SOUTHINGTON – The Connecticut State Council of the Knights of Columbus presented the 39th annual Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney Award to Bishop William E. Lori, supreme chaplain of the international fraternal organization and Archbishop of the Diocese of Baltimore, at its annual awards dinner.
The council also announced that Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford is the honorary state chaplain.
Archbishop Lori, who was bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport from 2001-12, was elected supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus in April 2005; as such, he oversees the spiritual welfare of the order’s 1.8 million members and their families.
The award, presented March 30 at the Aqua Turf Club, recognizes people who have made significant humanitarian, civic and social contributions to their state, church or country.
Archbishop Lori, who said he became a Knight while serving in the 1980s as secretary to Cardinal James Hickey in Washington, D.C., used the opportunity to express “my love, my appreciation for the order.” He noted, “I benefited more than you will ever know from your faith, your fraternalism, your deep charity.”
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson praised Archbishop Lori as “a worthy successor” of Father McGivney as supreme chaplain, and lauded him as “a priest after the heart of Father McGivney in his dedication to Catholic families and to the Knights of Columbus.”
Mr. Anderson used the occasion to remind members that the cause for sainthood for Father McGivney could be “very near” in light of the announcement last August that a possible miracle attributed to his intercession was under investigation in Rome.
If the miracle is approved, Father McGivney would be beatified and receive the title of “blessed.” Pope Benedict XVI declared him “venerable” in 2008.
Noting that Father McGivney’s entire life was spent in Connecticut, where he founded the Knights in 1882 at St. Mary Parish in New Haven, Mr. Anderson challenged members “particularly here in the home jurisdiction of Father McGivney,” by stating, “We must be the leaders … the model for the Knights of Columbus.
“I think we need to realize Connecticut’s rightful place not only as the oldest jurisdiction, but let’s make Connecticut the leadership jurisdiction in the Knights of Columbus throughout North America and the world,” he said. “That’s the mission of the Knights of Columbus in the state of Connecticut.”
Archbishop Blair told the Knights that it was when he was assigned to work in the Vatican that “I realized the great, good work of the Knights in every area of church life.”
“I’m honored to be in the home state of Father Michael McGivney,” he said. “I want to assure you that our founder is very much in my prayers and in my efforts in his cause for canonization. What a wonderful thing to have him as a patron for diocesan priests and for the priesthood in our country. What a tremendous good that is.”
Archbishop Blair also thanked the Knights for their efforts to thwart assisted suicide legislation and threats to religious liberty. “The Knights are a real bulwark of support to the church … a powerful spiritual force,” he said.
Also among those honoring Archbishop Lori was Bishop Emeritus Basil H. Losten of the Ukrainian Catholic Diocese of Stamford, who spoke with a heavy heart about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian militants.
In a show of solidarity, Mr. Anderson said, “This is a hard time for the church in Ukraine.” But he proudly pointed out that the Knights recently established three new councils there.
“It’s providential that the strongest dedicated men’s organization in the world has decided to link hands with the Ukraine,” he said.
Also honoring Archbishop Lori were Hartford Archbishop Emeritus Daniel A. Cronin and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza.
Among participants at the dinner was John Walshe of Bridgeport, great-grandnephew of Father McGivney, who confirmed that when the body of the Knights’ founder was moved from Waterbury to St. Mary Church in New Haven in 1982, those who examined the body discovered that Father McGivney had red hair. His hair is brown in most depictions.
The McGivney award was established in 1975 by the Connecticut State Council to honor the ideals of the order’s founder. It was renamed with the designation “venerable” in 2009 to reflect the elevation of Father McGiv