Father Michael J. McGivney to be Beatified

“We have set the wheel in motion, and with willing cooperation in a work that tends so much to our own welfare, we venture to say that soon, very soon, the Order of the Knights of Columbus will hold a prominent place among the best Catholic cooperative corporations in the Union. … ‘Unity and Charity’ is our motto. Unity in order to gain strength to be charitable to each other in benevolence whilst we live and in bestowing financial aid to those whom we have to mourn our loss.” — Fr. Michael J. McGivney, Letter to The Connecticut Catholic, Aug. 25, 1883

Fr. McGivney is a familiar name to Connecticut Catholics. McGivney grew up in Waterbury, said his first mass at the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury, was an assistant pastor at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven where his is entombed, served as pastor at St. Thomas in Thomaston, and notably, founded of the Knights of Columbus. In his short life of 38 years, Fr. McGivney brought much good to all those around him and the fruits of his labor continue to bless us in our modern day. He was loved by the congregations at St. Mary’s and St. Thomas as well as the cities in which he resided.

McGivney’s incredible character is beautifully captured in an article published in The New Haven Evening Register on November 10, 1884 upon the priest’s new appointment as pastor in Thomaston and farewell to the congregation at St. Mary’s:    

Never, it seemed, was a congregation so affected by the parting address of a clergyman [Fr. McGivney] as the great audience which filled St. Mary’s yesterday. Some of those present wept aloud and others sobbed audibly. Scarcely one among them that has not been the recipient of some kind act or favor from Father McGivney, and is great popularity was clearly shown by the remarks which the people passed as they filed out of the church. There was never a more energetic or hard-working young priest stationed in New Haven than he.

Fr. McGivney was the son of Irish immigrants who grew up poor but happy and loved. The days of his youth strengthened and cultivated a caring heart and clever mind fit to serve families, much like his own, as a priest.

The Knights of Columbus was a natural development of Fr. McGivney’s tenacious character and determination to touch the very fringe of society with good. At St. Mary’s, Fr. McGivney began teaching catechism classes, organized an alcohol abstinence society and set his mind to creating a Catholic men's organization. McGivney sought family stability both in faith and finances which ultimately led to the founding of the Sons of Columbus, later renamed Knights of Columbus.

The Knights were officially founded in 1882 while Fr. McGivney was assistant pastor at St. Mary’s. The young priest took it upon himself to spread the word of the new organization while attending his St. Mary’s duties with the same enthusiasm. McGivney’s fighting spirit and trust in God provided the strength to persevere in all his endeavors. From humble beginnings in the basement at St. Mary’s Church on Hillhouse Ave. to the world stage, the Knights of Columbus continue to serve local communities “building the bridge back to faith” and providing financial support for struggling families (Knights of Columbus Mission Statement).

On Wednesday morning, May 27, 2020 Pope Francis approved the beatification of Fr. Michael J. McGivney bringing the Connecticut priest one step away from sainthood. This is a joyous day that celebrates hard work and enduring faith as well as recognizes the example of a man who sought to imitate the life Christ and will thus, in time, be rewarded with the crown of sainthood.

Reverend Michael Joseph McGivney statue at the train depot in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Prayer for the Canonization of Father Michael J. McGivney

God, our Father, protector of the poor and defender of the widow and orphan, you called your priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, to be an apostle of Christian family life and to lead the young to the generous service of their neighbor. Through the example of his life and virtue may we follow your Son, Jesus Christ, more closely, fulfilling his commandment of charity and building up his Body which is the Church.

Let the inspiration of your servant prompt us to greater confidence in your love so that we may continue his work of caring for the needy and the outcast. We humbly ask that you glorify your venerable servant Father Michael J. McGivney on earth according to the design of your holy will. Through his intercession, grant the favor I now present (here make your request). Through Christ our Lord. Amen. (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.)

Reference:

“An Affecting Scene: Father McGivney Bids St. Mary's Good Bye-What He Said.” New Haven Evening Register, 10 Nov. 1884.

“The Life and Legacy of Father Michael J. McGivney.” Edited by Knights of Columbus, Kofc.org, www.kofc.org/un/en/resources/members/programs/family-activities/2045-legacy-mcgivney-6-08.pdf.