Did you know this about the IW Knights of Columbus?
This is part two of: A Stairway to Heaven - written by Maureen Walther - from a recent post in the Columbia online magazine about Father McGivney over the next few weeks.
THE WORK OF A PASTOR: One wonders what the several hundred parishioners of St. Thomas Church expected when Father McGivney rolled into town in November 1884.
A description by his close friend, Father James O’Donnell, gives us a picture of the holy priest who arrived in Thomaston to start his assignment as pastor. 'Genial, approachable, of kindly disposition, cheerful under reverses, profoundly sympathetic with those upon whom had fallen the heavy hand of affliction,' Father O’Donnell would later say of Father McGivney. 'He was charitable to a fault, if I may so speak. The poor found in him a Good Samaritan, and were frequent recipients of his bounty.'
In Thomaston, Father McGivney would shoulder many challenges that today’s pastors might recognize: parish debt, a chronic priest shortage, far-flung parishioners. Although Father McGivney was aided periodically by a revolving door of assistant priests, the bulk of responsibility fell to him.
The parish undoubtedly grew more stable under his leadership.
He ran down the debt, putting the parish on a financially sustainable path. He put the latest technology to work or the church, installing electric lights and a telephone.
But practicalities were not ends in themselves. For Father McGivney, the spiritual well-being of his parishioners was paramount.
'Father McGivney had unbounded faith in the saving graces dispensed by Holy Church,' O’Donnell said. 'He was cognizant of the efficacy of those divine splendors of the Church, the sacraments, to spiritualize his fellow men of good will and to bring them to the knowledge and love of Christ.'
Father McGivney bolstered the parish’s devotional groups for adults and children. Within a few months, he drew enough interest to form a Knights of Columbus council — Atlantic Council 18, which is active to this day. He also wove parish and social life together, drawing young people together for theatrical events at Thomaston’s grand Opera House.
Father McGivney remained connected to other priests and parishes as well. He led or assisted with 40 Hours Eucharistic adoration devotions, took part in Tenebrae services with local clergy in Waterbury, and lent his resonant voice to the liturgy consecrating Sacred Heart Church, also in his hometown.
Two years into his assignment as pastor, he was entrusted with a second church, the recently built Immaculate Conception a few miles away in Terryville. That made for busy Sunday mornings — three Masses, with two carriage rides in between.
As the diocese grew, so too did the Knights of Columbus, to Father McGivney’s great joy. The Knights’ lay leadership was largely self-directed and independent, as McGivney intended. He remained a key agent, however, especially when really needed — communicating with the bishop in Rhode Island, for example, and traveling there in January 1889 to help expand the Order beyond Connecticut. He also penned a passionate defense of the Knights, explaining the Order’s mission and fidelity to the Church.
But as the Knights of Columbus grew in strength, Father McGivney weakened. Exhausted from work, he took ill in December 1889, perhaps from the so-called Russian flu then spreading around the world. He never recovered. When he died at age 38 on Aug. 14, 1890, thousands attended his funeral at St. Thomas Church. It was noted that not a carriage could be rented for miles around."
Along with the link to our feature story - information on the Knights of Columbus can be found at IWKnights9981.com/bulletin or on facebook.com/IWknights9981 and NOW on Twitter at twitter.com/IwKnights.
Links Related to this week’s column:
Stairway to Heaven Father McGivney’s ministry and witness in the parishes he served continue to bear fruit today. By By Maureen Walther, Knights of Columbus Columbia Magazine (7/1/2021)
Click here for Article
Prayer for Protection in Time of Pandemic A Novena which seeks Our Lady’s Intercession for Protection in Time of Pandemic By His Holiness, Pope Francis (3/2020) A PRAYER FOR PROTECTION IN TIME OF PANDEMIC (PDF Version) Click here for the Prayer
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