Assigned to St. Mary’s Parish in New Haven, CT, Father McGivney was very active in parish and civic affairs. He saw a need for lay Catholic men to establish a mutual aid society to provide financial assistance for families in need if the primary wage earner died. Protestant fraternal groups already provided this type of life insurance protection for their members.
In 1882, Fr. McGivney formed the Knights of Columbus among a small group of St. Mary’s parishioners to promote charity, unity, and fraternity, assisting widows and orphans. Because of the Knights’ emphasis on serving Church, community and family, the organization grew and did not remain strictly parish-based.
Father Michael Joseph McGivney was a genuine pastor who, in the words of Pope Francis, was unafraid to share “the smell of his sheep.” He promoted families whose members were strong in their faith expressed through generous following of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. In a decree read at the beatification Mass, Pope Francis praised Father McGivney’s “zeal and the proclamation of the Gospel and generous concern for his brothers and sisters.” These “made him an outstanding witness of Christian solidarity and fraternal assistance.”