WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — There’s a sense of excitement at Waterbury’s Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The big church downtown is what eventually grew from the smaller church that a young Michael McGivney attended with his parents in the 1800s — parents who emigrated from Ireland to escape the potato famine and begin a new life in Connecticut.
His father ended up working one of the factory jobs — like many other Irish-Catholic immigrants — in one of Waterbury’s booming brass factories. But back in the 1800s, Irish-Catholics were targets of discrimination and hate. McGivney’s parents made sure the church was a central part of his life.
“Because faith was born here,” said Father James Sullivan, who leads The Basilica today. “And faith always brings strength.”
Father Sullivan calls Michael McGivney a hero.
“I never dreamed I would be the Pastor of the very Parish, The Immaculate Conception, where Father McGivney grew up right here in Waterbury,” he said.
McGivney saw what was around him and decided to make a positive difference in other people’s lives. He was called to the Priesthood.
“Father McGivney saw the need here in Waterbury,” said Father Sullivan. “The working class people, the poor, the immigrant.”
He ended up helping them all, and not just in Waterbury. As an adult, Father McGivney ended up serving at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven where he would end up starting the world’s largest Catholic fraternal charitable organization — The Knights of Columbus.
Of course, it’s a legacy that continues to this day way beyond the borders of Waterbury and New Haven.
Both churches in those two Connecticut cities are holding events this weekend to commemorate Father McGivney’s beatification. The folks at The Basilica of The Immaculate Conception have wanted this for their native son for a long time.
“This Basilica prayed the prayer for his Canonization for well over 20 years and it’s come to fruition, it’s finally going to happen,” said Father Sullivan. “We’re once again overjoyed.”