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The Measure of Success

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Father Jonathan D. Kalisch, O.P.
Director of Chaplains and Spiritual Development

 

Over 135 years ago, on July 28, 1879, The New York Times described in a front page article “Roman Catholic Troubles in New Haven: How an Aristocratic Avenue was Blemished by a Roman Church Edifice.” The article reported St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., as “cold and repulsive [in] appearance,” with parishioners who are “mostly servant girls.” Noting that the parish held only 85 cents in its treasury at the end of 1878, with a debt of $160,000 ($3.724 million in today’s money), the article states: “It is considered almost impossible to continue the Church in its present condition. ... How foolish were those who persisted in building the Church on the spot where it stands,” The New York Times concluded. “It invaded the most exclusive home of wealth and culture. It is an eyesore on the avenue, a source of annoyance and injury to neighboring residents, and a complete failure as a business enterprise.” 

We can imagine the reaction of the soon to be 27-year-old parochial vicar, Father Michael McGivney, still in his second year of priesthood, ministering to the “mostly servant girls” of St. Mary’s along with their immigrant husbands and brothers. We know that within three years, the witness of charitable love and evangelical joy that emanated from St. Mary’s took shape in the founding of the Knights of Columbus. Father McGivney responded to the derision of the media and the challenge of a virulently anti-Catholic culture by organizing a fraternity of men who would stand by their faith and attract others to lead public lives of faithful heroism. From this “eyesore” of “annoyance” grew an Order that's never failed to look at the forgotten, the dispossessed and the spiritually tiresome with the eyes of Christ and the joy of the Gospel.

As we return from the summer, can we renew in our Brother Knights the missionary spirit and evangelical discipleship that were a part of the Order since its founding? I encourage every chaplain to meet with his grand knight, council officers and insurance agents to give real thought as to how the K of C can evangelize men locally and foster a deeper male spirituality for husbands and fathers. The newly launched “Building the Domestic Church: The Family Fully Alive” initiative offers a model for each council to promote effective evangelization through prayer and the family. May we respond to the challenges of our times with the indomitable spirit of Father McGivney, showing that love, mercy and the joy of fidelity to the Gospel always succeed.

Vivat Jesus!

Fr. Jonathan D. Kalisch, O.P.
Director of Chaplains and Spiritual Development
FrJon.Kalisch@kofc.org
(203) 752-4115