Fr. McGivney, My Father, & Me

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I. The vision of one man can have a tremendous impact on the world. Yesterday, we celebrated the birthday of Fr. Michael J. McGivney, a Irish-American priest who founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882 with a small group of parishioners in his Connecticut parish. The idea was to band men together with the mission of providing financial assistance to widows and children following the death of a husband and father. When you hear people talk about the great life insurance plans the KofC have until this day, that really has always been a primary purpose. But as time went on, the organization grew into a fraternal organization that mirrored Fr. McGivney’s passion for service and charitable works. Last year, the KofC were almost 1.9 million members strong and they donated approximately 71.5 million hours of service collectively. What began in a parish meeting of a few has become an unbelievable force for good in our world. It began with the desire of one man. If only each of us could claim to have made a decision that had that great an impact on our world and the Church. Of course, you never know. What is your idea to begin changing the world today?

II. When my father, late in his 70’s, was baptized at the Easter Vigil he became a new creation in Christ. He never before felt like he belonged to something as big as the Body of Christ. He wondered what difference he could possibly make at such an advanced age. Soon after his baptism he joined the Knights of Columbus. I remember him wearing his badge and pin whenever he went to Mass. He always wore black, so with the KofC items attached to his sport coat, he looked like the KofC usher at a live theater. When it came time for the LAMB Tootsie Roll campaign, I am not sure he fully understood the impact of the money raised for special needs children. He just couldn’t wait to hand everybody he saw a Tootsie Roll! He first belonged to Jesus, then he belonged to his brother Knights. Even as the years went by, and he could no longer attend meetings or Mass anymore, he still saw himself as a Knight and was proud of it. This fraternal order of men sought to do good in the community and the Church, but if all it ever did was give my father a greater purpose in life and a pride in belonging to something bigger than himself, it would have been more than enough in my book. He no longer is with us, but I know he is in heaven wearing a black sport coat with a KofC pin, handing out Tootsie Rolls for free to any child who wants them.

III. For years, many have tried to get me to join the Knights of Columbus. With all my responsibilities as a pastoral associate in a parish, I never felt I could commit to such a thing. I already spent most of my time at the church. To commit to more time just seemed too much. But now, I write reflections like this and travel around North America talking about the transformative power of stewardship and mature discipleship for a living. The time I spend in my own parish is often limited. So last night, on Fr. McGivney’s birthday, I became a First Degree Knight of Columbus. I see it as a way to help me with my own personal stewardship journey. So last night I stood with Fr. McGivney, my father, and many gentlemen that I so greatly admire, as I became one of them.

This life is too crazy to try to live as a good steward in isolation. For we are called by Christ in the community and it is that community which helps us discern God’s will. Today, my heart is glad, now that I have brothers than can help me in my journey to be better today than I was yesterday. As you read this, consider this inquiry: Who helps you to be a good everyday steward? Do not pull away from greater experiences of community. Embrace the Body of Christ and all the variety in humanity it brings to us. Join a Church or civic organization and play your small part in changing the world. Consider Fr. McGivney. What you decide to do today might actually impact the world for generations to come.

This entry was posted in Discipleship, Engagement, Faith, family, Spirituality, Stewardship and tagged , , , , , by Tracy Earl Welliver. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tracy Earl Welliver

Tracy Earl Welliver is the Director of Parish Community and Engagement for LPi and an active member of Saint Pius X Catholic Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he previously served as Pastoral Associate for 22 years. Saint Pius X received the Archbishop Murphy Award in 2009 from the ICSC. Tracy is a writer, speaker, and teacher in the areas of stewardship, engagement, catechesis, and strengths theory, and has worked with Catholic communities throughout the US, Australia, and New Zealand. You can read Tracy’s Everyday Stewardship column in LPi’s CONNECT!, a bimonthly lectionary-based liturgy preparation publication. His writing can also be read on his Nutshell Blog, The Main Thing Blog, and in contributions to Catholic TechTalk. He also serves on the faculty for the ICSC Stewardship Institutes. Tracy has theology degrees from DeSales University and Duke Divinity School. He has been married 23 years and he and his wife, Mariann, have 3 children.

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