Alan Brinkley, one of America's leading historians and scholars, has tackled some of the largest themes in U.S. history. Interesting then that his latest book would be about a seemingly simple Irish priest. "Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism" is a revealing look at the founder of the Knights of Columbus. McGivney founded the "KOC" as a fraternal society offering low-cost life insurance to immigrant families who faced destitution if the head of the household died. Today KOC insures more than 1.2 million men, women and children. Efforts are now afoot to canonize McGivney, to make him a saint for all the good works he did, even though he died at the very young age of 38. McGivney was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, on August 12, 1852. His parents, Patrick and Mary (Lynch) McGivney, arrived in the U.S. as part of the great 19th century wave of Irish immigration. Patrick McGivney became a molder amidst the heat and deadly fumes of a Waterbury brass mill. Mary McGivney gave birth to 13 children, six of whom died in infancy or childhood. So at an early age, the first child, Michael, learned about the harshness of poverty. But, as many children of Irish immigrants before him, he also learned about the powers of love and faith. As Brinkley's book makes clear, McGivney may have seemed a simple man, but he clearly did change the way Irish Catholics lived in the U.S. ($24.95 / 256 pages / William Morrow)
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