Father McGivney’s vision for the program stemmed from his own life experiences
It’s no surprise that when Father Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882, an insurance program was at the heart of his vision for the Order. The young priest, after all, knew firsthand the devastation that a lack of proper insurance planning can bring to Catholic families.
We can point to several events in Father McGivney’s life that undoubtedly helped shaped his vision for the Knights of Columbus insurance program.
Check out these key experiences from Father McGivney’s life below, and then learn how Knights of Columbus Insurance can provide financial security to you and your family today.
Growing up in a poor and working class community
Father McGivney’s parents came to the United States in the great 19th-century wave of Irish immigration and were married in Waterbury, Conn. His father, Patrick, was a molder in the heat and noxious fumes of a brass mill. His mother, Mary, gave birth to 13 children, six of whom died young, leaving Michael with four living sisters and two brothers. Life was not easy, especially for Catholic immigrant families who often faced social and financial disadvantages. As a 13-year-old, Michael began work in the spoon-making department of a brass factory to provide a few more dollars for his family.
The death of his own father
As a young seminarian, McGivney was forced to leave his studies and return home to aid his family after the sudden death of his father. Without the breadwinner’s income, the family was unable to support their son financially, and he was only able to continue his studies after receiving a scholarship from the local bishop.
- Meeting other families in need
Less than a decade later, Father McGivney, then an associate pastor at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., saw a familiar situation. One of his parishioners, Edward Downes, Jr., was forced to quit the seminary and return home to New Haven to support his mother and siblings after his father died unexpectedly.
In those days, the court had the right to assign children to public institutions if it had reason to believe that their families could not properly support them. The Downes family faced the very real prospect of losing their three teenage boys unless each had a guardian to sponsor and stand for him in court, and provide $1,500 to back the claim to guardianship.
On Feb. 6, 1882 – the very same day as the first meeting for what would become the Knights of Columbus – Father McGivney appeared in court to stand as guardian for Edward’s brother Alfred. The court accepted.
- Meeting influential Catholic laymen in New Haven
Father McGivney worked closely with the New Haven’s leading Catholic men, like Cornelius Driscoll, an Irish immigrant who earned both his bachelor’s and law degrees at Yale and who would become the first Irish Catholic and first immigrant to be elected as mayor of New Haven. Driscoll introduced Father McGivney to another leading Catholic, James T. Mullen, who had served in the Union army during the Civil War, later becoming a policeman and, finally, a business owner. See how driven these men were, Father McGivney saw an opportunity to band together Catholic men like them.
A man of strategic vision, Father McGivney used these experiences — the struggles of growing up in a family trying to make ends meet, the death of his father, and the challenges his fellow Catholics faced — as inspiration to find a solution. Meeting driven Catholic laymen like Driscoll and Mullen no doubt helped the priest envision an Order that would bring together men of faith while securing the financial future of their families.
The life insurance program that Father McGivney founded would grow to be one of the most respected life insurance programs in North America.*
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*As of January 2020, rated A+, Superior for financial strength by A.M. Best