Portrait of Father McGivney, painted 
by Rev. Peter Gray, PSS
Portrait of Father McGivney, painted by Rev. Peter Gray, PSS
Knights of Columbus councils throughout the United States have joyfully looked forward to Oct. 31, the day that their founder, Father Michael J. McGivney, was to be beatified. In the Diocese of Trenton, that long-awaited event will be commemorated two weeks later during a Mass of Thanksgiving and the presentation of a special gift to the local Knights councils.

The Vatican announced the beatification in May, when Pope Francis signed the decree recognizing a miracle through the intercession of Father McGivney. That cleared the way for his beatification, which took place during a Mass celebrated in St. Joseph Cathedral in Hartford, Conn. by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark. Attendance was limited, but a video of the Mass is available on www.kofc.org. 

Locally, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Beatification of Blessed Father Michael J. McGivney Nov. 14 at 10:30 a.m. in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Due to COVID restrictions, attendance will be limited to Knights and their families, and will be by invitation only, with all safety and health protocols observed.  The Mass will be livestreamed by the Diocese and can be viewed at youtube.com/trentondiocese.

The celebration will include the installation and blessing by Bishop O’Connell of a portrait of Blessed Michael McGivney as an expression of appreciation for the Knights of Columbus in the Diocese. The Bishop commissioned the 24x28 reproduction painted by Sulpician artist, Father Peter Gray, and directed that it be installed in the Co-Cathedral, where many diocesan events are held which the Knights attend.

In an interview with The Monitor, Bishop O’Connell emphasized the valuable work and impact of the Knights across the Diocese, noting, “They are very present in many parishes, offering support and assistance in the spirit of Father McGivney and the first Knights.”

The Bishop also mentioned the presence of the Knights at “so many diocesan and parish events, giving witness to the important role of Catholic laymen.” He especially cited the Knights’ support of parish priests and vocations, their pro-life activism and example and their deep sense of patriotism.

He also offered a plug for membership, saying, “The Knights have been a great ‘arm of the Church’ in so many ways. They need to fill their ranks with young men eager to participate in parish life, the next generation.”

The installation of the portrait has been warmly received by council leadership. State Secretary James E. Stoever, reflected, “I was very impressed the Bishop thought so highly of the Knights to do this; it is quite an honor.”

Stoever, a member of Epiphany Parish, Brick, said of his fellow Knights, “It’s an honor to work with these men in our Diocese who rise to the occasion to do things we never thought possible.”

Calling the Mass “a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” fellow Knight John Flynn, a district deputy in Monmouth County and member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help - St. Agnes Parish, Highlands, continued, “Father McGivney founded the order, thought outside the box, and his vision was ahead of his time.”

“By attending the Mass, I will be able to pay tribute to our founder, and continue to strengthen the bond between the clergy and laity that Father McGivney had the vision and foresight to establish over 139 years ago,” said Edward Michalak, president of the Knights’ Trenton Diocese Federation and parishioner in Our Lady of Good Counsel, Moorestown. “[The commissioned painting] will serve as a lasting testament to the importance and success of the Knights of Columbus.”

Daniel Rossi, a member of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, serves as Supreme Director of the Knights. He said, “I always knew [Bishop O’Connell’s] appreciated and supported the Knights of Columbus, however, the commissioning of this icon is a marvelous way to express his appreciation to the Knights through the honoring of our founder. Its placement in the Co-Cathedral will send a message to countless others of the impact Blessed Father McGivney has had on our Church and its people.”

Rossi noted his pride with “both the joyful recognition of our founder through his beatification and the amazing response that the Knights have provided during the current pandemic… I am honored to be invited to this Mass and to be able to personally witness this wonderful tribute to a humble parish priest who understood the importance of laymen strengthening their faith through living the principles of our Order – charity, unity, and fraternity,” he concluded. “His vision was remarkably ahead of its time, decades prior to Vatican II, and so vital as we face unprecedented challenges to our Church and our world today.”

Correspondent Christina Leslie contributed to this report.