Fr. Michael J. McGivney is depicted in this painting by Antonella Cappuccio. (Courtesy of the Knights of Columbus)
Ven. Father Michael J. McGivney

Born: Aug. 12, 1852
Ordained: Dec. 22, 1877
Founded the Knights of Columbus: March 29, 1882
Died: Aug. 14, 1890
Declared Venerable: March 15, 2008


Founder’s Day, March 29*

Fr. Michael J. McGivney, the oldest of 13 born to Irish immigrants, was ordained a priest in 1877 for what was then the Diocese of Hartford, Connecticut. Catholics were a minority in New Haven, where Fr. McGivney served as a parish priest, and waves of immigrants were greeted by anti-Catholic sentiments.

Recognizing the struggle of many Catholic immigrants to assimilate into American society and the economy, Fr. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal mutual aid society in the basement of St. Mary’s Parish. Known for his tireless work for the care of widows and orphans, he died of pneumonia in 1890 at age 38.

Today the Knights of Columbus is the largest lay Catholic organization in the world with 1.9 million members globally and 16,670 members in councils throughout Arizona. He was recognized as “Venerable” by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.

“Out of love for God’s people, he created the Knights of Columbus as an organization designed to strengthen the faith of husbands and fathers while providing for their families in time of death and bereavement,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, supreme chaplain for the Knights of Columbus at the organization’s annual convention held in St. Louis in 2017.

“Fr. McGivney’s love for the poor, the outcast, the orphan, and the widow remains the true North Star of everything the order does in service to one and in service to all,” he added.

*Although there is no feast day for Ven. Michael J. McGivney, this is the date he is credited with establishing the Knights of Columbus, and is recognized as “Founder’s Day” by the organization. This year it falls on Holy Thursday, and councils are asked to adjust Founder’s Day celebrations to another day so they can fully participate in Holy Week liturgies.