Irish immigrant families of the mid-19th century wove a reverence for the priesthood and religious vocations into the fabric of daily life. They considered a priestly or religious vocation a great blessing. Therefore, Patrick and Mary McGivney were probably not surprised when their eldest son Michael announced his desire to become a priest.
Father McGivney encouraged priestly and religious vocations among his parishioners. Of the seven letters written by Father McGivney that have been preserved, three deal with candidates for the priesthood and religious life.
The McGivney home provided a seedbed for priestly vocations; Michael and his brothers Patrick and John were all ordained for the Diocese of Hartford. The McGivney brothers, in turn, formed a strong family unit that nurtured the early growth of the Knights of Columbus.
Today, in much the same way, the Knights of Columbus nurtures new vocations. Under the Order's Refund Support Vocations Program (RSVP), local units "adopt" seminarians and postulants, who are often either council members or the children of council members. Knights correspond and exchange visits with their seminarians and postulants. They also offer financial assistance, typically $500, with $100 being reimbursed by the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council. More than 2,700 local units of the Knights of Columbus support individuals studying for religious life, contributing more than $2.8 million in support. In addition to these local contributions, state-level jurisdictions conduct scores of other programs fostering vocations.
Founding the Knights of Columbus was an expression of Father McGivney's vocation as an "Alter Christus," another Christ. He wanted to help Catholic men draw closer to Jesus and Mary. His fraternal Order was to be an instrument for spiritual growth in Christian faith and charity–and so it remains.