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Knights of Columbus celebrate their founder’s beatification

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In 1882, the assistant pastor of St. Mary Church in New Haven, Conn., founded a fraternal organization dedicated to serving widows, orphans and others in need. More than 100 years later, that organization, the Knights of Columbus, has 15,900 councils and 1.9 million members. The priest who started it all, Father Michael J. McGivney, is set to be beatified Oct. 31 in Hartford, Conn. 

Father McGivney was born in Waterbury, Conn., Aug. 12, 1852, to Irish immigrant parents. His father died while he was in seminary but he was able to continue his studies with the financial help of the bishop of Hartford. He was ordained by Archbishop James Gibbons Dec. 22, 1877, in what is now known as the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. 

Two years after founding the Knights of Columbus, he was named pastor of St. Thomas Church in Thomaston, Conn. He died of pneumonia at age 38. According to the website about his cause run by the Knights, delegations from almost every one of the 57 Knights of Columbus councils in existence attended his funeral. His beatification is the second-to-last step in the process of becoming a saint. 

Knights around the Arlington diocese are excited to celebrate their founder. The St. Veronica Council in Chantilly is holding a watch party of the beatification Mass. “I’m excited about highlighting Father McGivney to the rest of the world and to our own parish,” said Patrick Sharon, grand knight. “We’re going to show the beatification on the big screen at the parish hall and (share) what I appreciate about Father McGivney.”

Sharon sees the Knights as being the go-to guys of the parish, there to serve the pastor and those in need locally and throughout the diocese. That’s Father McGivney’s legacy. “The thing that resonates the most is his focus and desire to support the families that were in his parish. A lot of the role of the Knights of Columbus then and still to this day is to support families of deceased members,” said Sharon. “It feels very 19th century, but widows and orphans exist today.” 

Over the past 10 years, John Sliwinski, a member of the Our Lady of Hope Council in Potomac Falls, has appreciated the spiritual formation he receives through the Knights of Columbus. “It’s just been a great way to be a better husband, a better father and a Catholic gentleman,” said Sliwinski. He’s been inspired by Father McGivney’s complete dedication to those in need. 

His council also is holding a beatification viewing party at the parish. Sliwinski is looking forward to witnessing the historic moment not only with his brother Knights but with his pastor, Father Anthony J. Killian, who will watch a fellow American parish priest be beatified. “You can just see his excitement, that as a parish priest, Father McGivney is a role model,” said Sliwinski. “It’s kind of neat to see, that we’re able to share this together.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020