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Walking in the Footsteps of Father McGivney


In celebration of the birth of Father McGivney, here is a look at some of the best ways to catch insights into his life.

We all know the story of the founding of the Knights, with Father McGivney gathering a group of men in a basement of an Irish Catholic church in 1882. Yet, perhaps because our socio-political landscape is so different from that of the 1880s, it sometimes seems that the story of the founding is unreal — or, at the very least, unrelatable. Father McGivney himself appears larger than life, certainly incapable of fitting into the mold that the secular world gives priests today.

He made great plans that seemed almost unreachable — yet succeeded in completing them. He transformed a group of men looking for Catholic fellowship and financial protection into a formal organization that today boasts nearly 2 million members.

Not many of his personal writings on founding the Knights have survived. Since he died of tuberculosis, most of his personal belongings were burned immediately after his death, adding another element of distance to what seems a remote and elusive person.

But, there are ways to catch a glimpse of the reality of Father McGivney’s life. First, visit the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven free of charge. There, a visitor gets a chance to see the few remaining items connected with Father McGivney, including his rosary and burial vestments on display in the reliquary room adjacent to the Father McGivney Gallery.

Second is St. Mary’s Church, just a few blocks from the museum. For many, it’s here at the Gothic-designed church that Father McGivney’s personality is most felt: The dynamic, yet compassionate love that characterized his life is almost tangible as parishioners and visitors gently touch and reverence his cross- shaped polished granite sarcophagus in the back of the church.

The reverence is appropriate, since Father McGivney was declared venerable in 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI. Knights and their families are urged to pray daily for his intercession in matters large and small, and to report any favors received to the Father Michael J. McGivney Guild.

Such favors are the final item that help us see Father McGivney as a real-life, down-to-earth priest, for they suggest that Father McGivney, from his final resting place, is still concerned about the same problems that he dealt with as a priest walking in New Haven, Waterbury and other towns of Connecticut.

So, as we near the anniversaries of Father McGivney’s birth (Aug. 12) and death (Aug. 14), let us continue to pray for Father McGivney’s canonization and invoke his intercession. Let us continue to remember the very real impact his life had on the world — and the impact that we ourselves, as members of the Knights of Columbus, can have on our parishes, on our communities and on the world.

For information on arranging a pilgrimage to St. Mary’s, please contact the Dominican Friars at 203-562-6193 or visit stmarysnewhaven.org. Masses are offered daily, followed by a prayer for the intercession of Father McGivney. To join the Father Michael J. McGivney Guild, visit fathermcgivney.org.

The Knights of Columbus Museum is free to the public and open daily, it also offers a virtual tour at its website, kofcmuseum.org.