About Father Michael J. McGivney
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.
The cause for his canonization started in the Archdiocese of Hartford in 1996; in March 2008, Pope Benedict XVI declared McGivney "Venerable" in recognition of his "heroic virtue".
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.
Founding of the Knights of Columbus
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.
McGivney spent seven years at St. Mary’s, and was the assigned as pastor of St. Thomas in Thomaston in 1884, where he died from pneumonia on the eve of the Assumption in 1890, at the age of 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.
Cause for Canonization
On May 27, 2020, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis approved the promulgation of a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney. The pope's action means that Father McGivney can be declared "Blessed", the step just prior to sainthood.