THE BEATIFICATION OF
FATHER MICHAEL MC GIVNEY, FOUNDER
KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS
WHO WAS FATHER MICHAEL MC GIVNEY?
Father McGivney (1852-1890) was an American Catholic priest based in New Haven, Connecticut. He was born to poor Irish immigrant parents and was the eldest of 13 children, six of whom died in infancy or early childhood.
Michael attended the local Waterbury district school but left at 13 to work in the spoon making department of a local brass mill, to help support his family. At the age of 16 he entered a seminary in Quebec, Canada to study for the priesthood but had to leave in 1873 to help raise his siblings after the death of his father. Later he resumed his priesthood studies at St. Mary’s in Baltimore and was ordained a priest there in 1877 and returned to Connecticut.
From his own life experience, Father McGivney recognized the devastating effect the untimely deaths of fathers as the sole wage earners had on immigrant families. In the early American industrial revolution, manufacturing plants were very unsafe places to work. In the late 19th century, Catholics were barred from both union employment and from membership in fraternal and social organizations.
In March of 1882, Father McGivney, with a group of New Haven businessmen who were his parishioners, formed the Knights of Columbus as a mutual aid society. Their mission was to provide financial assistance, to the widows and orphans of Catholic members who died. The Knights of Columbus also evolved into a fraternal organization. Father McGivney was a tireless worker for his parishioners. During the pandemic of 1890, while serving his flock, he became ill and died of pneumonia.
WHY WAS FATHER MCGIVNEY BEATIFIED:
Beatification requires the Catholic Church’s formal confirmation (by the Pope) of a documented miracle, being caused by the intercession of the person being considered for Sainthood. In Father McGivney’s case, the miracle was the survival in the womb of a baby boy who had Down syndrome and fetal hydrops, a rare and usually fatal condition where fluids build up around vital organs. The Schachle family is from Dickson, Tennessee. The Schachles had successfully prayed to Father McGivney in the past and they reached out to him again for their baby boy’s survival. The doctor who ran the neonatal high-risk clinic at Vanderbilt University told the Schachles that in her 30 years of experience, no child had ever survived this fetal hydrops diagnosis.
Things looked desperately bad, but the father, a past Grand Knight, and the family, extended family & friends and local Knights all prayed to Father McGivney for the boy’s survival. The father also went to Fatima on a pilgrimage with the Knights just before the child was born. Upon the father’s return, on the last ultrasound before the child was delivered early, at 31 weeks by caesarean, on May 15, 2015…. the doctors were astounded that there was no fetal hydrops! May 15th interestingly, is also the date of the chartering of the first Knights of Columbus Council in 1882. Today in 2020, there are over 16,000 local Councils in 19 countries around the world. It is also comforting that August 12th, Father McGivney’s birthday, is also Michelle Schachle, the baby boy’s mother’s birthday. And amazingly, the baby, named Michael after Father Michael McGivney is the youngest of the 13 children in the Schachle family and Father McGivney was the oldest of the 13 children in his family! Who says miracles do not happen anymore!
The Beatification Mass will be held on October 31st at 11:00AM at the Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford CT and can be viewed live on EWTN or the Knights website, kofc.org.
WHO ARE THE KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS TODAY?
The Knights of Columbus is a 138-year-old, non-profit charitable organization, whose members are all Catholic men in good standing with the Catholic Church. Pope Francis refers to us as the right arm of the Church. We have 1.9 million members worldwide and 63,000+ members in New Jersey. In 2019, in total, we donated $187 million and 77 million manhours to hundreds of charitable causes.
Contributed by Rick Genter, FN 1775