Father Michael McGivney was born in Waterbury, Conn., on August 12, 1852. His parents, Patrick and Mary (Lynch) McGivney, had arrived in the great 19th century wave of Irish immigration. Patrick McGivney became a molder in the heat and noxious fumes of a Waterbury brass mill. Mary McGivney gave birth to 13 children, six of whom died in infancy or childhood. Therefore, the first child, Michael, with four living sisters and two brothers, learned early about sorrow and the harsh grip of poverty. Thanks to his parents’ example, he also learned about the powers of love and faith, and family fortitude.
Michael went to the small district schools of Waterbury's working-class neighborhoods. A good student, he was admired by his school principal for "Excellent deportment and proficiency in his studies." Then, after the Civil War, when Connecticut's metals industry was booming, he left school at age 13 to go to work. His job in the spoon-making department of a brass factory provided a few more necessary dollars for family survival.
When Michael reached the age of 16 in 1868, he left the factory. With the priesthood clearly in mind, he traveled with his Waterbury pastor to Quebec, Canada. There he registered at the French-run College of St. Hyacinthe. He worked hard on subjects which would prepare him to apply for seminary admission.
After two academic years at Our Lady of Angels Seminary, which was attached to Niagara University in Niagara Falls, N.Y., young McGivney moved to Montreal, where he attended seminary classes at the Jesuit-run St. Mary’s College.
He was there when his father died in June of 1873.