In his lifetime, Father Michael McGivney found creative ways to assist the faithful and address their needs. His beatification last fall confirmed what many have long believed — that he continues to do so today.
More and more Catholics are turning to Blessed Michael McGivney for his heavenly aid since his beatification Oct. 31, 2020. The Father Michael J. McGivney Guild, established in 1997 to spread devotion and promote the cause for canonization, has seen significant growth and a marked increase in the number of favors, large and small, reported by those asking for Father McGivney’s intercession.
Blessed Michael McGivney is known especially for favors related to employment and finances, reconciling family members, overcoming addiction, recovering from serious illness, and conversion or return to the Church. As his first feast day approaches Aug. 13, we share the stories behind three of these reports below. To learn more about the Guild, or to join, visit fathermcgivney.org.
OUT OF THE WOODS
When Peter Nelson and his 6-year-old son found themselves in a life-threatening situation, he was glad he had a network of Knights praying for their safety.
The unexpected drama began when Nelson, a K of C field agent in eastern Tennessee, pulled over during a drive through the mountains near his home one afternoon last January. His son, also named Peter, was feeling carsick on the winding road, and Nelson decided to take him on a short walk to get some air — just half a mile or so through the woods.
At least that was the plan. Partway through the hike, Nelson used the hunting app on his phone and found a shortcut that looped back to the road. But the rocky terrain, faint trail and dense thickets of mountain laurel made for slow going, and night was falling.
Nelson was carrying his son up a steep and icy slope when he realized they weren’t going to make it out before it became too dark to see. With one bar left on his cell phone, he called his wife, trying not to panic her, and then called Keith Estevens, a police officer and brother Knight. Sizing up the seriousness of the situation — the temperature was forecast to drop into the teens that night, and neither of them was dressed for such cold — Estevens said, “You’d better hunker down,” and called the county sheriff.
“The thing that I’ll never forget, as the sun went down, was the helplessness,” Nelson said. “You’re sitting on a rock with your son crying in your arms, and you just think, how did this happen?”
Several hours had already passed, when he hugged his son to his chest inside his coat and called his wife again. This time, they recited what they thought could be their last prayer together.
Nelson then called his boss, Daniel Schachle, the K of C general agent whose son had been miraculously healed through Father McGivney’s intercession, paving the way to the K of C founder’s beatification.
“Hey, Dan, I’m going to need one of those Father McGivney miracles,” Nelson told Schachle. “I’m in a bad spot.” Schachle immediately contacted the Tennessee State Council, which sent out an email blast for all Knights to pray through the intercession of Father McGivney.
Rescuers from a nearby fire department reached Nelson and his son a couple hours later, as frostbite and dehydration were beginning to threaten. Two young firemen were the first to call out, and Nelson surprised himself with the strength of his response.
“I look back now and think, my son and I are alive today because I had friends that were Knights,” Nelson said. “And when I needed their help, they came through.”
'Turning to Father McGivney was the logical thing to do.’
‘WHEN TWO OR THREE ARE GATHERED’
Vince Famularo had a case of COVID-19 that quickly went from bad to worse to death’s door. Doctors told his wife, Joan, and their four grown children that he was failing fast and perhaps beyond treatment. Yet, today he is back home and relatively healthy — thanks, he believes, to the intercession of Our Lady and Blessed Michael McGivney.
Famularo, grand knight of Msgr. Joseph Kerin Council 12654 in Huntersville, N.C., was hospitalized Jan. 8 and admitted to the intensive care unit a few days later. When members of Council 12654 heard about his serious condition, they quickly organized a prayer vigil at St. Mark’s Church. Knights and other parishioners turned out in large numbers to pray the rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed Michael McGivney.
“Turning to Father McGivney was the logical thing to do,” said John Passarelli, deputy grand knight. “His intercession would be particularly important, I believed, in trying to bring back the fellow who is in charge of our council.”
“It was amazing to see the community of the church, and to know that [Vince] was loved by so many,” recalled his wife, Joan.
Soon after the prayer vigil, doctors saw a marked improvement in Vince’s condition and told Joan that she could visit him. They had been separated for 23 days, the longest they’d ever been apart in their 50 years of marriage. Vince vividly recalls the moment he opened his eyes and saw her in the room.
“When I saw it was my wife, I really brightened up,” he said. “Just being able to hold her hand; it was an exciting moment.”
He was released from the hospital in late January and heard about the prayer vigil for his recovery. “It really began to come together, why I recovered soon after that,” he said.
“God was with us,” said council member Ray Fitzgerald. “It’s one of those things that makes your heart feel fonder for the Knights, seeing what we can do together.”
Recalling his days in the hospital and the prayers of his family, friends and brother Knights brings tears to Vince’s eyes and joy to his heart. He believes he has been touched by the divine.
“I am convinced that the Blessed Mother and Father McGivney, by their intercession, allowed me the opportunity to complete my mission here on earth,” he said. “I have such a new understanding of the power of prayer. It is real. When two or three people are gathered together in Christ’s name, he is in their midst. He can change anything.”
A ‘MYSTERY’ PRAYER
Where the prayer card came from she doesn’t know. But when Johanna Ireland changed her purse for the week, there it was: “Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed Michael McGivney.”
Not long before, she had heard a podcast episode about Father McGivney and the miraculous healing of an unborn child through his intercession. Although she had not heard of Father McGivney previously, Johanna took these two unexpected events as a sign from God. She began to recite the prayer she found in her purse for nine days, and then for another nine days. Two novenas, she figured, were better than one.
Her special intention was the health of her husband, Donald, who had been diagnosed with aggressive digital papillary adenocarcinoma — a rare malignant tumor of the sweat glands of the finger. This type of cancer can spread quickly to the lymph nodes, so she prayed fervently that it would be contained.
Johanna and Donald live in Calgary, Alberta. Johanna, a corporate flight attendant, is a lifelong faithful Catholic. Donald, retired from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was raised Christian but has fallen away from any formal religious practice. Yet, he is thankful for the loving prayers of his wife and others.
On Feb. 2, Donald’s cancer was surgically removed by amputation of part of his right index finger. The surgeon also took out some lymph nodes as a precaution and to test if the cancer had spread. To their great relief, the aggressive cancer had not spread beyond the portion of the amputated finger, and Donald has been declared cancer-free. He is back to playing golf and looking forward to more years of healthy retirement.
For Johanna, the experience has reaffirmed the power of prayer, especially intercessory prayer for others. “I’m still praying the Father McGivney prayer the first nine days of every month,” she said. “And I have shared it with my friends and family who have health issues.”
How the Blessed Michael McGivney prayer card wound up in her purse is still a mystery. Perhaps it came from one of her relatives who belongs to the Knights or someone at her parish. Whatever the case, she is sure of one thing: Her prayers were answered.
BRIAN CAULFIELD is vice postulator of the cause for canonization of Blessed Michael McGivney.
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