Diocesan News

Knights of Columbus Celebrate Founder On His Road to Sainthood 

Members of the Holy Child Jesus Parish join Father Gelfant, Bishop Cisneros, and Father Heanue with the Relic of Father McGivney. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The Diocese of Brooklyn celebrated its third feast day for Blessed Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus who is on the journey to sainthood, on Aug. 13 at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph.

To members of the organization, Father McGivney exemplifies their core values — charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism — and they are optimistic about the potential for their founder to become a saint.

There are 15,000 Knights of Columbus in the Diocese of Brooklyn, said Father Michael Gelfant, the associate state chaplain for the New York state Knights of Columbus Council. He also serves as the diocesan liaison of the Knights of Columbus.

“This is home, and we surround our bishop with our work, with our prayer, and with our duty as Knights of Columbus,” he said. 

Father McGivney was officially declared as “blessed” on Oct. 31, 2020, with an apostolic letter from the Vatican crediting him for his “zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel and generous concern for his brothers and sisters.” The Catholic Church selected Aug. 13 as his feast day because it falls one day after the anniversary of his birth and one day before the anniversary of his death.

To Louis Pepe, grand knight of the Bishop Thomas V. Daily Council Knights of Columbus Council, located at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James in Downtown Brooklyn, Father McGivney is more than just the founder. He personally credits him for the liver transplant he received on Aug. 15, 2020, during his battle with cirrhosis of the liver, which he had been diagnosed with three years prior.

“I started to pray faithfully to Blessed McGivney — who at the time was Venerable McGivney — asking for an intercession for him to cure me,” he said. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t cured with the miracle of the cirrhosis going away, but he did give me an intercession by giving me a liver.”

Pepe still faithfully prays to Father McGivney daily. Now, he’s made a promise to himself to have a statue of Father McGivney erected at every cathedral in New York state. That project is currently underway, with the support of Father Gelfant, and it is accepting donations for the statues.

“It begins the conversation of someone asking about him,” said Father Gelfant. “That’s what the goal of the statues are. Our goal is to have them in place so that people can be informed.”

Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Octavio Cisneros shows the relic of Father McGivney to the parishioners during mass on Aug. 13. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

Following the Mass, the veneration of a first-class relic of Father McGivney — a bone fragment — gave the Knights the opportunity to honor their founder and to offer prayers for his canonization. Parishioners were invited to come forward and touch the relic. The Knights of Columbus are in possession of it, and the diocese is looking to acquire a Father McGivney relic of its own.

Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Octavio Cisneros defined the Knights of Columbus as “an expression of the love of God through neighbor.” In Father McGivney, Bishop Cisneros sees the virtues of heroism, charity, and compassion — what he calls “the fruits of the spirit.” While his youth afforded him a certain level of energy, it is not what drew people to his mission.

“Holiness has no age. Just because you are a young man doesn’t mean that you’re going to bring about the presence of God. It’s something deep about that. When you are young, you have a certain dynamism, but faith is beyond all that,” said Bishop Cisneros.

There was an organizational aspect to Father McGivney’s priesthood and mission, Bishop Cisneros noted, in his structuring of the Knights of Columbus. He feels that reflecting on this would help the Church in its strategies to support the thousands of migrants coming into New York City.

“We hear in the Gospel that you shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your strength, with everything that you have and your neighbor as yourself,” Bishop Cisneros said. “Father McGivney knew how to bring that into the immigrants that were coming in.”

There are three steps to sainthood in the Catholic Church. The first is when a candidate becomes “venerable” — this is when a deceased person is formally recognized by the pope as having lived a virtuous life. The second step is to be recognized as “blessed,” which is when a miracle acquired through the candidate’s intercession is confirmed by the Church. 

An intercession officially attributed to Father McGivney involved an unborn child in Connecticut who in 2015 was healed in utero of a life-threatening condition. For Father McGivney to become a saint, a second miracle must be attributed to him, and a few are being investigated now, Father Gelfant said.

Father Christopher Heanue, the rector of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, applauded the good works of the Knights of Columbus and described how they encourage Catholics “to be patriotic and be cheerleaders for our faith.  

“What a blessing it is to be surrounded by this great group of men and families that are here today. To be reminded of this one priest, Blessed Michael McGivney, who saw and stepped up to create this fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus. May we be inspired by his example,” he said.

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