One Step Closer to Sainthood: Knights of Columbus Founder Father Michael McGivney Is Beatified

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By Emily Drooby and Paula Katinas

HARTFORD – He will now be called Blessed Michael McGivney.

Father Michael McGivney (1852-1890), the founder of the Knights of Columbus, is a step closer to sainthood after he was beatified at a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut on Oct. 31.

Father McGivney served as a parish priest in what is now the Archdiocese of Hartford. It was the archdiocese, along with the Knights of Columbus, that started the effort to have him elevated to sainthood. That effort began in 1997.

The beatification is of special interest in the Diocese of Brooklyn, where there are 82 Knights of Columbus councils.

Beatification, in which the Catholic Church recognizes that a deceased person has entered into heaven and is capable of interceding on behalf of people who pray to him or her, is the final step before sainthood. A person who has been beatified is referred to as “Blessed.”

One miracle has been attributed to Father McGivney’s intervention. A second miracle would have to be verified before Father McGivney could be declared a saint.

Bishop Frank Caggiano, bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and a former auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Brooklyn, was among the members of the clergy at the celebration.

“I’m elated today,” he told The Tablet. Father McGivney was a young parish priest who served both his church and the mostly poor Irish immigrant community that surrounded his church,” Bishop Caggiano noted. “He is an example to today’s priests. He inspires us to get out there and meet the poor where they live, be among them,” he said.

The main celebrant of the Mass was Cardinal Joseph William Tobin, archbishop of Newark. He served as the representative of Pope Francis and read aloud a letter from the pontiff that officially declared Father McGivney beatified.

Archbishop of Hartford Leonard P. Blair was the concelebrant. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley of Boston were also on the altar.

The Archdiocese of Hartford took special precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including limiting the seating inside the cathedral and mandating the wearing of face masks.

Michelle, Daniel and Little Michael McGivney Schachle traveled all the way from Tennessee for the Mass. (Photo: Paula Katinas)

In May, Pope Francis signed a decree recognizing a miracle credited to Father McGivney.

The family that benefited from that miracle, the Schachles of Dickson, Tennessee, took part in the Mass.

Five years ago, Michelle and Daniel Schachle prayed to Father McGivney to save their unborn son after tests detected fetal hydrops, a condition that causes fluid to build up in the body’s organs. “We were told there was no hope and that our baby would die,” Michelle Schachle told The Tablet.

The couple was advised to get an abortion — advice they rejected.

“I was crying in the bedroom. My husband told me he prayed to fetal Father McGivney and that he was sure our baby boy would live,” she said.

Upon their return home from a trip to Fatima, the Schachles went back to the clinic and were shocked when doctors told them there was no sign of hydrops.

Blessed with that miracle, the couple decided to name their baby boy Michael McGivney Schachle. He is now five years old. He has Down syndrome and is thriving, his mother said.

Daniel Schacle, who is a fourth degree knight, said his son’s life can teach an important lesson. “It’s not up to us to determine quality of life. It wasn’t up to us to determine when Michael died. It’s up to God,” he said.

The family drove from Tennessee all the way to Connecticut for the Mass. During the service, the family, including little Michael, proceeded to the altar and presented a relic of Father McGivney.

Genevieve Schachle, 18, Michael’s sister, said the day was special for the whole family. “It’s all of these emotions coming at once,” she told Currents News. Calling her brother “my sweet baby,” she added, “I see the face of God when I look at him.”

There is another reason the Schachles feel a connection to Father McGivney. The Knights of Columbus founder was the oldest of 13 children. Little Michael McGivney Schachle is the youngest of 13.

Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882 while serving as a parish priest at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven. Originally established as a group to help widows and orphans, the Knights of Columbus is now the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world. It has more than 2 million members.

A portrait of Father McGivney graced the area above the altar. (Photo: Paula Katinas)

“There are millions of people who look to Father McGivney and pray to him,” said Carl Anderson, the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus.

The beatification of the organization’s founder is “more than a new chapter,” said Anderson, who added that the group will continue following Father McGivney’s example.

The beatification is being celebrated in the Diocese of Brooklyn with the establishment of a new Knights of Columbus Council at Blessed Trinity Parish, Rockaway Point.

Father Michael Gelfant, the pastor, said the new council, Our Lady of Knock Council 17580, was established just eight weeks ago and already has 72 members.

“The council was fast tracked to be open and running by the beatification and will receive a special beatification charter,” said Father Gelfant, who is the associate state chaplain for the Knights of Columbus. He is also the grand knight of the new council.