“A priest walks into a bar and says to an Irishman, ‘Do you want to serve the Church and also buy some insurance to protect your family when you die?’” Not necessarily a funny joke, but perhaps a quick and accurate assessment of what today’s saint did for the working Catholic immigrant in the late 19th century America. Fr. Michael J. McGivney was the eldest of 13 children born to Irish immigrant parents in 1852. His father worked in a brass mill and was joined by Michael when he was 13. However, he entered the seminary at 16 in Quebec, leaving at one point to help his mother raise his siblings when his father died in 1873. He eventually was ordained in 1877 and served in New Haven, Connecticut. While there he realized how the impact of the deaths of immigrants in grueling working conditions devastated families.
In response, he founded the Knights of Columbus, which is the world’s largest men’s charitable fraternal organization with 2 million members worldwide. Its four degrees, or levels, of membership are based on four watchwords: Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism. In 2019, the order donated $187 million and 77 million man-hours to charity. It has over $100 billion of life insurance in force and $24 billion of assets under management. The order has thousands of councils throughout the world and men who have been recognized for their holiness: five Servants of God, including Fr. Flanagan of Boys Town; two Venerables, including Archbishop Sheen; six Blesseds, including Carlos Manuel Rodríguez of Puerto Rico; and seven Saints, including six Mexican priests martyred for their faith during persecutions in the early 20th century. Bl. Michael McGivney was a man of vision, holiness, and concern for others. He embodied the essence of priestly life through his ministry and service.
Richard Whitney, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons