Man of Pastoral Action
Father McGivney was a very selfless shepherd, always attentive to his flock. Whether it was listening to a family’s hopes and aspirations for education or job security or whether it was listening to stories of disappointment or betrayal in love, he heard and advised them to the best of his ability. And those who came to him burdened with fear and guilt. He encouraged.
Just 10 months after his ordination, Father McGivney expressed the toll of such a heavy workload in a letter to a former seminary professor: “I have not had time for even one day’s vacation since I left St. Mary’s [Seminary] and was obliged to be at my post alone while Father Murphy was away. So pardon me the delay.”
His spirituality flowed from his priestly identity and the primary work of bringing Christ to his people in the sacraments. His example of being ever ready to listen, advise and console, stirred the idealism and generosity of his young parishioners to imitate his virtue in their own lives and in their proper vocation.
The uniqueness of Father McGivney’s spirituality of pastoral action lies less in its piety, which was typical of the age and religious climate, and more in the fact that he fostered collaboration between priests and laymen in addressing the serious issues Catholics faced in the second half of the 19th century. This spirit of cooperation and a certain sense of equality must be considered a unique aspect of Father McGivney’s pastoral action.
While always considered a man of exemplary virtue, Father McGivney was still always approachable. He was loved by his people, particularly his young parishioners, whose souls he so carefully nurtured and formed. Add to the mix his other activities such as visiting the sick, instructing the children in catechism and the herculean task of founding the Knights of Columbus, and one can well understand why he had little stamina to fight off the tuberculosis which finally carried him off from this world.
All in all, McGivney accomplished an extraordinary amount in his short 38 years and was an admirable and hardworking pastor of souls.