Michael “Mikey” Schachle, 5 years old, climbs onto a stump in the yard of his family’s home in Dickson, Tenn. He takes stock of the short distance to the trampoline below, steps off and lands with a happy bounce, followed by hugs from several of his 12 siblings.
It’s a scene that would have been impossible for his parents, Daniel and Michelle Schachle, to imagine when they first learned that their unborn son had a deadly case of fetal hydrops — and zero chance of living.
It took a miracle to save Mikey.
Last May, Pope Francis formally approved a decree recognizing Mikey’s cure as a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. The decree advanced Father McGivney’s cause for sainthood, leading to his beatification Oct. 31.
For Daniel Schachle, a past grand knight of St. Mary’s Mission Council 8083 in Savannah, Tenn., and a Knights of Columbus general agent, the miracle that saved his son’s life is both utterly mysterious and beautifully fitting.
“I don’t know why God chose Michael,” he said, noting that many people praying for a miracle do not receive one. “I’m grateful for his mercy that he did.”
At the same time, Daniel marvels at how Mikey’s miracle reflects the work of the Order that Father McGivney founded.
“I look at Father McGivney, and I look at what the Knights of Columbus does for special needs children, for the pro-life cause,” he said. “If there was ever a baby Father McGivney would want to help, this is who it would be.”
The Schachles like to tell people they met in prison. In the mid-1990s, Michelle was a single mother with twin daughters working in an office at the correctional facility where Daniel was working as a guard.
Their friendship blossomed into a romance; they were married in 1997, and Daniel soon adopted Michelle’s 4-year-old girls.
Michelle converted to Catholicism and entered the Church on their wedding day.
“At first, I kind of struggled with Mary, which is funny to me now,” said Michelle, noting that her family is consecrated to the Blessed Virgin.
Praying to saints was another aspect of the Catholic faith that was initially difficult for her to accept. “It just seemed to be wrong to go through anybody but Jesus,” she said.
One part of Catholic teaching that Michelle had no trouble accepting was respect for life. “When I became Catholic, right to life was something I could grab on to,” she said.
Over time, Michelle fully embraced all the Church’s teachings and devotions, and they became a lifeline when she needed them most.
She and Daniel did not plan on having such a big family, but over the years, Michelle explained, “We said yes to God, one at time.”
Late in 2014, Michelle became pregnant with their 13th child. On New Year’s Eve, she received an ultrasound exam, and doctors found markers indicating the child had Down syndrome.
“That didn’t matter to us,” Daniel said. “It’s actually a gift to our family.”
But the doctors saw other troubling signs and sent Michelle for more tests. On Feb. 25, 2015, the doctors delivered the news. The baby had a severe case of fetal hydrops, a life-threatening condition involving an abnormal buildup of fluids in the tissue around the lungs, heart or abdomen, or under the skin.
Daniel pressed a doctor for a percentage on the chances their son would live. “She finally said, ‘I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anybody survive.’”
In their bedroom that night, Michelle wept inconsolably, but “Dan was quiet for a moment,” she recalled.
“He looked at me and said, ‘I just prayed that if Father McGivney saves him, I’m naming him Michael.’”
Daniel had been praying for Father McGivney’s intercession for many years, starting when he was looking for a career change and landed on the possibility of becoming a Knights of Columbus field agent.
“The last thing I ever imagined myself being was a life insurance agent,” admitted Daniel, a Knight since 1994. “But once I read about Father McGivney, it was really eye-opening to me. It was love of widows and orphans that drove him to start the Knights of Columbus.”
Daniel is now the general agent for Tennessee, Kentucky and the eastern half of Arkansas, overseeing the work of 16 field agents.
“We are the stewards of Father McGivney’s vision,” said Daniel, who sees his work as a ministry.
So, it was natural for Daniel to seek the intercession of Father McGivney.
“It was like just going to one of your friends and saying, ‘Pray for me,’” he said.
The diagnosis came just as Daniel and Michelle were preparing to go on a Knights of Columbus pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal, in March 2015. A special incentive trip for high-performing agents, it also included visits to the Vatican and Madrid.
Before leaving, Daniel and Michelle sent out email messages to as many people as they could, asking them to pray for the intercession of Father McGivney to save their son.
“I prayed, ‘Please, Father McGivney, let him be the miracle,’” Michelle said. “I went from ‘How will I take care of a child with Down syndrome?’ to ‘Please God, I want a child with Down syndrome.’ I had hope.”
The Schachles prayed throughout the pilgrimage for Father McGivney’s intercession, and priests in Rome and in their home parish offered Masses for them. But it was a Mass in Fatima on March 16 that left the most powerful impression.
The Gospel reading for the day was John 4:43-54 — the story of the official who asked Jesus to heal his son. Two verses read: “The royal official said to him, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You may go; your son will live.’ The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.”
“We both looked at each other with our mouths open,” Daniel recalled. “It was surreal.”
Four days after the Schachles returned from the pilgrimage, Michelle went back to the doctor’s office for an ultrasound.
“I was pretty scared,” she said. “The technician kept looking and looking; she was taking a long time.”
Eventually, she showed Michelle a sonogram of the baby’s face with none of the swelling and fluid buildup that had been so apparent on the last ultrasound.
“This is the prettiest baby I’ve ever seen,” she told Michelle.
Dr. Mary-Anne Carroll, a member of the practice whom Michelle had not yet met, then arrived to discuss the ultrasound.
“She started talking about this and that, about what we’re going to do when the baby is born,” Michelle remembered. “I said, ‘What about the fluid in the lungs?’ She replied, ‘A lot of babies have a little fluid in the lungs.’
“Wait a minute,” Michelle said. “I was told there was no hope.”
Only then did Dr. Carroll realize that Michelle and her baby were the patients she had heard about from her colleagues. She consulted with the other doctors in the practice, who confirmed that the baby was no longer showing any signs of fetal hydrops.
The doctors made an extensive search for a reversible cause of the hydrops that would explain its disappearance, but found nothing.
“It was just there and then it was gone,” Michelle said. But Mikey and Michelle weren’t completely out of the woods. Doctors were worried that the blood flow through the umbilical cord was restricted. On May 15, 2015, week 31 of her pregnancy, they told her, “We have to do the C-section today.”
Daniel was in San Antonio for a business meeting, but Michelle was not worried.
“I felt completely at peace,” she said.
Michael McGivney Schachle was born May 15, 2015, weighing just 3 pounds, 4 ounces.
“Michael was perfect just the way he was,” said Michelle.
Mikey did, however, still face serious health issues. Like many babies born with Down syndrome, he had a heart condition that required surgery, which was performed seven weeks after he was born.
Daniel told staff at the Knights of Columbus headquarters in New Haven, Conn., about Mikey, which eventually led to a formal inquiry into the case. The Diocese of Nashville convened a tribunal in 2016 to investigate and gather facts by interviewing the Schachles and all the doctors involved.
“It was like being deposed,” Daniel said of the process.
The investigation focused on determining two things: that what occurred was indeed a miracle — an extraordinary event that has no current scientific or medical explanation — and that the prayers to save Mikey’s life were directed specifically to Father McGivney.
For example, the tribunal asked the Schachles how they knew the cure could be attributed to Father McGivney’s intercession and not that of Our Lady of Fatima. Dan and Michelle recounted how they specifically prayed for the intercession of Father McGivney and asked many others to do the same.
“How can you look at this and not know it was Father McGivney? There are so many coincidences,” said Daniel, as he began to tick off a list: Mikey was born on May 15, the same date in 1882 that the first Knights of Columbus council was chartered; Michelle and Father McGivney share a birthday, Aug. 12; Father McGivney was the oldest of 13 children, and Mikey is the youngest of 13.
“Everything that the Knights stand for — all of those things are in our story,” added Michelle, noting the Order’s work to respect life at all its stages; its support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; and its support of families.
Members of the tribunal also inquired why the Schachles didn’t pray their son would be cured of Down syndrome as well.
“Why would we have asked for that?” Daniel asked in response. “God made him that way. I’m good with that.”
After the diocesan tribunal completed its report, the postulator of Father McGivney’s sainthood cause in Rome submitted it to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for its review. A panel of physicians examined the medical record, and a panel of theologians examined the spiritual record of the case before making a recommendation for the pope’s approval.
The Schachles were confident that Mikey’s cure would be declared a miracle. “We never had any doubts,” Daniel said. And on May 26, it was.
“We know this isn’t anything we’ve done,” Daniel added. “I could never deserve what God has done for us.”
Today, Mikey’s health problems are under control and he is an active 5-year-old.
“We have Michael,” Michelle said. “Michael’s life has changed our life.”
“It helped our family not take the faith for granted,” Daniel explained. “It’s very real to us now that we are the sons and daughters of a very loving Father.”
ANDY TELLI is managing editor of the Tennessee Register and a member of Bishop Alphonse J. Smith Council 3763 in Madison, Tenn. An extended version of this article originally appeared in the Tennessee Register, the newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.
PROMOTE BLESSED MICHAEL MCGIVNEY’S cause for canonization by joining the Father Michael J. McGivney Guild. Established in 1997 after the cause was formally opened, the Guild spreads devotion to the founder of the Knights of Columbus, receives and publishes reports of favors received through his intercession, and preserves and distributes relics of this blessed servant of God.
Membership in the Guild is free and open to anyone who is devoted to Father McGivney. Members receive a quarterly newsletter about his life and spirituality and can request a prayer card with a third-class relic. They are also remembered in a weekly Mass offered for their intentions. Most importantly, the Guild plays an active role in the cause by praying for Father McGivney’s intercession in times of need, especially in cases of serious illness. Since one more confirmed miracle is needed for Father Mc- Givney to be canonized a saint, the Guild encourages people to recite regularly the prayer for canonization and to report any favors received.
To learn more about the Father Michael J. McGivney Guild and how you can spread devotion to this model parish priest, visit www.fathermcgivney.org.
1. Cause Opens
Dec. 18, 1997 — Father McGivney’s cause for sainthood is officially opened by Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin of Hartford. Father McGivney is given the title “Servant of God.”
2. Diocesan Review Completed
March 6, 2000 — The diocesan investigation into Father McGivney’s life, holiness and virtues closes.
3. Positio Submitted to Rome
May 2002 — A 1,000-page document (Positio) laying out the case for Father McGivney’s cause is presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican.
4. St. John Paul II Commends K of C and Founder
October 2003 — In a message to the Knights of Columbus, St. John Paul II praises the Order and its founder: “In fidelity to the vision of Father McGivney, may you continue to seek new ways of being a leaven of the Gospel in the world and a spiritual force for the renewal of the Church in holiness, unity and truth.”
5. Biography Published
July 2006 — Parish Priest: Father McGivney and American Catholicism, a biography by historians Douglas Brinkley and Julie Fenster, is published by William Morrow/Harper Collins.
6. Declared Venerable
March 15, 2008 — Confirming Father McGivney’s heroic virtue, Pope Benedict XVI declares him a “Venerable Servant of God.” The decree states, in part, “Concerning the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love both toward God and neighbor … they existed to a heroic degree in the Servant of God Michael McGivney, Diocesan Priest and Founder of the Fraternal Order the Knights of Columbus.”
7. Pope Benedict XVI Cites ‘Exemplary American Priest’
April 19, 2008 — During his visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, Pope Benedict XVI cites the “remarkable accomplishment of that exemplary American priest, the Venerable Michael McGivney, whose vision and zeal led to the establishment of the Knights of Columbus.”
8. Miracle Investigated
September 2017 — Results of an investigation into a possible miracle attributed to the intercession of Father McGivney are sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
9. Pope Francis Praises Father McGivney’s Vision
Feb. 10, 2020 — Pope Francis tells the K of C Board of Directors that the Order has been faithful “to the vision of your founder, Venerable Michael McGivney, who was inspired by the principles of Christian charity and fraternity to assist those most in need.” Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori presents Pope Francis with a copy of Parish Priest in Italian.
10. Miracle Approved for Beatification
May 27, 2020 — After extensive medical and theological reviews, the Holy See announces that Pope Francis has authorized a decree regarding a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father McGivney, opening the way for his beatification Oct. 31.
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