By Gina Christian
(OSV News) -- A priest on the road to sainthood, who has united millions of Catholics across the world, is drawing the faithful together in the town where he first served.
The Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, has announced it will merge seven parishes in New Haven into the newly created Blessed Michael McGivney Parish, named for the Waterbury, Connecticut, native who founded the Knights of Columbus fraternal order, which counts some 2 million members globally.
Effective July 1, the parishes of Sts. Aedan and Brendan, St. Anthony, St. Martin de Porres, St. Mary, St. Michael, Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Stanislaus were "united as one parish under the patronage of Blessed Michael McGivney," said Hartford Archbishop Leonard P. Blair in a July 3 joint statement with the Knights of Columbus and Catholic leaders from the New Haven area.
Under the new pastoral model, the merged parish will operate eight existing church buildings while serving thousands of diverse parishioners, with the St. Mary church site as the anchor.
Archbishop Blair chose the new parish name from a list of three options, which had been decided upon by a committee of New Haven parishioners following several months of deliberation.
Father Ryan Lerner, pastor of St. Mary -- the oldest Catholic parish in New Haven and site of Father McGivney's tomb -- will serve as the new parish's moderator.
"I feel profoundly moved and so very excited that our unified parish will be named for and entrusted to the patronal care of Blessed Michael McGivney," said Father Lerner.
The saint-in-the-making's "intercessory prayers have helped to guide this local manifestation of the body of Christ through a time of historic change," said Father Lerner.
Beatified in 2020, Father McGivney, who established the Knights of Columbus in 1882 while an assistant pastor at St. Mary, "will continue to inspire us as we journey forward together as one family of faith," Father Lerner said.
Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly said the Knights of Columbus were "honored that the new city-wide parish has adopted Blessed Michael McGivney's name," pointing to the priest's pastoral dedication "amid a society that frowned upon Catholic immigrants."
"Blessed Michael McGivney ... was an exemplar of charity and steadfast devotion to Christ, still today inspiring millions of people to action for the common good, in the name of God," said Archbishop Blair. "I will continue to pray for this new parish community and invite all New Haven Catholics to do the same during this time of great Catholic revitalization in the Elm City."
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Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News.