Vatican City, May 27, 2020 / 04:40 am
Fr. Michael McGivney, an American priest soon to be beatified, died amid a 19th-century pandemic which may have been caused by a coronavirus.
Fr. McGivney founded the largest world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, the Knights of Columbus, in 1882. Today the order formed in his parish basement in New Haven, Connecticut, has grown to more than two million members donating millions to charity each year.
McGivney was serving as a parish priest amid the pandemic of 1889-1890, according to a press release issued by the Knights of Columbus May 27.
Biologists using gene-sequencing methods have attributed the pandemic to a type of coronavirus, according to a Bloomberg report. This virus, which first appeared in Russia, killed a total of 1 million people worldwide, including 13,000 in the United States.
McGivney became seriously ill with pneumonia and died on Aug. 14, 1890, at age 38.
Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to McGivney’s intercession on May 26, paving the way for the American priest’s beatification.
Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1852, McGivney was the first of 13 children born to Irish immigrants Patrick and Mary McGivney. Six of his siblings died in infancy or early childhood. His father was a molder in a Waterbury brass mill, where the young McGivney himself worked for a brief time as a child to help support his family.
From an early age, however, he sensed a calling to the priesthood (two of his brothers also became priests). He was ordained in Baltimore’s Cathedral of the Assumption by Cardinal James Gibbons on Dec. 22, 1877, and took up his first assignment, as curate at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, the city’s first parish.