Blessed Celebration: Local Knights gather for Fr. McGivney’s beatification Mass
FORT WORTH — That Knights of Columbus founder Father Michael McGivney died during a pandemic that may have been coronavirus related and was, more than a century later, raised to the status of a Blessed during a similar pandemic certainly begs contemplation, said Chris Stark, general agent for the Knights in the Diocese of Fort Worth.
Stark was also impressed by the priest’s tireless ministry to immigrant Catholics in Connecticut from 1887 to his death in 1890.
“You’ve got to remember, he only lived to be 38 and in just eight years was able to put together everything that the Knights of Columbus has become,” Stark said. “There are so many things tied into his life that make Fr. McGivney, the person, just a very special man.”
Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who concelebrated McGivney’s Oct. 31 beatification Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut, indirectly referenced the pandemics of both eras in noting that Fr. McGivney’s beatification and the pandemic at the end of his life provide “timely signs of God’s providential care that can speak in a personal way to each one of us, especially in this moment of our history.”
The same morning, more than 1,600 miles distanced from the beatification liturgy in Connecticut, Stark joined Knights from other councils in the Diocese of Fort Worth at St. Andrew Church to watch EWTN’s live broadcast of the Mass and the celebration of Fr. McGivney’s new title, Blessed McGivney.
Father Jim Gigliotti, TOR, pastor of St. Andrew, expressed jubilation following the broadcast, commenting that it was the first beatification Mass he had experienced.
Fr. Gigliotti spoke of Bl. McGivney’s time devoted to fighting poverty for many Americans, especially immigrants, and anti-Catholic bigotry, adding that throughout history Christ brings difference makers into times of societal crisis.
Bl. McGivney, through championing fraternity, faith, and outreach, was one such difference maker, Fr. Gigliotti said. By being filled by the Holy Spirit, he was able to reach out and inspire others who in turn inspired others to the good and to this day.
St. Andrew parishioner Brian Sprague, also a field agent with the Knights, agreed.
“What it really comes down to is that Fr. McGivney saw firsthand, through the loss of his father and the losses of other families in his parish, how the [death] of a father often tore families apart in those days and led to family separation and deeper poverty,” Sprague said. “He saw the need to address that and started an organization to take care of orphans, widows, and their children. The Knights of Columbus is a mutual benefit society that is there to take care of families, spiritually and materially. Now, with more than 2 million Knights in the United States, we continue that tradition today.”
Sprague continued, “I see today’s beatification Mass as everything coming full circle. It’s everything we’ve been telling our members for years. That what we’re doing is in line with the Church, that we’re part of the Church and of the Church.”
Hartford Archbishop Emeritus Daniel Cronin opened the cause for Bl. McGivney’s canonization in 1997. Pope Benedict XVI declared Fr. McGivney a “Venerable Servant of God” in 2008.
Pope Francis in May authorized a decree attributing a 2015 miracle to Fr. McGivney’s intercession, opening the way for beatification, which leaves Bl. McGivney one step from possible sainthood.
A video played before the beatification Mass detailed the Schachle family of Tennessee. Daniel Schachle, himself a Knight, and his wife, Michelle, prayed for Fr. McGivney’s intercession after learning that their unborn son had severe fetal hydrops and little chance of coming to term. Their son, named Michael Schachle, now 5 years old, attended Fr. McGivney’s beatification Mass with his parents and siblings, presenting a relic of Fr. McGivney to Cardinal Tobin.
Sprague said he believes Bl. McGivney exemplifies what the Catholic faith teaches and will eventually be declared a saint.
Sprague and Stark said Bl. McGivney’s life serves as reminder to all Catholics of the importance of evangelization and outreach and of building the domestic church within individual families.
“The Knights are geared toward building that domestic church and keeping families together, [especially] in instances where the worst happens, and the breadwinner is no longer there for that family in the best and worst of times,” Sprague said.
Sprague mentioned the Knights’ involvement with Special Olympics, wheelchair initiatives, and other outreach programs while Stark cited the organization’s making $100 million available to parishes and dioceses throughout the country to provide COVID-19 assistance. kofc.org
“I can’t imagine a world without the Knights,” Stark said. “We have 2 million brother Knights around the country. Imagine what the world would look like if we had 4 million.”
Both also said it was a joy, even given social distancing and other COVID-19 safety precautions, to gather with Knights from councils throughout the diocese.
To that end, the Knights are offering free annual membership to new members through the year’s end. Visit kofc.org for details.