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Parish named for Knights of Columbus founder in New Haven

NEW YORK – In the same city where Father Michael McGivney once gathered a small group of parishioners in a church basement to establish a charitable order, what would become the Knights of Columbus, there is now a parish named in his honor.

As of July 1, the eight Catholic churches in New Haven, Connecticut, officially merged to form the Blessed Michael McGivney Parish. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in New Haven in 1882, and today the organization has about 1.6 million members worldwide.

McGivney received the title of “Blessed” during his beatification on Oct. 31, 2020.

Speaking on the decision, Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, who chose the parish name from among several options proposed by a committee of New Haven parishioners, highlighted McGivney’s devotion to the faith and the inspiration he still provides so many.

“Blessed Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, was an exemplar of charity and steadfast devotion to Christ, still today inspiring millions of people to action for the common good, in the name of God,” Blair said in a July 3 statement.

“I will continue to pray for this new parish community and invite all New Haven Catholics to do the same during this time of great Catholic revitalization in the Elm City.”

New Haven is one of the three biggest cities in Connecticut with a population of around 135,000, according to the 2021 census. It’s also a very diverse city with more Black or African American, and Hispanic or Latino residents making up about 65 percent of the population, the data shows.

Yet as noted by New Haven Catholic, what was once a city home to over 70,000 Catholics in the 1930’s, many of them immigrants, now has a Catholic population of about 10,000.

The eight churches that will merge into the Blessed Michael McGivney Parish are the churches of St. Mary, St. Joseph, St. Aedan and Brendan, St. Anthony, St. Martin de Porres, St. Michael, St. Francis, and St. Stanislaus.

The eight churches will now share finances and operate under a single administration based at St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s is the oldest Catholic church in the city, and also is where McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, and site of the priest’s tomb.

Father Ryan Lerner, pastor of St. Mary’s since December 2021, announced the merger to Knights of Columbus leaders and New Haven parishioners in June. The archdiocese then more widely publicized the decision soon after.

Lerner is the parish’s first moderator, serving as the leader of the three “pastors in solidum” with Fathers Sebastian Kos and Hector Rangel Guerro.

“I feel profoundly moved, and so very excited, that our unified parish will be named for and entrusted to the patronal care of Blessed Michael McGivney,” Lerner said in a July 3 statement.

“[McGivney’s] intercessory prayers have helped to guide this local manifestation of the Body of Christ through a time of historic change, and will continue to inspire us as we journey forward together as one family of faith.”

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly said the Knights of Columbus are honored by the decision. New Haven is also home to the organization’s headquarters, and the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center, a museum devoted to McGivney and the organization’s history.

“In 1882, in the basement of St. Mary’s, Blessed Michael McGivney gathered young Catholic men seeking ways to unite in their faith and find a means of supporting their families amid a society that frowned upon Catholic immigrants,” Kelly said in a July 3 statement.

“They formed a brotherhood that would allow Knights to work together with their pastors and strengthen their families, parishes and communities,” he continued. “The Knights of Columbus is honored that the new city-wide parish has adopted Blessed Michael McGivney’s name.”

Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg

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