New York pilgrims venerate Blessed Michael McGivney as model, intercessor for priestly vocations
By John Woods
The visitation of a first-class relic of Blessed Michael McGivney to the Diocese of Rockville Centre reached a crescendo with an evening votive Mass on May 4 at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Eastport, New York. Some 500 people, including Knights from 20 Long Island councils, attended the Mass, which was celebrated by Bishop John O. Barres.
Fourth Degree Knights lined both sides of the center aisle during the opening procession, while banners naming councils and assemblies were proudly staged in the church’s transepts.
Bishop Barres had initiated the four-day relic pilgrimage, which took place at sites around Long Island, to encourage devotion to Father McGivney and promote priestly vocations.
“We ask the intercession of Blessed Michael J. McGivney for a rich new harvest for vocations to the priesthood for Long Island and the world,” said Bishop Barres in his homily.
Reflecting on Father McGivney’s life and ministry in 19th-century Connecticut, where he founded the Knights of Columbus as a young parish priest in 1882, the bishop added, “He was a Divine Mercy instrument of communion and mission. He built up the Body of Christ.”
The relic visitation began at the Church of St. Joseph in Garden City, which hosted three Masses and veneration of the relic on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, May 1.
It continued the next day at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, where Catholic students learned about Father McGivney and attended Mass with parishioners.
In all, 135 students from nine Catholic high schools joined 65 eighth graders from St. Agnes School for the morning program, which was led by Brian Caulfield, vice postulator of Blessed Michael McGivney’s cause for canonization. The students viewed a video presentation about the Schachle family, whose son Mikey’s miraculous healing paved the way for Father McGivney’s beatification in October 2020.
After Mass, the students feasted on a pizza lunch provided by the Knights, and the cathedral’s rector, Father Michael Duffy, later led vespers in the presence of the relic.
Ryan LaMaina, a junior at Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville, enjoyed learning about Father McGivney with his peers, and especially appreciated the video testimony of the Schachle family. “It showed me that miracles really do happen,” he said.
“Blessed Michael McGivney helps us to appreciate that sainthood is not too far away from us,” noted Father Francis Sarpong, chaplain of Holy Trinity and of Msgr. William A. Delaney Council 5983 in Farmingdale. “It brings the journey to sainthood home.”
Abigail Ife, a freshman at St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip, said she was struck by a comment in the homily, which underscored the impact a priest can have: “It made me think about how one good priest can make you feel so much closer to God.”
The following day, the relic was hosted at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington for midday prayer and an evening Mass.
Before the closing Mass with Bishop Barres, an afternoon prayer service was held for Trinity Regional School students at St. Anthony of Padua Church.
Father Edward Sheridan, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua, leads a team of priests who promote vocations to the priesthood for the diocese; he participated each day of the pilgrimage.
“We need to pray for priests to continue what Christ has asked us to do,” Father Sheridan explained.
At the May 4 evening Mass, Bishop Barres led a litany that included not only Blessed Michael McGivney but other priests whose service across the United States has been recognized by the universal Church — such as St. Junipero Serra, Blessed Solanus Casey and Servant of God Vincent Capodanno.
“We are grateful for men who spend themselves for the good of the Church,” he said.
The event concluded with a reception hosted by local Knights of Columbus.
Grand Knight John Becker of Father Thomas A. Judge Council 6893 at St. Anthony of Padua noted that it’s natural to ask Father McGivney to intercede for priestly vocations and for the local Church.
“We can look to Father McGivney as an inspiration,” he said. “Father McGivney was the protector of the widow and orphan. I take great comfort that he was trying to protect his flock.”
John Woods writes from Rockville Centre, N.Y., where he is a member of St. Agnes Council 2548.