“I was in a crisis pregnancy. I was terrified,” said Michelle Schachle, a convert to Catholicism and a stay-at-home mom. If anyone had a reason to choose an abortion, it was Michelle and her husband. They had their hands full. With a house packed with 12 children, Michelle home-schooling, and now they were told number 13 was on the way. But, there was a snag. Their unborn baby was going to be a special needs child with Down Syndrome.
How were Dan and Michelle going to manage a Down Syndrome child with 12 other children demanding attention and care. In addition to the stress that was already present, Dan traveled a lot for work and that would leave Michelle to do most of the daily juggling without him. Doctors had given them a wide range of options, however, and one included abortion. They may not have known what the future would look like or how they would manage, but they knew one thing. Abortion was not an option for them.
Michelle knew the statistics and to her, they were heartbreaking. “Seven to ten percent of Down Syndrome babies are all that is born in America because of testing and the choices of abortion,” she said. They chose life and they knew he would not be like everyone else. The future had more than one surprise for them. Down Syndrome would soon be the least of their concerns for their unborn child. Their unborn son would be fighting for his life, and he would get a little help from a priest who is on his way to sainthood.
Two months after hearing their unborn child had Down Syndrome, doctors told the Schachles on February 25, 2014, their child had zero chance of living. Their child had fetal hydrops. The condition causes an abnormal buildup of fluids around vital organs such as the lungs, heart, abdomen, and under the skin. For doctors, they were certain the child was going to die. According to doctors, it was a certain death for the child to have the combination of Down Syndrome and fetal hydrops. Once again, the Schachles were offered the opportunity to abort the child with the reassurance from the doctors there was nothing to feel guilty about if they chose to abort. For the second time, pressure came to end the child’s life. For the second time, they said no. They chose to trust God. They chose life – again.
Dan, a member of the Knights of Columbus and former grand knight at his home parish at St Mary Catholic Church in Savannah, Tennessee, was well aware of the cause for canonization of Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. Father McGivney needed a confirmed miracle to advance his cause to the next level. The Schachles needed a miracle to save the life of their unborn child. It seemed like the perfect time for a miracle. It seemed like the right time and the right opportunity. Dan turned to Fr. McGivney.
Dan had won a trip for him and his family to go on a pilgrimage for eight days that included the Vatican, Spain, and the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal. Before leaving for the trip, Dan asked his friends and loved ones to pray for the intercession of Fr. McGivney to save the life of their unborn child. The Schachles prayed during the entire trip for the intercession of Father McGivney to save their son. Masses were held for them and their unborn son at their home parish and in Rome. On March 16, 2014, just under a month after hearing the news from doctors that their son would not survive, the Schachles believed they heard from God a different ending.
It was during a Mass at Fatima when the Gospel reading, taken from John 4:43-45, confirmed to them their prayers were heard. “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.” The Schachles too believed. They trusted that was their message their son would live.
Four days after returning from their pilgrimage, they were back in the doctor’s office for a follow-up ultrasound to check the fluid levels and progression of the hydrops. They believed they had heard from God and knew their son would live. However, there was still fear that crept up in them. It would not stay long. Fear was soon replaced with gratitude when Michelle was shown the ultrasound of her son with no swelling or fluid buildup. The hydrops was gone.
“The story is God’s mercy,” Michelle said. “I really believe God worked in our life because we were open to life. All you have to do is give God just a little bit and he will do miracles.”
The Schachles had no doubt Father McGivney had interceded for their son and he was not only their family’s miracle, but the Church’s and Fr. McGivney’s as well.
“When we got to go to Fr. McGivney’s tomb, I couldn’t hold back the emotions. How do you say thank you enough,” Michelle said. It was Michelle’s past which drove an unrelenting desire to choose life. She was the second generation in her family to choose life over abortion, and therefore being the vessel of God’s miracle his servant Fr. McGivney needed.
She recalls her own history as the recipient of a pro-life choice and how the choice her mother made over four decades ago led to Mikey’s life and miracle.
“In 1971, my mom was pregnant with me. I was her third child, and they (Michelle’s parents) were about to get a divorce. My dad’s mother gave her the money to get an abortion. My mother said no regardless of how hard it was,” Michelle said. “It’s really because of her that Fr. McGivney is beatified.” The pro-life choice Michelle’s mother made, combined with her own pro-life choice despite the obstacles Mikey faced, led to a miracle. “God is so merciful.”
Mikey Schachle was born on May 15, the same date in 1882 the first Knights of Columbus council was chartered. He was born with Down Syndrome, causing him to endure several operations and hospital stays but the Schachles were okay with that. The couple regularly gets asked why God only healed him of one condition and not both. For Dan and Michelle, it was obvious.
“We never prayed for him to be healed from Down Syndrome,” Michelle said. “Down Syndrome wasn’t fatal.”
The couple says it was more than just the healing of fetal hydrops that was a miracle. The healing of fetal hydrops paved the path for Fr. McGivney to be beatified, but the Schachles said they see more than just the healing as a miracle. “The miracle is Down Syndrome,” Michelle said. “You don’t know that until you’ve said yes.”
Pope Francis approved the promulgation of a decree recognizing Mikey’s cure from fetal hydrops while in the womb as a miracle attributed to Venerable Father Michael McGivney’s intercession. The approval moved Fr. McGivney’s cause for canonization to the next level, beatification, where he became Blessed Father Michael McGivney.
“What do you do when God shows up?” Michelle asked. “A child that’s saved in the womb, that’s like having a living relic in your home every day.”