NEW HAVEN – A Mass to mark the 125th anniversary of the death of Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus and a candidate for sainthood, was celebrated today at St. Mary’s Church.
The Mass was celebrated by the fraternal organization’s supreme chaplain, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson attended the Mass together with other officers and members of the Knights of Columbus.
The Knights of Columbus Museum, located at 1 State St., is offering special tours highlighting Father McGivney at 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. today through Saturday. For more information about the museum, visit www.kofcmuseum.org.
A native of Waterbury, Father McGivney was serving as parish priest at St. Mary’s when he gathered a handful of men in the church basement to found the Knights of Columbus in 1882. The K of C has since gone on to become the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization with nearly 1.9 million members in North and Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Europe. Continuing Father McGivney’s mission, the Knights has become one of the most active charitable organizations in the United States, donating more than $173.5 million and 71.5 million hours of service worldwide last year.
In founding the Knights, Father McGivney was responding to the needs of his parishioners for a society that would promote charity and protect the livelihood of widows and orphans, and the unity of their families, in the event of the untimely death of their breadwinner. With no social safety net to speak of, families who lost their father were often split up if they could not show financial stability.
“In just 13 years as a priest, Father McGivney’s tireless work and his compassion won the love and esteem of those he served,” said Mr. Anderson. “At a time when Catholics were viewed with suspicion, the organization also made clear that one could be both a good Catholic and a good citizen. From the moment he began the Knights of Columbus, the organization helped Catholics grow in charity and in their faith, and it strengthened the families of his parishioners financially and spiritually – a work that continues to this day, inspired by our founder.”
Father McGivney was transferred in 1884 to Thomaston, where he served as pastor of St. Thomas Parish and Immaculate Conception in nearby Terryville. While ministering to the poor and sick, Father McGivney became ill himself and died peacefully two days after his 38th birthday, on Aug. 14, 1890.
In 1982, to help mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Knights of Columbus, Father McGivney’s remains were brought from Waterbury to St. Mary's in New Haven, where they now lie in a granite sarcophagus inside the church. A place of pilgrimage for Knights of Columbus and others from around the world, prayers are said daily in the church for the canonization of the founder.
As part of the canonization process, the Vatican declared Father McGivney a Venerable Servant of God in 2008. More information on his life is available at: http://www.fathermcgivney.org/en/index.html.