Miracle child’s dad tells local Catholics that Knights founder’s intercession saved baby’s life
FORT WORTH — Expecting their 13th child in 2015, Daniel and Michelle Schachle received devastating news. Still adjusting to a diagnosis of Down syndrome gleaned from early prenatal tests, the couple was told their unborn son had severe fetal hydrops and, most likely, would die before birth.
It was a case of “planning to not have a baby but praying you do,” explained the father, a Knights of Columbus member from Nashville, Tennessee.
Desperate to save his son, Schachle turned to Father Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, for some heavenly help. In return, he promised to name the baby boy after the American-born, would-be saint.
Fr. McGivney died at the age of 38 in 1890 during a pandemic similar to today’s coronavirus outbreak. The hard-working diocesan priest from New Haven, Connecticut served a largely Irish American immigrant population and was particularly concerned with the welfare of widows and orphans. To secure their protection, he started a “pass the hat” insurance program in 1882 that evolved, over the years, into one of the top-rated insurance systems in the country.
Named a “Venerable Servant of God” by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, Fr. McGivney’s cause for sainthood will continue with his Oct. 31, 2020 beatification, thanks to a 2015 miracle the Schachle family experienced. The ceremony will take place in New Haven, Connecticut.
Describing his son’s journey from expected death to happy five-year-old with thought-provoking insights, Schachle shared the story of Nashville’s “Miracle Baby” with North Texas Catholics during a July 30 Zoom interview organized by Chris Stark, general agent for the Knights of Columbus insurance program in the Diocese of Fort Worth.
Pope Francis approved the miracle, attributed to the intercession of Fr. McGivney, in May. Two previous miracles, offered by other supplicants, did not pass Vatican scrutiny.
“If there ever was a baby to be saved by the intercession of Fr. McGivney, it would be this one,” Stark told the North Texas Catholic. “We hope this story raises awareness about Fr. McGivney so more people will pray for his intercession and get him to sainthood.”
A parallel mission is to encourage men to join the 138-year-old organization known for its charitable work, support of pro-life ministries, and Domestic Church Initiative to strengthen families.
A former Grand Knight of Council 8083 at St. Mary Parish in Savannah, Tennessee, Schachle became a field agent, and later general agent for Tennessee’s KofC insurance program “to follow in the footsteps of Fr. McGivney.”
The callous suggestion to “kill my child because there was no hope” emboldened him to seek a miracle from the organization’s standard bearer.
Giving details about his son’s prenatal diagnosis, Schachle explained that fetal hydrops is the abnormal accumulation of fluid in two or more organs. Only 20 percent of babies with the condition are born and of those, 10 percent live after delivery. For Down syndrome babies, it’s a death sentence.
“I remember being shuffled into a room where the [director] of the clinic showed us the ultrasound picture,” Schachle continued, recalling how the baby’s lungs looked like little wads of paper and other tiny organs floated in a sea of black fluid. “We were given two options: terminate the pregnancy now or wait for a stillbirth.”
The dire prognosis stunned the couple.
“We were a family faced with the false choice of killing our child,” he added. “If we didn’t have the formation and support of the Church and brother Knights for what we were facing, I see how someone could slip and fall into the trap that was laid for us.”
In addition to an army of prayer warriors appealing to Fr. McGivney for intercession, Michelle and Daniel Schachle went ahead with a scheduled pilgrimage to Fatima with other Knight couples. The trip, planned the previous year by the organization’s Supreme Council, included an announcement consecrating the Knights of Columbus to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Returning from the journey, Michelle had another ultrasound to determine if her unborn child was still alive. All signs of fetal hydrops had disappeared — a discovery that shocked the obstetrician and the Schachles. Born prematurely on May 15, 2015, with a heart defect linked to Down syndrome, the family’s youngest child, Mikey, is now a “ball of laughter who likes to tell jokes.”
“The sanctity of life and the value of people with special needs — everything the Knights of Columbus stands for — is rolled up in my little son,” the insurance executive pointed out.
During an intensive five-year investigation that followed Michael’s miracle survival, the couple was interviewed by a tribunal of medical professionals and theologians. The investigators explored who was responsible for the disappearance of fetal hydrops — Our Lady of Fatima or Fr. McGivney?
“We sent emails before we left on the trip to hundreds of friends asking them to pray to Fr. McGivney, and we asked our parish priest to have a Mass for Michael and Fr. McGivney’s canonization while we were [praying] the Rosary in Fatima,” Schachle explained. “I think the way heaven designed this story, it couldn’t be doubted.”
Calling the addition of a special-needs child to his large brood “a gift,” the grateful father revealed another chapter in Mikey’s miracle narrative. The doctor who told the Schachles their unborn child’s death was a certainty now keeps two ultrasound photos on her desk — before and after images of Mickey’s fetal hydrops.
“It’s to remind her there’s no such thing as ‘no hope,’” he reasoned. “The doctor had a big conversion too. I think that’s one of the most powerful things about the whole story.”
For more information about the Knights of Columbus, contact KofC.org/join.