Michael J. McGivney
|Born||Michael Joseph McGivney|
August 12, 1852
Waterbury, Connecticut, United States
|Died||August 14, 1890 (aged 38)|
Thomaston, Connecticut, United States
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
Michael Joseph McGivney (August 12, 1852 - August 14, 1890) was an American Catholic priest based in New Haven, Connecticut. He founded the Knights of Columbus at a local parish to serve as a mutual aid and fraternal insurance organization, particularly for immigrants and their families. It developed through the 20th century as the world's largest Catholic fraternal organization.
He was born to Irish immigrant parents, Patrick and Mary (Lynch) McGivney. He was the eldest of 13 children, six of whom died in infancy or childhood. His father worked as a molder in a Waterbury, Connecticut, brass mill. Michael attended the local Waterbury district school but left at 13 to work in the spoon-making department of one of the brass mills.
In 1868, at the age of 16, he entered the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada. He continued his studies at Our Lady of Angels Seminary, near Niagara Falls, New York (1871-1872) and at the Jesuits' St. Mary's College, in Montreal, Quebec. He had to leave the seminary, returning home to help finish raising his siblings after the death of his father, in June 1873. McGivney later resumed his studies at St. Mary's Seminary, in Baltimore, Maryland; he was ordained a priest on December 22, 1877, by Archbishop James Gibbons at the Baltimore Cathedral of the Assumption.
From his own experience, McGivney recognized the devastating effect on immigrant families of the untimely death of the father and wage earner. Many Catholics were still struggling to assimilate into the American economy. On March 29, 1882, while an assistant pastor at Saint Mary's Church in New Haven, Connecticut, McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, with a small group of parishioners, as a mutual aid society, to provide financial assistance, in the event of the men's deaths, to their widows and orphans. The organization developed as a fraternal society. McGivney was also known for his tireless work among his parishioners. He died from pneumonia on the eve of the Assumption in 1890, when he was 38.
The Knights of Columbus was among the first groups to recruit blood donors, with formal efforts dating to 1937 during the Great Depression. As of 2013, the order has more than 1.8 million member families and 15,000 councils. During the 2012 fraternal year, the order donated $167 million and 70 million man-hours to charity.
In 1996, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford opened the cause for canonization, an investigation into McGivney's life with a view towards formal recognition by the Church of his sainthood. Father Gabriel O'Donnell, OP, is the postulator of McGivney's cause. He is also the director of the Fr. McGivney Guild, which now has 150,000 members supporting his cause.
The diocesan investigation was closed in 2000, and the case was passed to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Vatican City. On March 15, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree recognizing McGivney's heroic virtue, thus declaring him "Venerable."
As of August 6, 2013, a miracle attributed to McGivney's intercession is under investigation at the Vatican.