NEW HAVEN, CONN. — Members of the clergy and Knights of Columbus gathered at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., on the eve of Father Michael McGivney’s beatification for a “Prayer Vigil for Priests.” The event was part of the parish’s McGivney Festival — a weekend of celebration in honor of the parish priest who founded the K of C while serving at St. Mary’s.
Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford presided over the vigil, which included reflections about Father McGivney’s daily life as a priest and lessons on the example he offers clergy today.
The reflections were led by Msgr. Joseph Donnelly, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Southbury, Conn.; Father Gabriel O’Donnell, director of the Father McGivney Guild and vice postulator of the Cause for Canonization; Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who serves as supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus; and Daniel Schachle, a Knights of Columbus general agent and father of Michael McGivney Schachle, the 5-year-old recipient of the miracle leading to Father McGivney’s beatification.
Supreme Chaplain Lori added that Father McGivney was a visionary, but also a realist, which led to the “ingenious” establishment of the Knights of Columbus in order to serve Catholic immigrant families facing financial struggles, while keeping men active within the Church. Father O’Donnell agreed, stating Father McGivney’s “uniqueness” was in creating a “collaboration between the priest and the layman in addressing the serious issues.”
“The young priest anticipated a movement which would come to the fruition almost a century later with a renewed awareness of the social dimension of the Christian life and a renewal of the perennial Christian theme: the Gospel of life,” Father O’Donnell said. “As inheritors of McGivney’s wisdom we must never forget our need to collaborate with the lay faithful. They have much to teach us as they look to us for strong spiritual leadership.”
The Vatican announced on May 27 that Pope Francis approved a decree recognizing the miracle attributed to the intercession of Father McGivney, paving the way to beatification. The miracle involved the healing of Michael Schachle from fetal hydrops, which causes a fatal accumulation of fluids throughout the body of an unborn child.
Schachle spoke about the miraculous healing at the vigil, saying that this miracle is “perfect for this challenging moment.”
“I believe it is no coincidence at this time when the priesthood of Jesus Christ is under attack, masculinity is under attack, family and fatherhood is under attack, a time where the very right of a human being to live is under attack, we are consoled by the elevation of our founder, Father McGivney, and the miracle that was worked through his intercession,” he said. “God has perfect timing.”
He then spoke about the struggles he and his wife, Michelle, went through after receiving Michael’s diagnosis, which included a “moment like the Agony in the Garden.” In that moment, he promised Father McGivney that he would name his unborn son after the K of C founder if he would pray for the baby.
Soon after that promise, the Schachle family went on a K of C-sponsored pilgrimage to Fatima, where they heard the Scripture verse in which a man begs Jesus to save his son. Jesus’s response, “you may go, your son will live” (Jn 4:50), filled the Schachle family with “great hope.”
When they returned home from the pilgrimage, there was no evidence of fetal hydrops. Michael was born with no evidence of the fatal condition on May 15, 2015 — 133 years to the day that the first Knights of Columbus council was chartered.
“We are so humbled by this extra grace from heaven. We didn’t deserve it, we just kept doing what we thought God would want,” Schachle said. “Our founder is proof that one good priest can make a difference for the whole world.”
Schachle ended his testimony by voicing his support for the collaboration of parish priests and the Knights of Columbus.
“Thank you for being willing to follow in [Father McGivney’s] footsteps,” he said. “And like the lay men with whom he founded the Knights, count on my support and that of all the Knights, to continue to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a much-loved, but broken world.”
Want to learn more about Father McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus? Join the Father McGivney Guild — Membership is free and open to anyone who is devoted to Father McGivney and wishes to invoke his intercession. Members receive a quarterly newsletter and are remembered in a weekly Mass offered for their intentions.
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