Named for Father Michael McGivney, Catholic high school eager to celebrate beatification

Named for Father Michael McGivney, Catholic high school eager to celebrate beatification

Portrait of Father Michael J. McGivney by John Tierney. Credit: Knights of Columbus Multimedia Archives
Portrait of Father Michael J. McGivney by John Tierney. Credit: Knights of Columbus Multimedia Archives

.- The upcoming beatification of American priest Father Michael McGivney is a time for celebration and reflection for southern Illinois’ Father McGivney Catholic High School, named for the founder of the Knights of Columbus who lived a life of service before dying in a pandemic.

“After the first couple of years teaching about (McGivney), I realized just how much this school is set up in a way that sees him as a model for what we do,” Craig Brummer, faith formation director at the high school, told CNA Oct. 23.

“His care, particularly for widows and orphans, has been a constant reminder that the most vulnerable always need our help,” Brummer added. “His example helps me remember what I am called to do, and his intercession continues to help this school work towards its vocation of helping shape committed followers of Jesus Christ.”

McGivney will be beatified October 31 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut.

Pope Francis approved McGivney’s first miracle in May. The miracle involved an unborn child in the United States who was healed of a life-threatening condition in utero in 2015 after his family prayed for McGivney’s intercession.

Following his beatification, McGivney’s cause will require one more authenticated miracle before he can be considered for canonization.

The priest founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882, with an eye towards providing spiritual aid to Catholic men and financial help to the widows and orphans of its members. Today it is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, with close to two million members worldwide.

Father McGivney Catholic High School opened in fall 2012 with just 19 students, after seven years of preparations. It is located in Glen Carbon, Illinois, a town of some 12,000 people about 15 miles northeast of St. Louis.

For the high school's president, Fr. Jeffrey Goeckner, V.F., the success of the school is itself a miracle.

“To date, Father McGivney Catholic High School has successfully educated and faithfully formed over 400 students while promoting ‘A Culture of Life’. Truly a miracle,” Goeckner said in a statement.

Brummer said the beatification is “uniquely special for us,” as the high school is the only U.S. Catholic high school to have McGivney as a namesake.

McGivney, who was born in Waterbury, Conn. in 1852, played a critical role in the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States in the latter part of the 19th century. After his ordination in Baltimore in 1877, he served a largely Irish-American and immigrant community in New Haven.

He was serving as a parish priest during the pandemic of 1889-1890 when he became seriously ill with pneumonia. McGivney died on Aug. 14, 1890, at the age of 38. His contemporaries remembered him for his charity towards the poor, his sympathy to those suffering afflictions, his approachability, his cheerfulness and his integrity.

Brummer said McGivney’s own life offers lessons for students.

“When we offer the life of Fr. McGivney as an example of Christian discipleship, they can see that the life that he lived, as a Catholic, a child of immigrants, a priest, and a son of a deceased father, had plenty of points of connection,” he told CNA. “One year, I presented a lesson that asked students to choose someone in their life who reminded them of Fr. McGivney. Of course, the people themselves were a wide variety, but even the reasons why they reminded them of McGivney were just as varied.”

The school closes each day with a final prayer for McGivney’s canonization, Brummer said. This daily prayer calls him “an apostle of Christian family life” and invokes his work caring for “the needy and the outcast.”

“If the people who pray the prayer listen to the words, it would be hard to not be edified by the life of the man for whose intercession we are praying.”

Elizabeth Moody, the high school’s development and marketing director, said the school will celebrate McGivney’s beatification during “an intimate, socially distanced event,” live streamed to the internet.

“Father McGivney spent his entire priesthood in parish ministry and died of pneumonia on August 14, after falling ill amid a pandemic,” Moody said. “Our students can relate to Fr. McGivney on so many levels: he was young, he was rooted in service, he lived during a pandemic, and he followed the path the Lord set for him. What a wonderful reminder to our students that they too should work towards becoming saints.”

The high school will host a virtual beatification celebration Oct. 31 via Facebook Live at 7 p.m. Central Time. A video presentation will begin the event, following exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and evening prayer. Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill. will deliver a homily, and the event will close with benediction at 8 p.m.

The high school in a statement said its founders chose McGivney as a namesake because they “wanted to honor a person who was committed to the same values they hoped to instill in its future graduates.”

“Fr. McGivney was an idealist whose youthful vision and commitment to families led to the creation of his legacy – the Knights of Columbus,” said the school.

The high school works closely with the Knights of Columbus.

“[The Knights’] pillars of Unity, Charity, Fraternity, and Patriotism are the foundation of Father McGivney Catholic High School’s mission,” said the high school’s principal Joe Lombardi. “We are very proud of what our school has accomplished and we know that Fr. McGivney’s intercession helped get us here.”

Brummer, the faith formation director, joined the Knights of Columbus not long after his 18th birthday. After he became a high school theology teacher he took part in its second- and third-degree ceremonies, a membership initiation now merged into a single public ceremony for new members.

“At the time, I didn’t know much of Fr. McGivney other than his general biography,” said Brummer. “In the past few years, now working at a school named after him, I have felt an obligation to teach about him more so our school community understands his patronage better.”

Tags: Catholic Schools, Knights of Columbus, Catholic News, Beatification, Fr. Michael McGivney

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