Blessed Michael J McGivney—Founder of the Knights of Columbus.
The Founder of the Knights of Columbus was Blessed Michael J McGivney, declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, and Beatified by Pope Francis in 2020.
The son of Irish immigrants who came to America during the famine of the 1840s, he was born in Connecticut and grew up at a time when anti-Catholic prejudice greatly limited social and employment opportunities in the U.S. From an early age, he decided to become a priest. He was ordained in 1878 and his first assignment was at St Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn. He eventually became its pastor.
The Church is located across from Yale University and was predominantly comprised of poor Irish immigrants. The men worked in factories with terrible working conditions. Many of these young husbands and fathers died at an early age due to those conditions. The widows turned to Fr. McGivney for help, and he did so wherever he could, and asked the men of the parish to help.
To help the widows and the families, in 1882 Blessed Fr McGivney gathered together a group of laymen from his parish in the basement of St. Mary’s for a meeting and formed the Knights of Columbus. He had two goals for this new group of Catholic men: to provide assistance to widows and children when a family breadwinner died, and to provide Catholic men with a fraternal association that would draw them closer to their Catholic faith and to one another. For the next several years, Blessed Fr McGivney helped foster the growth of the Order, first in Connecticut and then later in adjoining states.
Never robust in health, Blessed Fr McGivney was stricken with pneumonia—he lost his physical strength just as the order that he founded was growing. He died on Aug 14, 1890.
Due to the incredible foresight of this selfless parish priest, the Knights of Columbus now has 2 million members around the world, donates hundreds of millions of dollars per year to worthy charities and contributes 77 million volunteer hours per year to continue to help the needy.
August 13th is the Feast Day of Blessed Fr McGivney. Please join the Knights of Columbus in celebrating this humble, selfless, and visionary parish priest: Blessed Father Michael J. McGivney.