A portrait of of Blessed Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, is displayed during a prayer vigil at St. Mary's Church in New Haven, Conn., Oct. 30, 2020, the eve of his beatification. (CNS photo/courtesy Knights of Columbus)

Blessed Michael McGivney, the Knights of Columbus and Rippling Effects

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Father David BonnarOne of my favorite images is the pebble in the pond. If you take a pebble and throw it into a pond, there is typically a rippling effect. The splash of the pebble produces circular ripples. If it is a rock or a stone, the rippling effects can be amazing and far-reaching. The lesson in this represents that what we do in life can ultimately have a rippling effect.

I wonder if a young assistant priest stationed in Connecticut in the 1880s had any idea of what a rippling effect his priestly life and ministry would have on the world. I am referring, of course, to Father Michael J. McGivney, who along with some parishioners founded the Knights of Columbus. Father McGivney was beatified this past weekend by Holy Mother Church. Needless to say, the fruits of this parish priest’s labors have surpassed his time and transcended his place. The Knights of Columbus is now a worldwide organization whose efforts continue to have an impact within the Church and world.

According to its website, the Knights of Columbus is an organization that seeks to move “faith into action,” forming men who “lead, serve, protect and defend.” These men seek “to be better husbands, fathers, sons, neighbors and role models and to put charity and community first.”

Many of us priests are familiar with the Knights and its long arms of outreach to others. Seminarians are often sponsored by Knight councils. These same councils do incredible things, not just for members, but for the good of the Church. As priests, we have seen what they can do in our dioceses and parishes.

Before I was transferred to my current assignment, a group of dedicated men from my previous parish formed a Knights council. These men have become pioneers in establishing a newly-merged parish, while at the same time, experiencing a sense of personal renewal in the St. Michael the Archangel Council.

Shortly after I arrived at my new parish, a group of men invited me to lunch. They were members of the local Our Lady of Olives Knights Council. They presented me with a generous check for the parish and offered to help in any way with the establishment of our new parish of St. Aidan. It was evident that they enjoyed being with one another, but, even more so, felt so blessed to be of assistance to others. They asked if they might be able to help in the outreach with the poor and needy in this time of pandemic. At the same time, they offered to be of service in any way.

What a gift these men from both councils are to our parishes. These men are every pastor’s dream because they are not afraid to step up and help. This same story is repeated across the globe with other councils. Together, these men do so much. But it is more than just what they do; it is about who they are. These men are sons, husbands, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, neighbors and friends who, in word and action, make a difference. They are true disciples and exemplary role models.

It is humbling to me as a parish priest to think that all of these good works began with a parish priest named Michael McGivney, who was just quietly living out his ministry. I am sure he had no idea what a rippling effect his priestly ministry would have in his community or on the Church as a whole.

Although this “blessed” priest died in 1890, his work lives on in and through the Knights of Columbus who, in so many ways, continue to bless the Church and the world. In other words, the actions of one man continue to ripple throughout the world with the assistance of many men.

Thank you, Blessed Michael McGivney! Thanks, as well, to all of the Knights of Columbus throughout the world! Finally, thank you to every parish priest of every time and place. Do not ever underestimate what you can do with God’s help. Your ministry can have a rippling effect!

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 16 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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