A New Order and Pastor
In April 1882, Father McGivney, with the permission of Bishop McMahon, wrote
an informative letter about the Knights of Columbus to all the pastors of the Diocese of Hartford. In the letter, Father McGivney stated that the Order’s primary objective was to dissuade Catholics from joining secret societies by providing them with Catholic societies that had better advantages at times of death or sickness. He urged each pastor to exert influence "in the formation of a council in your parish." Father McGivney personally installed the first officers of San Salvador Council 1 in New Haven, in May 1882.
By May 1883, Council 2 had been instituted in Meriden, Connecticut and Bishop McMahon, so impressed with the organization, became a member of Council 11 in 1884, and served as its council chaplain. By the end of 1885, there were 31 councils in Connecticut.
Father McGivney’s dedication to the Order was evidenced in trips he made to all parts of Connecticut and in handwritten correspondence—little of which survives—about K of C business. Despite all this, he remained an energetic curate at St. Mary’s and had constant concern for every parishioner’s problems.
In November 1884, he was named pastor of St. Thomas Church in Thomaston, Conn., a factory town 10 miles from his hometown. Heavily in debt, the parish served working-class parishioners with few resources beyond their faith. With prayerful acceptance, Father McGivney put his seven years at St. Mary’s behind him and traveled to Thomaston.
His New Haven parishioners, in a testimonial resolution which was elaborately superimposed on the drawing of a chalice and host, declared that despite burdens and afflictions, his courtesy, his kindness and the purity of his life had, "Secured the love and confidence of the people of St. Mary’s, which will follow him in every future field of labor."
In six subsequent years at St. Thomas, Father McGivney wrestled with the church's debt and built the same close ties of devotion and charitable concern that he had developed in New Haven. He continued, as well, to serve as supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, personally involved in helping the Order to extend its membership into Rhode Island. Later, from 1901 to 1939, his younger brothers, Msgrs. Patrick and John J. McGivney, served the Order as supreme chaplains.