University's McGivney collection documents sainthood candidate's legacy

A statue of Fr. Michael J. McGivney is seen at The Catholic University of America in Washington Oct. 20, 2020. The founder of the Knights of Columbus will be beatified Oct. 31 during a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Conn. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The campus of The Catholic University of America in Washington is graced with a statue of Fr. Michael J. McGivney outside McGivney Hall on campus, but inside its archives is a special collection on the legacy of the soon-to-be-beatified founder of the Knights of Columbus.

The "exemplary parish priest," as he is widely known, will be beatified during a special Mass at 11 a.m. (Eastern Time) Oct. 31 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin will be the main celebrant.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, attendance inside the cathedral is restricted, but the Mass will be livestreamed by EWTN and on the website of the Knights of Columbus,

On Oct. 20, the Knights of Columbus issued an invitation to U.S. Catholics to participate in a novena leading up to the beatification. Fr. McGivney, who will be given the title "Blessed," will be the first U.S. parish priest to be beatified.

"Fr. McGivney can be credited with inspiring generations of both male and female members of the laity to extraordinary acts of service and charity," said Fr. Mark M. Morozowich, dean of Catholic University's School of Theology and Religious Studies.

"His visionary leadership focusing on active lay involvement serves as a precursor and model of the Second Vatican Council's call for an active and engaged lay involvement in the life of the church," the priest said.

Catholic University's McGivney collection is held in the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives and it examines the priest's influence on Catholic family life, Catholic charity and Catholic womanhood.

Known for founding what today is the world’s largest lay Catholic organization for men, Fr. McGivney originally started the Knights of Columbus as a service organization to help widows and orphans.

The university's collection on his legacy examines his lasting impact on Catholic women, which is evidenced in the efforts of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, according to Maria Cecilia Ulrickson, assistant professor of American church history at Catholic University.

She said the energy Fr. McGivney poured into the Knights can be encountered in a collection of writings from the Catholic Daughters, which was formed in 1903 under the same principles that guide the Knights: "Unity and Charity.”

"The Daughters promoted a vision of Catholic womanhood that echoed (Father) McGivney's love of the family and his intellectual respect for the educated women he encountered," Ulrickson said.

"The early Daughters used their courts (equivalent to Knights' councils) to direct their own social safety nets. They hosted lectures on womanhood, travel and Catholic worship all while organizing picnics, banquets, and dramatic performances," she explained.

"The organization took on the responsibility of caring for the sick and orphaned Catholics in their towns, offered burial benefits for members in good standing, and their monthly newsletter circulated prayers for the repose of deceased members," Ulrickson added. "Their unity looked much like the parish life that attracted the faithful to McGivney's parishes.”