WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — It is a weekend of celebrating the founder of the Knights of Columbus. Friday will be a call to prayer for Father Michael McGivney, and Saturday the Catholic Church is beatifying him. When it is over he will be known as Blessed Michael McGivney, because that is what the beatified are called.
It was the 1880s when Father Michael McGivney saw families in his New Haven parish devastated when the breadwinner died. He gathered a group of men in the basement of St. Mary’s and told them they had to work together to help those in trouble. That was the start of the Knights of Columbus.
People now come to St. Mary’s to feel closer to Father McGivney.
“Since his body, his remains, were brought to a tomb here in the church in the early 1980s, it’s really become a place of pilgrimage, not only for Knights but for the catholic faithful from all over,” said Fr. John Paul Walker, the current pastor of St. Mary’s Church.
Soon, there will be a new pilgrimage spot in the Elm City.
“We had the Knights of Columbus Museum dedicated in the year 2000, and now we decided we’d convert that to a pilgrimage center for Blessed Michael McGivney,” said Supreme Knight and Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson.
That conversion is already underway, and so is the search for a second miracle to attribute to McGivney.
The Vatican deemed prayers to Father McGivney healed an unborn baby with a fatal diagnosis. That was the one miracle needed to become a blessed. It will take a second miracle attributed to McGivney for him to be canonized, or made a saint.
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“For a blessed, what the church is saying is that devotion to them is warranted, but after the second miracle and a proclamation by the holy father, we’re confident that this person really worthy of universal prayer and veneration,” explained Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair.
Father McGivney’s legacy lives on through the works the Knights have been doing for almost 140 years.
“Two million members. We’ve gone into Asia, we’ve gone into Europe, Latin America.”
Still helping out those in need through works of Christian charity, and running a thriving insurance business to keep families whole in times of tragedy.
The work of accepting immigrants into American society still continues today as well, just as it did in the 1880s.
Also, McGivney died of a global pandemic eerily similar to the one gripping the world today.
“When you look at father McGivney’s time, it should give us pause to realize that these challenges are always present in society in some form,” Blair said.
To face those challenges ourselves, it helps to have someone to look up to. That is why the Knights began the push for sainthood years ago.
“His humility, his charity, his way of looking at his neighbors, and so that’s what’s gone into it from our perspective,” Anderson said.
For the priest who leads St. Mary’s today, the example of McGivney’s virtue is truly personal.
“This parish priest here, from over 100 years ago, we believe, lived heroic virtue, and a holiness to an extraordinary degree,” Fr. Walker said. “I feel the weight of that.”
The Archbishop pointed out that the whole point of saints is to give everyone something for which to strive.
“Saints are as different as can be in their life and their personalities,” Blair said. “If they’ve made it, we can make it, too, by the grace of God. So we look to them for inspiration and a model.”
The head of the Knights says he is confident there will be a second miracle and the blessed will one day become a Saint. As for when, he says that is up to heaven. As the Archbishop put it, “the Lord’s time is not our time.”