Father Michael McGivney
Father Michael J. McGivney was born on 12th August 1852 in Waterbury (Connecticut, USA). He was of Irish ancestry, as his parents Patrick and Mary had emigrated to America.
His mother gave birth to 13 sons, six of whom died in their childhood. Michael, their firstborn, learned swiftly what it meant to live in a big family at these times. The family was confronting hardships and poverty and had to stay together.
He attended school in Waterbury and was known as an excellent student. But when he was thirteen years old, he decided to start working in the then booming metal industry. His contributions to the family’s income helped them to survive.
In 1868, upon reaching the age of sixteen, he left the plant and purposefully set off for Quebec (Canada) to attend the French College of St. Hyacinthe. This school was regarded as a preparation for the seminary. Michael studied in several seminaries and was ordained in 1877.
Father McGivney became assistant pastor at Saint Mary’s Church in New Haven (Connecticut, USA) and had to offer spiritual succour to the inmates of the city jail. He fulfilled his duty with diligence and compassion. Father McGivney had numerous contacts with young people, too, as he taught catechism and advertised a society without alcohol.
In 1881 he had the idea to found a charity organisation for laymen that should simultaneously spread the faith and render financial support. The “Sons of Columbus” were founded who aimed at helping the poor by Christian faith and the values of unity and charity. Later on the concepts “fraternity” and “patriotism” were added. This organisation has an ongoing history of rendering support to thousands of people in spiritual or financial need. Its founder did not rest, but kept on travelling throughout Connecticut. And still he remained a trustworthy counsellor concerning the problems that arose in his parish.
In 1884, Father McGivney was appointed resident pastor of St. Thomas Church in Thomaston (Connecticut, USA). This small town was in a very bad financial situation. Father McGivney embraced his new duty with great humility. In Thomaston, too, he stood up for the needy and for his newly founded organisation.
Father Michael McGivney died from severe pneumonia on 14th August 1890 at the early age of 38 years. His remains were interred in Saint Mary’s Church in New Haven (Connecticut, USA) and rest in a sarcophagus made of granite, where many believers go on a pilgrimage.
In the meantime, the order’s name was changed to “Knights of Columbus”. Today it represents the biggest Roman Catholic organisation of laymen. Every year, some 1.7 million Knights of Columbus contribute about $ 130 million and 61 million hours of volunteer service in charitable causes.
In 2008, Father Michael McGivney was declared venerable by Pope Benedict XVI. The canonisation is under way for several years now.
in priestly robes, in ordinary clothing, with a book
fraternal laymen’s organisation “Knights of Columbus”