The Catholic Defender: Blessed Michael J. McGivney
Official Feast Day in the Catholic Church of Blessed Father Michael McGivney, patron and found of the Knights of Columbus. The feast is celebrated annual on August 13th across the universal Catholic Church.
The eldest son of an immigrant Irish family in Connecticut, young Michael left school at 13 to work in a brass factory making spoons. At 16 he began studies for the priesthood in Quebec, but was obliged to leave to help support the family when his father died. Michael completed his education in Baltimore, Maryland, and was ordained for the diocese of Hartford in 1877.
For good reason: Michael, whose family lives in Dickson, Tennessee, is the boy whose miraculous healing in his mother's womb from a life-threatening condition led Pope Francis to beatify Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, placing him one step from sainthood.
The founder of the Knights of Columbus, Father Michael J. McGivney was a central figure in the growth of Catholicism in America, and he remains a model today. His example of charity, evangelization and empowerment of the laity continues to bear fruit and guide Knights of Columbus around the world.
Assigned to St. Mary’s Parish in New Haven, Fr. McGivney was very active in parish and civic affairs, serving as director of public plays and fairs. He volunteered to become the guardian of Alfred Downes, a minor whose father had died leaving a large family in poverty. This situation as well as his own family’s circumstances and that of other immigrants impressed on Fr. McGivney the need for lay Catholic men to establish a mutual aid society to provide financial assistance for their families if the primary wage earner died. Protestant fraternal groups already provided this type of life insurance protection for their members.
In 1882, Fr. McGivney formed the Knights of Columbus among a small group of St. Mary’s parishioners to promote charity, unity, and fraternity, assisting widows and orphans. Because of the Knights’ emphasis on serving Church, community and family, the organization grew and did not remain strictly parish-based. Patriotism was added as a founding principle in 1900.
On August 14, 1890, Father Michael J. McGivney died at the age of 38. In his 13 brief, busy years as a priest, Father McGivney's piety and compassion won the love of those he served as curate and pastor.
Father McGivney died from pneumonia in 1890 and was buried in Thomaston, Connecticut. Later his body was moved back to St. Mary’s in New Haven where it remains today. He was beatified in 2020.
– On the eve of All Saints and All Souls, Father Michael J.McGivney was beatified and declared “Blessed” in a Mass and Beatification ceremony at the Cathedral of St.Joseph on Oct.31, moving one step closer to becoming a saint himself.
Michael Joseph McGivney was a genuine pastor who, in the words of Pope Francis, was unafraid to share “the smell of his sheep.” He promoted families whose members were strong in their faith expressed through generous following of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. In a decree read at the beatification Mass, Pope Francis praised Fr. McGivney’s “zeal and the proclamation of the Gospel and generous concern for his brothers and sisters.” These “made him an outstanding witness of Christian solidarity and fraternal assistance.”