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Parish Priest: Father Michael Mcgivney and American Catholicism Paperback – Large Print, January 24, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: WmMorrow; 1 edition (January 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060853484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060853488
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,411,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fr. Michael McGivney (1852–1890) is under consideration for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church. So why has almost no one heard of this Connecticut parish priest who helped to transform American Catholicism? McGivney entered seminary when he was just 16 and studied there until his father's unexpected death forced him, the eldest child, to abandon his studies and support his family. Although the diocese eventually came through with a scholarship, McGivney never forgot the devastation of his family's sudden poverty and devoted much of his priestly life to helping the Catholic poor. He founded the Knights of Columbus, an organization that simultaneously met two critical needs of Catholics in the late 19th century: it was an insurance policy for the indigent, and its devotion to America and patriotic ideals helped to assuage anti-Catholic prejudice. Brinkley and Fenster offer a popular history that is accessible in style and respectful, albeit at times hagiographic, in tone. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Douglas Brinkley is a professor of history at Rice University and a contributing editor to Vanity Fair. His most recent books are The Quiet World, The Wilderness Warrior, and The Great Deluge. Six of his books have been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. He lives in Texas.



Julie M. Fenster is an award-winning author and historian, specializing in the American story. In 2006 her book Parish Priest, written with coauthor Douglas Brinkley, was a New York Times bestseller for seven weeks. She also wrote Ether Day: The Strange Tale of America's Greatest Medical Discovery and the Haunted Men Who Made It, which won the prestigious Anesthesia Foundation Award for Best Book. Fenster is the author of six other books, including Race of the Century: The Heroic True Story of the 1908 New York to Paris Auto Race and The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President.


More About the Author

Dr. Douglas Brinkley is currently a Professor of History at Rice University and a Fellow at the James Baker III Institute of Public Policy. He completed his bachelor's degree at Ohio State University and received his doctorate in U.S. Diplomatic History from Georgetown University in 1989. He then spent a year at the U.S. Naval Academy and Princeton University teaching history. While a professor at Hofstra University, Dr. Brinkley spearheaded the American Odyssey course, in which he took students on numerous cross-country treks where they visited historic sites and met seminal figures in politics and literature. Dr. Brinkley's 1994 book, The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey chronicled his first experience teaching this innovative on-the-road class which became the progenitor to C-SPAN's Yellow School Bus.

Five of Dr. Brinkley's books have been selected as New York Times "Notable Books of the Year": Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years(1992), Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal, with Townsend Hoopes (1992), The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond the White House (1998), Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company and a Century of Progress (2003), and The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2006).

Five of his most recent publications have become New York Times best-sellers: The Reagan Diaries, (2007), The Great Deluge (2006), The Boys of Pointe du Hoc: Ronald Reagan, D-Day and the U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion (2005), Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War (2004) and Voices of Valor: D-Day: June 6, 1944 with Ronald J. Drez (2004). The Great Deluge (2006), was the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy prize and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book award.

Before coming to Rice, Dr. Brinkley served as Professor of History and Director of the Roosevelt Center at Tulane University in New Orleans. From 1994 until 2005 he was Stephen E. Ambrose Professor of History and Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans. During his tenure there he wrote two books with the late Professor Ambrose: Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938 (1997) and The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation: From the Louisiana Purchase to Today (2002). On the literary front, Dr. Brinkley has edited Jack Kerouac's diaries, Hunter S. Thompson's letters and Theodore Dreiser's travelogue. His work on civil rights includes Rosa Parks (2000) and the forthcoming Portable Civil Rights Reader.

He won the Benjamin Franklin Award for The American Heritage History of the United States (1998) and the Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Naval History Prize for Driven Patriot (1993). He was awarded the Business Week Book of the Year Award for Wheels for the World and was also named 2004 Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. He has received honorary doctorates from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

Dr. Brinkley is contributing editor for Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Times Book Review and American Heritage. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly, he is also a member of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Century Club. In a recent profile, the Chicago Tribune deemed him "America's new past master."

Forthcoming publications include The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the crusade for America and a biography of Walter Cronkite.

He lives in Austin and Houston, Texas with his wife and three children.

Customer Reviews

The book is very well written, an easy read, and hard to put down.
James S. Berish Jr.
If you are interested in history, the Irish, the Catholic Church or just reading a good book; I heartily recommend the "Parish Priest".
Don Coalts
A very well written and informative biography of the founder of the Knights of Columbus.
J. O'Shea

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Paul on January 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
As a lifelong Catholic, I was intrigued by this book and read it in less than one day. It is about one priest, Michael McGivney, how he came to be a priest and what it was like for priests in the 1800's. It is well-researched and very well-written, drawing me right into the story. There was a tremdendous amount of prejudice against Catholics in the U.S. in the 19th century and this book describes what McGivney tried to do about it. It is also about the people around him. Michael McGivney is a good subject for a book, since he lived at an exciting time. All in all, a must read for American Catholics.
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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Peter Lorenzi on January 27, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let's face it. American priests today, especially parish priests, have an image problem. While fifty years ago, even twenty-five years ago, the local parish priest could serve as a source of wisdom and spirituality, today people are more likely to hear bad jokes about priests as pedophiles and homosexual predators. The idea of sending your young sons off for a summer week at a camp with the parish associate pastor, once seen as great education and experience, is now something many Catholic parents would not even consider.

That's what makes this life story of Michael McGivney so nice and so timely. As the other reviewers and publisher notes reveal, McGivney was offered a second chance at seminary due to the largess of the diocese. After his father died, McGivney's original seminary plans collapsed. No widow could afford to support a seminarian's education. He learned at a critical moment in his life that aid to widows not only meant the difference between life and a squalid decline, it also meant that dreams and callings could still come true. Later, using his authority and respect as a priest, McGivney embraced the plight of his fellow Catholics, his flock, at a time when Catholics were not allowed to own land and paid taxes to support a Protestant church (show that to those who think that we have lost the separation of church and state) to first discourage the Irish scourge of alcoholism with a temperance society and then to form the Knights of Columbus as a means for insuring that widows and orphans did not suffer without hope upon the early death of the family breadwinner. From adversity came a priest and a sustaining movement.

The Knights were a transparent 'secret' society, not really secret at all.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Louis Muro on January 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
The new biography on the life of the founder of the Knights of Columbus reveals the importance of the parish priest in the Catholic community and paints a picture of Father Michael McGivney as an innovator, a man of compassion and a man who was beloved by all of his parishioners during his short lifetime.

Father McGivney's obsession to do something about the hardships suffered by Catholic families would define his short life and eventually lead the Catholic Church to consider him for sainthood.

While Father McGivney is the founder of the Knights of Columbus, the world's largest Catholic men's fraternal organization, this book is not primarily about the founding of the Knights. This work centers on the extraordinary role of the parish priest in the Roman Catholic community, its importance in the history of our nation, and the relevance of McGivney, not just as a Catholic historical figure, but as a long-overlooked American historical figure.

Michael McGivney was born and lived during a time when prejudice against Catholics was accepted in American society. It was also a time when immigrants from poverty-stricken Ireland came to the United States by the thousands. McGivney's father, Patrick, was one of those. The immigrant explosion created a very real burden on the Catholic Church to provide enough priests to take care of the needs of its exploding parish populations.

It was also an era when disease was rampant and family members of all ages could suddenly be struck down and die within just a few weeks or even days. The sudden death of loved ones is a constant occurrence in this biography and had a great impact on how McGivney viewed the world. His mother and father had 14 children but only seven lived past infancy.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By L.E. Page on January 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
Most Americans have a idealized view of life in the previous century. But we don't realize the level of discrimination and the lack of resources many people faced. Catholics, in particular, could not own land in certain states or areas and had to pay taxes to support other religions.

Brinkley's book introduces us to Father McGivney, a simple parish priest, who did something to make his parishioners' lives better through his work with the Knights of Columbus. Even with 12 years of Catholic education, I did not know the story behind the Knights of Columbus nor what function they really served beyond marching in our local parades and organizing countless bingo nights.

Brinkley's writing style is easy to read and the book doesn't drag. What a great gift for the legions of kids who are currently preparing for their confirmation! And while the subject does profile a Catholic priest, I think American history buffs would find this a good read as well.
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