SALT LAKE CITY — Knights of Columbus in Utah are looking forward to the beatification of the order’s founder, Father Michael McGivney, on Oct. 31.
The son of Irish immigrants who was ordained a priest in 1877, Fr. McGivney was the assistant pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in New Haven, Conn., when he founded the Catholic fraternal organization in 1882 to help needy women and orphans. He died Aug. 14, 1890 of pneumonia at the age of 38, and is buried in New Haven.
On May 27 Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to Fr. McGivney after the parents of an unborn child diagnosed in utero with a life-threatening case of fetal hydrops prayed to him to intercede. That child survived and is now 5 years old. Fr. McGivney will be beatified at a special Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Conn. on Oct. 31. There will be a Mass of Thanksgiving for Beatification on Sunday, Nov. 1 at Fr. McGivney’s former parish, Saint Mary’s. The Masses will be livestreamed at kofc.org/beatification. Videos about Fr. McGivney, his works and his path to beatification are also available at that link.
“It is a wonderful thing; it has been a long time in coming,” said Fr. Erik Richtsteig, Utah Knights of Columbus chaplain, of the beatification of the order’s founder. “Fr. McGivney founded a remarkable organization, and because of his own personal holiness that organization has thrived.”
Fr. Richtsteig, who has been the Utah chaplain for eight years, has been a Knight of Columbus since he was a seminarian. He is now pastor of St. Ambrose Parish.
“It is quite amazing what Fr. McGivney created and the fact that it has grown into what it is, the largest lay Catholic organization. It truly is an honor to carry on his legacy,” said Nick Nielson, state deputy for the Utah Knights of Columbus. “The fact that he is being beatified is so moving and gives me further reason to continue on with his legacy and his mission with the Knights of Columbus.”
Utah has 2,954 Knights of Columbus in 35 active councils. Nielson said it has been challenging for the Knights in Utah to continue their mission of service during the pandemic.
“It’s very difficult during COVID-19, even though right now there is more of a reason for the Knights,” he said. “The limitations on us being able to meet and gather and to do what we do has made being a Knight challenging; it has made growing the order challenging. With COVID and everything going on, it’s even further of a need for the Knights of Columbus; our parishes need us.”
As the pandemic restrictions on public gatherings have eased and Catholics are returning to public worship, the Knights can play an important role in re-engaging them in the life of the parishes, Nielson said.
“We can be there to do the labor: we can be there to help do the yardwork, sanitize the pews, to do all those things that the parishes need, but they also need us to be active, to thankfully find activities we can offer that will get people to come back,” Nielson said.
Although some of the Utah Knights’ meetings and activities, such as their annual banquet, have been postponed or gone online, the members continue their service to Catholics and others in safe, socially distant ways. Knights from the St. John the Baptist council and others will participate in Life Chain, a silent prayer vigil to honor the unborn that will take place on Nov. 1 in Sandy. The local event, which is one of many being held nationwide, fits the parameters of social distancing, with participants spaced along the sidewalks at intervals, organizer Patrick Schmidt said.
The Utah Knights of Columbus also sponsor the annual Catholic Schools Science Fair, which this year was canceled due to the pandemic.
The Knights are continuing their charitable works with their annual Coats for Kids collection drive, which provides winter wear for children in need.