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NEW HAVEN, CONN. – The Catholic Church today declared Father Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, “blessed.” He is now one step from canonization as a saint.
Father McGivney was given his title through an apostolic letter from Pope Francis that was read by Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, as part of the Mass of beatification at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut. A tapestry of Father McGivney’s portrait was unveiled in the cathedral sanctuary after the letter was read.
Pope Francis credited Blessed Michael McGivney for his “zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel and generous concern for his brothers and sisters,” that “made him an outstanding witness of Christian solidarity and fraternal assistance.”
The pope concluded that the Connecticut priest “henceforth be given the title blessed.”
The apostolic letter also announced that the liturgical memorial of Father McGivney will be observed annually in the Archdiocese of Hartford on Aug. 13 — the day between Father McGivney’s Aug. 12 birth and death on Aug. 14. Votive Masses in honor of Father McGivney can also be celebrated by priests for Knights of Columbus gatherings with the permission of the local bishop on any day when not superseded by another observance on the liturgical calendar.
Afterwards, Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair offered words of appreciation to the pope.
The coronavirus pandemic necessitated that participation at the Mass was by invitation-only with the faithful able to watch the event on television or online.
Known in his day as a holy parish priest of the then-Diocese of Hartford, Father McGivney labored tirelessly to improve the condition of his 19th-century immigrant community in Connecticut. He founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882 to provide financial support for widows and orphans and to keep Catholic men and their families close to their faith at a time of widespread anti-Catholic bigotry.
The fledgling Knights of Columbus soon became a major force of evangelization, charity, racial integration and the defense of religious freedom. Today there are 2 million members in more than 16,000 K of C councils located in all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines, as well as in recently established councils in Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, France and South Korea.
“Nearly a century before the Second Vatican Council, Father McGivney’s vision empowered the laity to serve the Church and their neighbors in a new way — through a greater commitment to charity — and to build effective cooperation between laity and clergy,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “Today’s beatification serves to encourage that vision of lay leadership and fellowship.”
The Vatican announced on May 27 that Pope Francis approved a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father McGivney, paving the way to beatification.
The miracle involved the healing of Michael Schachle, now 5-years old, from a fatal case of fetal hydrops, which causes a dangerous accumulation of fluids throughout the body of an unborn child. Michael’s parents, Daniel and Michelle Schachle of Dickson, Tennessee, responded to the seemingly hopeless situation by asking friends, family and Knights to join them in prayer for the intercession of Father McGivney. Michael’s subsequent healing had no medical or scientific explanation. Daniel and Michelle named their son Michael McGivney Schachle in thanksgiving for their son’s survival.
An additional miracle attributed to Father McGivney’s intercession will be required for canonization.
In August, the Knights announced that their Museum in New Haven, Conn, will be transformed into the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center to serve pilgrims who travel to New Haven to learn about Father McGivney and pray at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, where Father McGivney’s remains are entombed.
About Father McGivney
Born of Irish immigrant parents in 1852 in Waterbury, Connecticut, Father McGivney was a central figure in the dramatic growth of the Church in the United States in the late 19th century. Ordained in Baltimore in 1877, he ministered to a heavily Irish-American and immigrant community in Connecticut. At a time of anti-Catholic sentiment, he worked tirelessly to offer practical solutions to their many problems — spiritual and temporal alike. With a group of the leading Catholic men of New Haven, he founded the Knights to provide spiritual support for Catholic men and financial resources for families that had suffered the loss of their breadwinner.
Father McGivney died of pneumonia on Aug. 14, 1890 — two days after his 38th birthday — after falling ill amid a pandemic. Recent scientific evidence indicates that the pandemic — like the current one — may have been caused by a coronavirus.
Known by his contemporaries for his devotion to the faith and his embodiment of the characteristics of the Good Samaritan, Father McGivney remains an important role model for parish priests around the world.
In March 2008, Father McGivney was declared a Venerable Servant of God by Pope Benedict XVI, who during his visit to New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral cited the “remarkable accomplishment of that exemplary American priest, the Venerable Michael McGivney, whose vision and zeal led to the establishment of the Knights of Columbus.”
Two recent books tell the story of Father McGivney and his legacy: Parish Priest (2006), his biography; and The Knights of Columbus: An Illustrated History (2020).
More information is available at www.FatherMcGivney.org.
About the Knights of Columbus
The Knights of Columbus is one of the world’s leading fraternal and service organizations, with 2 million members in more than 16,000 parish-based councils. During the past year, Knights around the world donated more than 77 million service hours and $187 million for worthy causes in their communities. The organization also offers extensive life insurance services to members and their families, resulting in more than $114 billion of life insurance in force. Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors offers investment services to individuals and institutions in accord with Catholic social teachings. From helping children in need, to providing wheelchairs for the disabled, to helping stock food banks, to offering top-rated and affordable insurance products to its members, the Knights of Columbus has supported families and communities for more than 138 years.
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