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

4.7 out of 5 stars 135 customer reviews

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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, CBS News Historian, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. The Chicago Tribune has dubbed him "America's new past master." Seven of his books have been selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Cronkite won the Sperber Prize for Best Book in Journalism and was a Washington Post Notable Book of the Year 2012. The Great Deluge won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. He lives in Texas with his wife and three children. Brinkley has been awarded honorary doctorates from Trinity College (Connecticut), University of Maine, Hofstra University, and Allegheny College, among many others.



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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thorndike Press; 1 edition (January 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060853484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060853488
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,987,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover 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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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