Father Jonathan Mitchican believes Knights of Columbus founder Father Michael J. McGivney interceded on his behalf when he was transitioning from being an Anglican cleric to a Catholic priest.
During a spiritually difficult period of his life, Mitchican returned to New Haven, Conn., where he attended Yale Divinity School a decade before. Though the purpose of the 2015 trip was to help ground himself in “familiar surroundings” the trip initially was anything but peaceful.
“I was struggling with my calling to come into full communion with the Catholic Church, trying to figure out what God was doing in my life,” Father Mitchican said. “The idea of leaving everything behind was quite daunting.”
He had planned to pray at a local Episcopal church, but found it was closed to visitors and went to St. Mary’s — a Catholic church — instead. Every day for a week, he attended Mass at St. Mary’s, the church where Father McGivney was a parish priest and founded the Knights of Columbus. At the end of each Mass, the celebrant led the congregation in prayer for the intercession of Father McGivney, whose body is entombed at St. Mary’s. Mitchican knew little about the Knights founder at the time. But, during this period of personal strife, he decided to pray at Father McGivney’s tomb and asked for his intercession.
As he wrote in a blog post:
“Rather than seeming grim, the presence of Fr. McGivney’s body was a comfort. It bore witness to the fact that the saints and heroes of the faith are not demi-gods or apparitions. They are men and women who walked the earth on two feet just like the rest of us and whose bodies were flesh and blood just like ours.”
Father Mitchican was ordained a Catholic priest in 2018. He is still inspired by Father McGivney, who reminds him of the heroic priest from a classic movie.
“When I was a kid, watching "On the Waterfront" made me want to be a priest, and I kind of see some connection there between Father McGivney and Karl Malden's Father Barry,” Father Mitchican said. “Both loved their people and both stood up for the little guy. That's the kind of priest I would like to be.”
Father McGivney was known in his lifetime to inspire conversions to the Catholic faith. One notable story involved Alida Harwood, daughter of Rev. Edwin Harwood — a prominent Episcopalian rector in 19th century New Haven. Father McGivney’s preaching had such an impact on Alida that when she contracted malaria at the age of 25 and lay on her death bed, it was he that she asked to see.
Even today, Father McGivney has an influence of leading people to Christ’s love. The Father Michael J. McGivney Guild continuously receives testimonials about favors granted by the holy priest. It’s no wonder he helped lead Father Mitchican home. After all, it was this mission — to keep men from falling away from the Catholic faith — that, in part, inspired Father McGivney to establish the Knights of Columbus.
Soon, Father McGivney will be declared “blessed,” the step just prior to sainthood, after Pope Francis approved the promulgation of a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to his intercession. The beatification Mass will be held on Oct. 31, 2020.
To learn more about Father McGivney’s life, visit the Father Michael J. McGivney Guild’s website.
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