Venerable Rev. Michael J. McGivney
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Priest and founder of the Knights of Columbus. Michael J. McGivney was born to Irish immigrant parents, Patrick and Mary (Lynch) McGivney, on Aug. 12, 1852. He was the eldest of 13 children, six of whom died in infancy or childhood. His father worked as a molder in a Waterbury, Connecticut, brass mill. Michael attended the local Waterbury district school, but left at the age of thirteen to work in the spoon-making department of one of the brass mills to help support his family after the death of his father. At age 16 he entered the seminary to study for the priesthood. He completed his training at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore and was ordained by Cardinal James Gibbons in 1877 for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
His first assignment was to the Irish working-class parish of St. Mary’s in New Haven. Moved by the needs of his parishioners, he founded the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal benefit society of Catholic men in 1882 to provide insurance protection for families in the event of job loss or death. The organization expanded rapidly and saved countless families from destitution. They distinguished themselves from other Catholic societies by their deep loyalties to the Church and the American experience.
At his death from pneumonia in 1890 at the age of 38 years, he was remembered for his tireless work among his parishioners. His cause for canonization was introduced in 1996. On March 15, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree recognizing McGivney’s heroic virtue, thus declaring him “Venerable.” If canonized, he would be the first American-born priest to gain that recognition.
Today, the Knights of Columbus have a worldwide membership of over 1.7 million. Remaining true to the spirit of their founder, charity has remained the first principle of the society: “We grow together in friendship with the Lord through our fraternity, and this friendship is lived and cultivated by our practice of charity.”