Michael Joseph McGivney (August 12, 1852 – August 14, 1890) was an American Catholic priest based in New Haven, Connecticut. He founded the Knights of Columbus at a local parish to serve as a mutual aid and fraternal insurance organization, particularly for immigrants and their families. It developed through the 20th century as the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization.
He was born to Irish immigrant parents, Patrick and Mary (Lynch) McGivney. He was the eldest of 13 children, six of whom died in infancy or childhood. His father worked as a molder in a Waterbury, Connecticutbrass mill. Michael attended the local Waterbury district school but left at 13 to work in the spoon-making department of one of the brass millsFrom his own experience, McGivney recognized the devastating effect on immigrant families of the untimely death of the father and wage earner. Many Catholics were still struggling to assimilate into the American economy.[ On March 29, 1882, while an assistant pastor at Saint Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut, McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, with a small group of parishioners, as a mutual aid society, to provide financial assistance in the event of the men’s death to their widows and orphans. The organization developed as a fraternal society. He was also known for his tireless work among his parishioners. McGivney died from pneumonia on the eve of the Assumption in 1890, when he was 38.
The Knights of Columbus was among the first groups to recruit blood donors, with formal efforts dating to 1937 during the Great Depression. As of 2013, the order has more than 1.8 million member families and 15,000 councils. During the 2012 fraternal year, $167 million and 70 million man-hours were donated to charity by the order.
In 1996, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford opened the cause for canonization, an investigation into McGivney’s life with a view towards formal recognition by the Church of his sainthood. Father Gabriel O’Donnell, OP, is the postulator of McGivney’s cause. He is also the director of the Fr. McGivney Guild, which now has 150,000 members supporting his cause.
The diocesan investigation was closed in 2000, and the case was passed to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Vatican City. On March 15, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree recognizing McGivney’s heroic virtue, thus declaring him “Venerable.”[
As of August 6, 2013, A miracle attributed to McGivney’s intercession is under investigation at the Vatican