Walk in Blessed Michael J. McGivney’s journey to the priesthood of his alma mater, the nation’s first Roman Catholic seminary in Baltimore, Md., where his namesake will soon grace a new discernment program.
Waterbury native Blessed Michael J. McGivney left such an indelible mark on his alma mater in Baltimore, Md., that a new discernment program in his name will be opening next year.
To honor Blessed McGivney, a notable priest and soon-to-be-saint, a new regional house of formation will be named for him on the campus of the St. Mary’s Spiritual Center and Historic Site, the nation’s first Roman Catholic seminary. The program will be located within a former convent on the property that is now under renovation.
“This is where Father McGivney received the orders to become a priest,” said Father Daniel Moore, the Sulpician provincial superior “He is well regarded and remembered. We are the ones who are honored to have known him, as a son of St. Mary’s as well.”
From 1873 to 1877, Blessed McGivney studied for the priesthood at the original St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. As a seminarian, he attended classes and worshipped in the Upper Chapel of St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel, on the National Registry of Historic Places. He embraced the example of the Sulpician Fathers and committed himself to serving the Catholic faithful as a diocesan priest.
Following his ordination at Baltimore Cathedral in 1877, the new priest returned to the Archdiocese of Hartford and was first assigned to St. Mary Church in New Haven. Five years later, the priest founded the Knights of Columbus in the church basement. Today, he is on his way to becoming a saint.
“We had been having discussions how to bring the spiritual emphasis back to this location,” Father Moore said. “This is where Father McGivney worshipped. He was inspired by the priests here. He was moved by the congregation, its pastoral charity and its fraternal charity.”
St. Mary’s Spiritual Center and Historic Site encompasses a historic chapel, classrooms, meeting rooms, a visitors’ center, an indoor garden and the Federal-style Mother Seton House where St. Elizabeth Ann Seton lived growing up. A public park abuts the historic site.
Due to construction, the site is currently closed to the public but is expected to be reopened for visits and tours in July 2024.
Blessed McGivney’s journey to the priesthood is documented in letters he wrote which are included in St. Mary’s Seminary Ordination Register. After his ordination, the parish priest continued writing letters to his alma mater from New Haven.
“I remain as ever a fond and loving son of my alma mater,” he wrote in an Oct. 21, 1878, letter to Father Alphonse Magnien, then superior of the U.S. Sulpician community.
After seven years at St. Mary’s Church, Father McGivney was reassigned to St. Thomas Church in Thomaston, where he died in 1890 at age 38. In 2020, Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father McGivney during his beatification Mass on Oct. 31, 2020, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford.
He was bestowed with the title “Blessed” during the Mass. Another miracle attributed to his intercession is needed for canonization.
For more information about St. Mary’s Spiritual Center and Historic Site, visit stmaryspacast.org. To learn more about Blessed Michael J. McGivney, join his prayer guild at fathermcgivney.org.
Karen A. Avitabile/Courtesy of the Catholic Transcript