The 2012 winner of the Irish Cultural Society's
Scholarship Competition is Kathleen (Katie) Erin
Winters. She is (June 2012) a senior at the Health
Careers High School and plans to attend Baylor
University next year. Katie has won other
scholarships this year including a
National Merit Scholarship.
Father Michael McGivney
When one thinks of a person of Irish ancestry or culture who has made
a significant contribution to humanity, names such as Ronald Reagan,
John F. Kennedy, James Joyce, and William Butler Yeats immediately come
to mind. However, I have chosen to write about Father Michael Joseph
McGivney who, while not well known by name, bears a legacy which is well
known across the world.
Michael McGivney was born on August 12, 1852 to Patrick and Mary
McGivney in Waterbury, Connecticut. The first of twelve children, Michael
grew up in a cottage along the bank of the Naugatuck River. Educated at
home during his early years, Michael graduated from East Main Street
School in 1865 and became a factory worker in order to please his father,
though he truly felt called to the priesthood. Shortly afterwards, he
prepared for seminary at the College of St. Hyacinth in Quebec, Canada.
Three years later, he went on to study Philosophy at Our Lady of Angels
Seminary, Niagara University, Niagara Falls, New York. In 1873, he entered
St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland and was ordained a Catholic
priest in 1877. After being ordained, Father McGivney was assigned to serve
as an Associate Pastor at St. Mary's Parish in New Haven, Connecticut.
While serving his flock, Fr. McGivney saw that many Irish fathers died
leaving behind a family with no means to support themselves. Life
insurance, which had been offered in America since the time of Ben
Franklin, was still not a common purchase for lower and middle class
Americans due to the numerous financial scandals of the time. Furthermore,
Fr. McGivney was aware of various Secret Societies that drew in members
of his church. He realized that by creating a Faith based fraternal order,
he could serve the needs of both Catholic men seeking fraternal camaraderie
and poor families. The first planning meeting was held on October 2, 1881
to find out if there was enough interest to support the creation of such
an organization whose main goals were to aid each other in times of
sickness, provide for a decent Christian burial, and to offer financial
assistance to the families of deceased members.
On March 29, 1882, Fr. McGivney, along with William M. Geary, John T.
Kerrigan, Daniel Colwell, James McMahon, Cornelius T. Driscoll, Matthew
C. O'Connor, M. D., Michael Tracey, James T. Mullen, and William
Sellwood were formally recognized by the state of Connecticut as the
founder of the "Knights of Columbus" in New Haven, Connecticut.
Sadly, Fr. Michael McGivney passed away on August 14, 1890 at the age
of 38. Although his life was short lived, his brainchild, the
"Knights of Columbus", grew in its mission of serving those in need
and continued to expand across the United States and beyond,
eventually forming chapters in several countries abroad. Today, the
"Knights of Columbus" continue to serve those in need by providing
affordable Life insurance to families, volunteer services and
contributions to charitable causes (over 150 million dollars and 70
million hours in 2011), and providing over a million of dollars worth
of scholarships to hundreds of college bound High School students each
year. In addition, the Knights have created the Knights of Columbus
College Council program which seeks to promote the development of the
future leaders with strong moral, intellectual and spiritual identities.
They are also currently funding the education of seminarians who intend
to serve as chaplains in the United States military.
Fr. McGivney's contribution to humanity continues through the various
institutions that have been inspired by his example. Today, his legacy
can be seen in the "McGivney Center for Cancer Care", "McGivney Hall
At Catholic University", the "Father Michael J. McGivney Academy", as
well as having a street named after him "Father Michael J. McGivney
Boulevard" in his boyhood town of Watertown, Connecticut. In Canada, one
can find the "McGivney House which provides skills training to men so
they can obtain a job to support themselves. In addition, he has been
memorialized in a stained glass window of the Basilica of the National
Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. and other
parishes around the country.
Looking to instill a sense of community service in young men (ages
10 to 18) in the image of Fr. McGivney the Knights have created the
Columbian Squires, an international fraternity of approximately 25,000
young men who learn lifelong leadership skills while volunteering
hundreds of thousands of hours to serve those in need within their
Observing the plight of poor orphans and widows of the newly arrived
immigrant Irish, Father McGivney saw the need to reach out to those in
less fortunate in his surrounding community. What began with one priest
and nine well to do men has grown today into an international organization
with over 14,000 local units in all 50 states, eight countries, and
several U.S. Military bases around the world. Today, people can find
the efforts of the Knights of Columbus nearly everywhere they look.
Over 125 years after the founding of the Knights of Columbus, Fr.
McGivney's legacy lives on through the organization consisting of
thousands of men, young and old, who are called to share their time
and talents with those less fortunate. At the present time, Father
McGivney is undergoing the process for Sainthood within the Catholic
Church, having been given a "decree of heroic virtue" and the title
"Venerable Servant of God" in 2008 by the Roman Catholic Church.