DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Louis Pepe feels he has a special connection to Blessed Michael McGivney, and not just because he’s a long-standing Knights of Columbus member and Father McGivney (1852-1890) was the organization’s founder.
“He helped me with my miracle,” explained Pepe, grand knight of Bishop Thomas V. Daily Council Knights of Columbus Council, located at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James in Downtown Brooklyn.
Pepe recalled being diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver in 2017, “even though I never drank a day in my life.” He was treated with medication for three years, but the time came when he needed a liver transplant.
Amazingly, when a liver was located for him on July 17, 2020, he turned it down; he was terrified at the idea of surgery. But he prayed for Father McGivney’s intercession to give him courage, and less than a month later, on Aug. 15 (the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary), he got the call that another liver was found. This time, he said yes.
“He has helped so many people, myself included. If you need a miracle, he’s the one to ask for help,” said Pepe, a retired New York City Sanitation Department supervisor. Every day, Pepe recites the prayer asking God for the canonization of Blessed Michael McGivney. The Knights of Columbus founder was beatified in 2020, a move that brings him closer to sainthood and bestowed the title of blessed on him.
To pay tribute to Blessed Michael McGivney, Pepe is spearheading the New York State Council Knights of Columbus’ drive to raise $100,000 to erect a statue of him in each of the eight Catholic archdioceses and dioceses in New York State — Albany, Brooklyn, Buffalo, New York, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre, and Syracuse.
Under the plan, the Diocese of Brooklyn would get two of the statues — one for the Cathedral Basilica of St. James and one for the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights.
The Knights see their statue plan as a way to further the cause for canonization of Blessed Michael McGivney by raising public awareness of him.
The fundraising began July 1 and to date, the Knights have raised $20,000.
During its first six months, the campaign has focused on getting donations from members of the Knights of Columbus and their families. The effort is now expanding to the general public. The Knights had flyers printed up to circulate at businesses and are asking for donations.
“We are not shy. We will take anybody’s money who is willing to help us spread Father McGivney’s cause,” Pepe said.
The Diocese of Brooklyn, which boasts 15,000 Knights of Columbus members, does have a statue of Blessed Michael McGivney at St. Bernard Clairvaux Church in Mill Basin. The statue, donated by St. Bernard Council Knights of Columbus several years ago, is a good teaching tool, said Msgr. Joseph Grimaldi, the current pastor.
“People will stop by the statue and ask who Blessed Michael McGivney was,” he added. “It’s good for people to know more about him.”
There is also a monument dedicated to him outside the Archbishop John Hughes Council Knights of Columbus Council in Dyker Heights.
Father Michael Gelfant, associate New York State chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, said learning about Blessed Michael McGivney can lead to a deeper understanding of the Knights and the organization’s work.
“People don’t know the history. They think it’s an organization that’s all about men. But it was founded as a charity organization to help widows and children,” explained Father Gelfant, pastor of Blessed Trinity Parish in Breezy Point.
Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1882. The organization, known as the “Strong Right Arm of the Church,” now has 1.7 million members around the world.
Pepe, who lives in Carroll Gardens, joined Our Lady of Loretto Knights of Columbus Council at his parish, Sacred Hearts and St. Stephens Church, as an 18-year-old in 1978.
In 2017, after the death of Bishop Thomas Daily, Pepe was asked if he would be willing to help establish a new council in his name at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James, and he readily agreed. The council received its charter in 2018.
As the statue fundraising effort expands, Pepe said he is aware that inflation is hurting people in the pocketbook.
“We know it’s a hard economy right now,” he said. “But we’re hoping that with the help of Father McGivney, if they give that $25, $50, or $100, he will give them something more in return.”
How to Donate
Send check payable to New York State Council Knights of Columbus to:
93 Rapelye St., 4D
Brooklyn, N.Y., 11231
Write Blessed McGivney Statue Fund in the memo field