Monday, October 29, 2012


No native born American priest has ever been formally declared a saint but VENERABLE MICHAEL J. McGIVNEY is on his way. The eldest of 12 children, he was born in 1852 in Waterbury, Connecticut  (which is a half hour from our Mother Abbey). His parents were among the waves of Irish immigrants coming to America from post-famine Ireland. His father, Peter, worked in the brass factories of Waterbury.

By the time he was 13 Michael knew that God was calling him to the priesthood. Money being tight, he spent three years with the many men like his father working in the brass factories of Connecticut to help his family and save for the seminary. 

Interesting to note, the man who donated our Abbey land (CT) and later gave our Foundress the building in Bethlehem with a $90,000 loan, owned brass factories in Waterbury. The property in Bethlehem was the farm and “recreation” area for his city workers.

During this time, Ven. McGivney witnessed  first hand the misery and suffering brought about by poverty, alcoholism, poor education and the early death of the head of the family. These events left him with an even deeper sense of compassion for the working man.
In 1873, his father passed away. Ven.Michael left the seminary to return home to help his mother and siblings. He was able to later return to the seminary and was ordained on December 22, 1877 by Archbishop James Gibbons of Baltimore. By the time he received his second assignment, he was well known for his kindness and compassion, especially to families who had suffered the loss of their father and primary source of income.

Ven. McGivney wanted to foster the Catholic identity of the men in his care and to counteract the negative effects of anti-Catholic secret societies that gained prominence in the late 19th century. He began gathering a group of men to form what would become the KNIGHTS of COLUMBAS. Ven. McGivney wanted this organization to be for all Catholic men; a society dedicated to God and loyal to the United States. He also sought to establish social activities to curb alcoholism, charitable outreach to those in need, and  to create affordable life insurance to help families devastated by the loss of the father and wage earner. On March 29, 1882, in New Haven, the Knights of Columbus was officially recognized.

Ven. Michael McGivney died on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption, August 14, 1890 as a result of pneumonia. He was only 38 years old. His funeral Mass was one of the largest the state of Connecticut had ever seen.

Cross in OLR Chapel
During the 2008-2009  year, $150 million and 70 million man-hours were donated to charity by the Knights. Our monastery chapel cross (upon which was mounted the Christ by artist Frances Rich) was donated by a local group.  It is solid cherry wood. 

Another group of Knights comes from the Ferndale area every year to cut wood for our winter’s heat. During the year they contribute more work and time to us. Most important to us is their on-going friendship and prayers.

 In the history of the Church it is very rare for a parish priest to be canonized (St. Jean Vianney), unless he was the founder of a religious order or went on to become a bishop. Venerable Micheal McGivney could be called the working man's priest and hopefully will soon be our first born.


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