Diocese receives Bl. Michael McGivney relic (2024)

By Joe Pisani

BRIDGEPORT — In what Bishop Frank J. Caggiano called “a moment of great historical importance,” several hundred Knights of Columbus from 36 Councils gathered to celebrate a Mass at which the diocese was given a first-class relic of Bl. Michael McGivney, which will be enshrined in St. Augustine Cathedral.

“How blessed we are as the great family of the Knights of Columbus — my brother Knights and their families, my sister Columbiettes and their families, and our extended family to have this moment in the life of the Knights — the rising of our founder now among the blessed and, please God, soon to be among the saints,” he said during his homily at the first Annual Knights of Columbus Mass on April 27.

Bishop Caggiano told them: “I am inviting you to truly rediscover the genius of our founder and to join with me, your brother priests and all the good faithful of this diocese to rediscover a practical faith in the 21st century, like Bl. McGivney.”

He said the relic represented a decisive call to action for his initiative of The One, which he described as “this great adventure of the renewal of our diocese.”

“I believe with all my heart that if you and I put our hands to the plough in this moment in the life of the Church, we will see a renewal that we could not even begin to imagine,” he said. “If one priest could give birth to an organization that is global and all the good it does, can you imagine all that the Knights of Columbus and the Columbiettes could do working together in this age and time. It will be a new Pentecost. The Lord is asking us to follow in the footsteps of our founder … and I know you are ready to do it.”

Brian Caulfield, a member of the Executive Office of the Supreme Knight and Vice Postulator for the Cause of Bl. Michael McGivney, said: “We are pleased to offer a first-class relic to a great friend of the Knights of Columbus, Bishop Caggiano and the Diocese of Bridgeport, which was part of the Hartford Diocese when Father McGivney was alive.”

He said that more than 200 favors have been reported to the Father McGivney Guild since the beatification ceremony in October 2020, and added, “We encourage the faithful of Connecticut to ask his intercession in times of need and report any favors received to the Guild through the website. In this way, we seek with prayer and confidence the second miracle that will lead to the canonization of Bl. Michael McGivney.” He added that the cause for Bl. McGivney is always investigating possible miracles.

He described Bl. McGivney as “someone who is still active today in the lives of the faithful.” Since his cause began, some 2,000 “moral favors” have been credited to his intercession, such as a person finding a job, a recovery from addiction and a troubled marriage being saved — the very issues with which he concerned himself when he was a parish priest.

In his homily, Bishop Caggiano said the United States has traditionally prided itself on being a pragmatic nation, known for “its practical way of looking at the challenges before it, where the attitude is ‘Let’s face them and let’s get it done.’” As a result, “We are the envy of the world because we have built a country that has accomplished many great things.”

However, many people, particularly young adults, “leave the faith and cite many reasons — what we teach and the hypocrisy of Christians and also the fact that they don’t see what ‘practical’ difference faith makes in their lives and the lives of others.”

Bl. McGivney, on the other hand, had a clear vision of how practical faith can change the world.

“He himself was no stranger to poverty and suffering,” Bishop Caggiano said. “He was the son of Irish immigrants during a time when being a Catholic meant you had an X on your forehead, when there was active discrimination and bigotry. His father made a living, working with his hands, and when his father died, it almost caused Michael McGivney to leave the seminary if it wasn’t for the benevolence of the bishop who helped him.”

Bishop Caggiano described him as “a man of deep faith and deep spirituality, a man of gentleness and patience, a man who walked with people on their spiritual journey but who also knew that was not enough … he needed to go into the midst of the suffering of his people because he could not turn a blind eye to it.”

Father McGivney’s faith “was as practical as it could be” and he lived by Christ’s mandate, “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters you do for me.”

By founding the Knights, “All the families of those who were suffering could stay together and could have food on the table because the death of the breadwinner no longer condemned a family to poverty or homelessness.”

Bishop Caggiano said he prays every day that Bl. McGivney will inspire the hearts of priests throughout the state, along with those discerning the priesthood and those who have not yet discovered they have a vocation.

“God has called you to enter into this great organization of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism to show our practical country what it means to be a practical Catholic and to show them the direction this country is taking is one that people of good will need to take a second look at,” he said, “because it is going to lead us to ever-greater despair and more problems. But we will lead them to a new way.”

He said the relic will be enshrined permanently at the cathedral as the diocese fervently seeks Bl. McGivney’s intercession.

“And I pray that through his intercession, we will have many more priests who will be saints of God and many more men who will come forward to answer the call to the priesthood,” he said.

Bishop Caggiano thanked Supreme Knight Patrick E. Kelly, whom he described as “a man of extraordinary faith,” for his generosity in giving the diocese the relic. He expressed his gratitude to Brian Caulfield and said, “We pray that your work will bear great fruit and that we will soon gather to celebrate the canonization of Blessed McGivney.” He also acknowledged State Deputy Joseph C. Rahtelli for his leadership in organizing the event and thanked those who made it possible.

Rahtelli, a member of St. Virigilius Council #185 at St. Rose of Lima urged his fellow Knights to become a driving force to help Bishop Caggiano promote his vision of The One. He said the Knights program “Cor” can be an effective program in advancing the cause.

Cor’s mission is “to form and strengthen Catholic men in faith and virtue as missionary disciples by drawing them into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer, formation, and fraternity.”

Rahtelli praised the bishop for his continued support of the Knights and also expressed his appreciation to Debbie Charles, the bishop’s executive assistant, “who has helped us tremendously over the years and often works behind the scenes, coordinating events and activities.”

Photos by Amy Mortensen

Knights express support, devotion at Mass

Many members of the Knights of Columbus and the Columbiettes, the women’s auxiliary group, representing the 36 Councils in Fairfield County, expressed their support for the Diocese of Bridgeport at the first Annual Knights of Columbus Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral.

Michael Cohen, Deputy Grand Knight of Council #12968 of St. Edward the Confessor Parish in New Fairfield, said, “It is a wonderful day to have the first-class relic of Blessed McGivney given to the Church by the Knights. It’s good that so many Knights have come together.”

Five men and their family members came from his council, including Otis Shelton, who said, “I think it’s great that our diocese under Bishop Caggiano recognizes the importance of the Knights and what they do.” He also expressed his appreciation to his pastor, Father Robert Wolfe, for the cooperation his gives their council.

They were joined by Doug Beardsley, who recently joined the council in October because he wanted to get more involved in the parish and the charitable efforts the Knights undertake.

James Carmody, a member of St. John Paul II Council #8 at St. Mark Parish in Stratford, came to the Mass with his son Peter and daughter Mary.

“I brought my family to St. Augustine Cathedral to venerate the first class relic of Father McGivney,” he said. “Having the relic in Bridgeport will bring many spiritual blessings to our diocese. It was a gift for us to be here at the cathedral to honor our founder, Blessed McGivney. The traditions and rituals of our Catholic Church are beautiful. God graces are freely given during these holy rituals. I believe the Knights are a gift to our diocese and to the world.”

Frantzca Telima, one of ten people who came from Council #15461 at St. Gabriel-Notre Dame Parish in Stamford, said, “It is a true honor for us to be here, and it is important for all Knights to show our devotion to the saint who founded our order and who we follow.”

Founder of the Knights of Columbus, Father Michael Joseph McGivney was born in Waterbury on August 12, 1852 and assigned to the Church of St. Mary in New Haven, where he began what would become the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization.

He was the oldest of 13 children born to Irish immigrant parents. Two of his brothers also entered the priesthood and served in Bridgeport — Monsignor Patrick J. McGivney and Monsignor John J. McGivney, whom the McGivney Center is named after. Both priests were prominent figures in the history of St. Charles Borromeo Parish on the East Side of Bridgeport.

Diocese receives Bl. Michael McGivney relic (2024)
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