Book ReviewsParish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism

Book written by: Douglas Brinkley and Julie M. Fenster.  New York : William Morrow, 2006.  240 pages.  ISBN 0-06-077684-8.  $24.95.


Fr. Michael McGivney is the founder of the Catholic organization called the Knights of Columbus which has turned into one of the largest charitable organizations in the Roman Catholic Church.  The Knights assist in a variety of projects such as raising money for handicapped organizations, creating and supporting scholarships for college students, helping with the Pope’s charitable activities and other needs of the Church, restoring and cleaning churches around the world and by participating in pro-life activities.


In 1997 the process for the canonization of the founder of the Knights of Columbus, Fr. Michael McGivney was started by the Archbishop of Hartford, Connecticut, Daniel A. Cronin.  The archdiocesan postulator of advocate for McGivney’s cause, Fr. Gabriel O’Donnell, put together a 700-page document on the founder which was presented to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.  Fr. McGivney’s cause will need one miracle for him to be declared “blessed” and then another to advance his cause to canonization and of him being declared a saint.   This book says that no miracle has been accredited to him yet.


Brinkley and Fenster’s book is not part of the official document of the cause for canonization for Fr. McGivney although it can help by popularizing McGivney to those who do not know him.  The book tells about his life before he founded the Knights when poverty and death wasn’t uncommon among people living in the United States.  This is what prompted McGivney to found the Knights of Columbus to help provide life insurance and other aid to those in need.  This new organization did not have the support of all of the clergy in Connecticut or of other places.  Once it received the support of the Bishop of Hartford the group could recruit more members.


Fr. McGivney was also concerned about the needs of young adults and children.  He organized activities like plays and baseball games to keep especially the young men from drinking and getting into trouble. 


McGiveney died at an early age – which was not unusual for clergy because many times they were overworked and did not have the time to care for themselves.  They also died from diseases they caught when they were ministering to the sick and dying.  They spent themselves for Christ.


Brinkley and Fenster also provide an early history of the Knights of Columbus.  Those interested or curious about the Knights will enjoy this book


Douglas Brinkley is a professor of history at Tulane University.  He is the author of McCarthyism in America (Feb. 2007), Boys of Pointe du Hoc (2006), The Great Deluge (2006), the World War II Memorial (2006), Rosa Parks (2005), Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War (2004), Wheels for the World (2004), World War II Desk Reference (2004), New York Public Library American History Desk Reference (2003) and other books and articles.  Julie M. Fenster is the editor of the Forbes Collection Presidential Book Series.  She is the author of Race of the Century (2006), Mavericks, Miracles, Medicine (2004), Open Road’s Boston Guide (1997) and of other articles. 

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