Knights of Columbus on hand as Blessed McGivney relic pilgrimage debuts at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish
KELLER — Knights of Columbus Diocese of Fort Worth general agent Chris Stark joked that March 5 literally marked Blessed Michael McGivney's first Texas visit.
The pilgrimage event offered opportunity for veneration of a relic of McGivney's, a bone fragment, that day at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Keller with appearances scheduled on subsequent days in San Angelo, Odessa, Lubbock, and Wichita Falls.
Bishop Michael Olson celebrated the Mass and attended the veneration at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Wichita Falls on March 9.
McGivney, a former New Haven, Conn., priest, founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882.
“Father McGivney started the Knights when he was 29,” Stark said. “But he died at 38 and did not live long enough to see the organization reach Texas.”
Knights, and others, from throughout Texas filled cards with prayer intentions to deposit into a basket and lined up to venerate Blessed McGivney's relic.
“We're going to take the prayer request cards back to Fr. McGivney's tomb in Connecticut,” said Father Jonathan Kalisch, OP, who serves as director of chaplains and spiritual development for the Knights.
Pope Francis announced in 2020 that Fr. McGivney had been approved for beatification. Now holding the title of blessed, Fr. McGivney sits one step from sainthood with one additional miracle attributed to his intercession required for his canonization.
After investigation, the Vatican in 2020 attributed a miracle to Fr. McGivney's intercession involving the healing of Michael Schachle, a child in his mother's womb given no chance of survival.
“We need one more miracle attributed to him, then a papal blessing, which will happen if we get another miracle,” KOC Diocesan Deputy for Fort Worth Craig Modrzynski said. “Several miracles that I know of are under investigation right now.”
Stark expressed similar hope for Fr. McGivney's eventual canonization.
“There are miracles happening with Fr. McGivney,” Stark said. “Fr. Kalisch said he met a lady at the [March 5] 9 a.m. Mass who said she had prayed to Fr. McGivney during her troubled pregnancy. Her baby was coming out the wrong way. She prayed to Fr. McGivney and now she has a healthy baby boy.
“Fr. Kalisch asked how she knew to pray to Fr. McGivney, and she said because she had heard of [Schachle's] story.”
Stark, Fr. Kalisch said, proved instrumental in organizing the pilgrimage.
“Normally, after beatification, they take relics from the body of the blessed and start to take them around to encourage peoples' devotion,” Fr. Kalisch said. “COVID delayed that, so this is the first opportunity we've had to take the relics outside of Connecticut. We're really pleased to start in the Diocese of Fort Worth. The goal is to increase devotion to Blessed Michael, have people learn about him and his patronage, and ask his intercession.”
Father Linh Nguyen, parochial vicar of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, expounded during his homily and after Mass on Blessed McGivney's life and legacy.
“That those visiting today will be touched and transformed by Fr. McGivney's life,” Fr. Nguyen said of his hopes for the day's event. “Like Fr. Kalisch said, it's an encounter with him even in the eternal realm encouraging following and carrying out his mission of caring for the poor and making the Church the center of your life and community life. More importantly, not being afraid to live out that life. When you think of it, there were challenges to living out the Catholic faith when [Blessed McGivney] was ordained just as there are today. So, through venerating and encountering him in a spiritual way, we too are transformed to live out that same message and meet our own challenges.”
Veneration of a relic entails a “spiritual exchange” between those on earth and those already in heaven, Fr. Kalisch said, with focus on intercession rather than the actual object.
“You're not praying to them or a bone,” Modrzynski said. “You're remembering that person in heaven and asking them to take your prayers to the Lord.”
Several spoke of Blessed McGivney's compassion for children, widows and those fallen away from the Church among others.
Knight Terry Simonton, past state deputy for the Texas State Council, traveled to Keller from his home in Temple to view the relic.
Simonton, who suffers from several forms of cancer, characterized the pilgrimage tour as a very big deal.
“I've been waiting for this,” Simonton said. “I've been praying to Fr. McGivney for a long time for healing and intercession. For this pilgrimage to start in Texas, since we're the largest jurisdiction in North America, that's pretty special.”
The hope and plan, Stark said, is that the Texas events lead to something bigger.
“We believe we're going to be successful and that this is going to launch a national tour of the relic,” Stark said.