By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic
[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – The upcoming beatification Mass of Father Michael McGivney is an answer to prayer for thousands of Knights of Columbus in B.C. and Yukon.
“My first reaction was ‘Oh, man, our prayers have been answered,’” B.C. and Yukon state deputy Dale Hofer told The B.C. Catholic.
“Behind the Our Father and the Hail Mary, the Father McGivney prayer … is third in line of the most popular prayers that we pray in council meetings and district meetings.”
Hofer estimates Knights have printed and distributed at least 50,000 cards with an image of Father McGivney and a prayer for his canonization in B.C. and Yukon alone. “Who knows how many are being distributed in other jurisdictions? We’ve been praying so hard for this to happen.”
John Toporchak has been a member of the Knights for 60 years. The Vernon resident said Father McGivney deserves the recognition coming to him.
“The Knights are a good organization for the Church. We look up to the Church and we look up to [Father McGivney],” he said. “He started a good organization and he deserves quite a bit for that.”
Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, now an international movement whose charitable works reach around the globe. With more than 2 million members, it is considered the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization.
But before all that, Father McGivney was a parish priest in New Haven, Connecticut, with a deep love for his parishioners. He invited lay men in the community to help him create a Catholic fraternal organization with the goals of strengthening their faith and supporting struggling families in the community. In 1882, he officially founded the Knights of Columbus, and it quickly took off.
The Knights were expanding beyond the borders of Connecticut when Father McGivney became ill during a pandemic in 1889-1890 now thought to be caused by a coronavirus. The priest died of pneumonia just two days after his birthday. He was only 38.
“There were other organizations in those days, but this one was a little different,” said Hofer. He believes Father McGivney had great foresight and vision, recognizing the importance of lay people serving the Church and the community many years before the Second Vatican Council did.
“We’re supposed to be at the right hand of the Church,” he said. “That’s what Father McGivney was all about: putting our faith in action. Quite frankly, I think that’s the best way to evangelize.”
The Knights’ guiding principles – charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism – have withstood the test of time and attracted men like Toporchak.
“He started the Knights in the right direction because we look after each other and look after the Church,” said Toporchak. He sees the principles of looking after one’s family, community, and Church as inseparable.
Burnaby Knight Graham Darling said reflecting on the lives of saints and blesseds helps inspire lay Catholics like him.
“By special signs, God himself still points to them as examples for us today, so they can continue to inspire us by their legenda (life stories), as in life their immediate and visible heroic virtue inspired people who worked with them or walked by them in the street,” he said.
Father McGivney will be beatified at a Mass in the fall of 2020 in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn. An exact date has not yet been set.
He will be the first American.-born priest who spent his entire priestly ministry in a parish to be beatified. There is also a Canadian connection; before his ordination, he spent some time studying in Quebec’s College of St. Hyacinthe (in Saint-Hyacinthe) and St. Mary’s Seminary (in Montreal).
His beatification is moving forward after Pope Francis recognized the healing of an unborn child with a medical condition in 2015 and attributed it to Father McGivney’s intercession. The Pope will have to attribute one more miracle to his intercession before Father McGivney is considered for canonization.
At least six members of the Knights of Columbus have already been canonized, all martyred during or in the aftermath of the Cristero War of 1926-29 in Mexico.
See more information about Father McGivney and his canonization cause at fathermcgivney.org.