
In the file, per Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant, Vivat Jesus was introduced around 1980 during the revision of the Ceremonials of the Order (1977-1978) as a method of greeting another Knight. It came from Bishop Greco's motto.
After a thorough search through the archives of Columbia Magazine we found on page 10 of the October 1978 edition of Columbia an article titled “Portrait of a Prayer: Vivat Jesus”, we found the following paragraphs:
The underlying theme Vivat Jesus of the 96th annual meeting of the Supreme Council in New Orleans made clear that the activities and programs carried on by the Knights of Columbus must be inspired and nourished by the Catholic faith.
This message was stressed emphatically by Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant in his report to the delegates and in his brief address at the States Dinner. It was underlined in the greetings sent to the delegates by Jean Cardinal Villot, writing as the Secretary of State for the late Pope Paul VI. It also comprised the substance of the message received from Archbishop Jean Jadot, apostolic delegate in the United States.
It recurred repeatedly in the homily delivered by Archbishop Philip M. Hannan at the opening concelebrated Mass and in the address of Bishop Charles P. Greco, supreme chaplain, at the States Dinner.
The theme received eloquent expression from Bishop Warren L. Boudreaux of Houma-Thibodaux as he spoke at the family hour of prayer during the Wednesday afternoon open session . The well-attended religious ceremony-an innovation at this year's convention-by itself dramatized the spiritual bedrock which supports all the projects and programs of the Order.
Dechant accented the spiritual motif in the first few words of his annual report by asking all the delegates to join him in placing the Order and his administration under the special protection of the Blessed Mother and by dedicating the convention to the theme Vivat Jesus (Long lives Jesus). The motto graces the episcopal shield of Bishop Greco.
Basically, these few paragraphs are saying that 1978 Supreme Convention's theme was Vivat Jesus; this was the Knights of Columbus' first official use of the phrase. The phrase has passed around from one place to another, and now is used all across the world as a universal greeting of the Knights of Columbus. The phrase is often used at the beginning or end of someone’s remarks. The response is always, Vivat Jesus!