Knights of Columbus Founder to be beatified

Fr Leonard Dollentas

Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, will soon be declared blessed, a step prior to sainthood. Father Michael McGivney was not only a remarkable founder but an exemplary pastor, a simple American parish priest who sacrificed his own life serving his people during the pneumonia pandemic in 1890.

Father McGivney was ordained in 1877 by James Cardinal Gibbons at Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption. He ministered  at St Mary’s parish, a largely Irish-American immigrant community in New Haven, Connecticut.  He died of pneumonia at the age of 38 on August 14, 1890 in the midst of a global pandemic that claimed over 1 million worldwide.

The anti-Catholic sentiment of the day led Fr McGivney to found the Knights of Columbus in his parish basement. This organization for men was his way of supporting families who had lost husbands and fathers and faced destitution. Today, the Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization and known worldwide in the areas of evangelization, charitable works, racial integration, pro-life initiatives and the defense of religious freedom. From its humble beginnings in 1882 the Knights of Columbus now counts over two million members throughout the world.  They continue to serve those in need  just as Father McGivney did in the 1800s.

Father Michael McGivney’s process of canonization was initiated by Archbishop Daniel A Cronin of Hartford, Connecticut in the United States in 1997. In March 2008, Pope Benedict XVI recognized his heroic virtues and declared him venerable. His beatification has been scheduled for October 31 this year. With the COVID-19 crisis still raging uncontrollably, many are afraid they may not be able to take part physically in the celebration.

Dr Andrea Ambrosi is the postulator working for the saintly cause of Father McGivney. He initially drafted the positio whichwas presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in January 2002. The positio  runs to nearly 1,000 pages in two volumes and contains Father McGivney’s biography and the documents describing his spirituality.

The miracle that led to the approval for  Fr McGivney’s beatification happened to an unborn child in the womb of a mother in Nashville, the capital of the US state of Tennessee. In the summer of 2014 the mother of the child  became pregnant. It was her 13th child and the mother was already 41 years old.  In January 2015, she had an MRI or CT- scan and saw that the baby had fetal hydrops. It is a condition in the fetus characterized by an accumulation of fluid, or edema, in at least two fetal compartments.

That year the family made a trip to Rome and Fatima.  In Rome the family prayed for the health of their little baby. The family of the child and the Knights of Columbus asked venerable Father McGivney for his intercession and the father promised to name the child Michael, after Father Michael McGivney. When they came back, the mother  had the examinations again and the fetal hydrops had disappeared completely. With the sudden change in the condition of the child, all the doctors were in awe and disbelief.  There were various doctors in Nashville who concluded that what had happened was absolutely incomprehensible. It was a great joy for the parents and the siblings to welcome a little boy named Michael. The  13th child born in 2015 to a large loving family is  now five years old and reports say he is doing well. Venerable Michael McGivney himself was born to a large family and by coincidence he also was the 13th child, just like little Michael.

The miracle satisfied the requirement for beatification, in which Father McGivney will be declared “Blessed.” Another miracle after his beatification is required for canonization or sainthood, at which time Father McGivney would be declared “Saint.”