Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, clearing the way for beatification. Father McGivney is pictured in an undated portrait. (CNS file photo)
Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, clearing the way for beatification. Father McGivney is pictured in an undated portrait. (CNS file photo)
Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Knights of Columbus founder Father Michael McGivney, clearing the way for beatification of the 19th-century Connecticut pastor.

With about 2 million members, the Knights are the world’s largest Catholic organization, including in Oregon, where 9,500 men belong. They deliver food boxes, advocate for the unborn and assist parishes, among other good works.

Below, three Oregon Knights explain what Father McGivney means to them.

‘You want to be that person’

Ron Boyce met the Knights of Columbus more than 30 years ago as a student at what is now Southern Oregon University in Ashland. His uncle was grand Knight in nearby Medford. Young Ron would help the Medford Knights with their breakfasts and noticed their faith, friendship and spirit of service.

It wasn’t until 1994, as a family man, that Boyce took the leap and joined the order. He became the new Knights of Columbus state deputy a year ago.

“Father McGivney is our founder but he led by example for all of us,” said Boyce, a workplace health and safety consultant and member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Southeast Portland. “His story is incredible. You want to be that person. He is someone you can really look up to. He served his community, and that is what drove me into the Knights of Columbus.”

Boyce marvels at how Father McGivney was able to do research and motivate Catholic men to come together for the benefit of widows and orphans.

“His vision has exploded and gone worldwide,” Boyce said.

Boyce himself has prayed for Father McGivney’s intercession. His grandson was born prematurely but now is healthy.

Boyce said Father McGivney’s spirit lives on in many of the Knights he knows. They work hard for others and don’t look for notoriety.

A resolute example

Ken Anderson, 26, founded the Knights of Columbus Council at Oregon State University in Corvallis. Now he’s warden of the Knights’ statewide endeavors, meaning he looks after the order’s property and handles arrangements for meetings and ministries. “The Knights have made a big impact on my life,” said Anderson, who keeps a picture of Father McGivney on his wall.

“Looking at his picture, he seems to me to be someone who is going to stand up when something’s not right,” Anderson said. “The expression on his face — he is full of justice and righteousness. He will not stand on the sideline.”

Anderson is resolved to do the same in response to modern injustices, with abortion atop the list for him and the Knights as a whole.

“As a Knight of Columbus, it is my duty to stand up in solidarity with the church and to take action,” he said.

Anderson is impressed at how Father McGivney passed the hat so the first Knights could collect funds to help families if the father died.

“He had a great amount of compassion for people,” said Anderson, explaining that Knights continue to care for families.

For men in their 20s and 30s, the Knights of Columbus offer readymade mentorship on how to be a good husband and father, Anderson said.

Hope for the marginalized

Almost 40 years ago, a man who had been a Knight of Columbus for five decades gave a history of the order to Jesse Villarreal. Villarreal read the book cover to cover, making notes. It was an in-depth introduction to Father McGivney.

“It became not only my foundation as a Knight of Columbus but as a Catholic,” said Villarreal, who now is in charge of the Knights’ outreach to Hispanics in the Northwest.

Villarreal sees Father McGivney as a gift of God to migrants, not just the Irish in the 1880s, but the immigrants of today from places like Latin America.

“He was looking at migrants and how they were being treated,” said Villarreal. “You can apply the same remedies now. What an inspiration, what a valid human concern.”

The genius of Father McGivney was to convene immigrant working class men and unite them so they could support each other in faith and the basics of life, Villarreal said.

While attentive to the needs of the present, Father McGivney urged his people to keep an eye higher matters, too.

If Father McGivney is canonized, it will “light a big torch” for the Knights and the church to expand its mission, Villarreal predicts.

Villarreal reports that he obtained a favor after praying to Father McGivney — a chronic infection lifted.

edl@catholicsentinel.org