Our Founder: Blessed Fr. Michael McGivney
The founder of the Knights of Columbus, Father Michael J. McGivney was a central figure in the growth of Catholicism in America, and he remains a model today. His example of charity, evangelization and empowerment of the laity continues to bear fruit and guide Knights of Columbus around the world.
In his Apostolic Letter that was read at the Mass for Beatification on Oct. 31, 2020, Pope Francis stated that Blessed Michael McGivney’s “zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel and generous concern for the needs of his brothers and sisters made him an outstanding witness of Christian solidarity and fraternal assistance.” The Holy Father set his annual feast day for Aug. 13, the day between Father McGivney’s birthday (in 1852) and the day he entered eternal life (in 1890).
The beatification ceremony in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford, Conn., was a high point in a long process that began with the opening of the Cause for Canonization in December 1997.
Shortly after Father McGivney was named a Venerable Servant of God in March 2008, Pope Benedict XVI cited him as a key figure in “the impressive growth” of the Church in the United States, stating, “We need but think of the remarkable accomplishment of that exemplary American priest, the Venerable Michael McGivney, whose vision and zeal led to the establishment of the Knights of Columbus.” Through the spiritual genius of Father McGivney, the Knights of Columbus has become a way for Catholic men to transform friends into brothers — brothers who care for one another.
Just as those in need sought Father McGivney’s help in life, understanding that he was a “Good Samaritan” figure, more than 2 million members of the Knights of Columbus and their families, and many others around the world, continue to seek out Father McGivney as a heavenly helper in times of need today. On May 26, 2020, Pope Francis approved a decree for a miracle attributed to his intercession, opening the way for Father McGivney to be beatified. A second approved miracle is needed for him to be canonized as a saint of the Catholic Church.
Those who knew him best in life saw in him both a “genial” countenance and a man with an “indomitable will” to achieve the good. In sum, his founding of the Knights of Columbus “attests to the love in which he held his brother man.”
A Witness for the World: The Global Impact of Blessed Michael McGivney
The Life of Blessed Father McGivney
Michael Joseph McGivney was born in Waterbury, Conn., on August 12, 1852, the first child of Patrick and Mary (Lynch) McGivney. His parents came to the United States in the great 19th-century wave of Irish immigration and were married in Waterbury. Patrick was a molder in the heat and noxious fumes of a brass mill. Mary gave birth to 13 children, six of whom died young, leaving Michael with four living sisters and two brothers.
Life was not easy, especially for Catholic immigrant families who often faced prejudice, social exclusion, and financial and social disadvantages. Young Michael thus experienced from an early age grief, anti-Catholic bigotry and poverty. But his faith sustained him. At home and in church, he learned and embraced love, faith, fortitude, prayer and putting love of God above any earthly rewards.
Michael attended the public schools of Waterbury’s working-class neighborhoods. A good student, he was noted for “Excellent deportment and proficiency in his studies.” At age 13, shortly after the Civil War, he graduated three years early and began work in the spoon-making department of a brass factory to provide a few more dollars for his family.
Father Michael McGivney: An American Blessed
Holy Mass and Beatification of Father Michael J. McGivney
As shared by William Nardi:
On November 1, 2020, after the Holy Father recited the Angelus, he continued his address, bringing up Blessed Michael McGivney’s beatification ceremony the day before:
"Dear brothers and sisters, yesterday, in Hartford, in the United States of America, Michael McGivney, diocesan priest, founder of the Knights of Columbus, was declared Blessed. Dedicated to evangelization, he did everything possible to provide for the needs of the needy, promoting mutual aid. May his example be an impetus for us to witness ever more to the Gospel of charity. Let us give a round of applause to this new Blessed!"
Click Here to watch the Holy Father’s address on video.
Resources & Books for the Blessed Father Michael McGivney
Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism
In this book, Douglas Brinkley and Julie Fenster re-create the life of the founder of the Knights of Columbus, Father Michael McGivney, a fiercely dynamic yet tenderhearted man. Though he was only thirty-eight when he died, Father McGivney has never been forgotten. He remains a true “people's priest,” a genuinely holy man – and perhaps the most beloved parish priest in U.S. history.
The Knights of Columbus: An Illustrated History
This book tells a uniquely American story of faith in action. Formed by Father Michael McGivney with the men of his parish, the Knights of Columbus was committed to the principles of charity and unity, while supporting the faith and financial viability of its members and their families. It would soon grow into an organization whose members supported one another while also contributing to their parishes, their communities, their countries, and the world.