Waterbury native and Knights of Columbus founder Michael McGivney was beatified Saturday, as authorized by Pope Francis, making him the first Connecticut resident and one of only a handful of Americans, to be recognized as “Blessed.”
McGivney, who died in 1890, is now one step short of sainthood.
The beatification took place Saturday as part of a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford. The ceremony included the reading of a letter from Pope Francis, in which he praised McGivney for his “zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel and generous concern for his brothers and sisters.” A tapestry featuring McGivney’s portrait was then unveiled in the sanctuary.
After the ceremony, Hartford Archbishop Leonard P. Blair said he hoped McGivney’s beatification could inspire others, particularly in the Hartford area.
“When you have someone locally who lived and walked our streets and towns and who lived a life of charity and faith and hope to such a degree,” Blair said, “that’s certainly an inspiration for all of our priests but also for everyone, that we can rub shoulders with holiness and that we’re called to be holy as well.”
McGivney was born in Waterbury in 1852 and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford in 1877. He then served as parochial vicar of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven and then pastor of St. Thomas church in Thomastown.
In 1882, McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, which today has 15,900 councils and 1.9 million members worldwide, according to the organization’s website.
Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, noted Saturday that McGivney was only 29 years old when he founded the organization.
“He took on this great task really just a few years out of seminary, a few years after being ordained," Anderson said. “So I think there’s a message there that people of his age have a tremendous contribution they can make.”
McGivney died at age 38 after falling ill with tuberculosis and pneumonia. More than a century later, he was declared “Venerable Servant of God” by Pope Benedict XVI. This past May, he was approved for beatification by Pope Francis, after the confirmation of a miracle McGivney is said to have performed five years ago.
The act designated as a miracle involved the healing of an unborn baby who had been diagnosed with fetal hydrops. The baby was born healthy and named Michael in honor of McGivney, and he lives today with his family in Dickson, Tennessee.
The family attended Saturday’s ceremony, which the child’s father, Daniel Schachle, called “absolutely surreal.”
“I thought about bringing a relic back to our house, but ever since Michael has been born we’ve felt like he was our own little relic,” Schachle said.
Blair said before the pandemic local church leaders had hoped to hold the beatification ceremony on the New Haven Green or at a large venue on Yale’s campus. They decided instead to proceed with a small crowd at the Cathedral of St. Joseph, with the event also televised and streamed online.
Blair said he thinks even those who couldn’t attend “feel a spiritual closeness to what has happened here today.”
In addition, the Knights of Columbus announced Saturday that their museum in New Haven will be turned into the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center, “to serve pilgrims who travel to New Haven to learn about Father McGivney and pray at St. Mary’s Church," according to a press release.
Alex Putterman can be reached at email@example.com.
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