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American Catholics recall 'incredible joy' at beatification of Fr. Michael McGivney

CNA 5ee91bfe91a5a 193512 1 Mikey Schachle, whose life was saved by an officially recognized miracle through the intercession of Fr. Michael McGivney. Photo courtesy of the Schachle Family.

The beatification of Blessed Michael McGivney was a much smaller affair than many had hoped. But despite the pandemic, people still came from across the country and across the world to honor the founder of the Knights of Columbus.

The beatification of McGivney on Saturday was celebrated with a weekend of events. In addition to the Mass of beatification at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut, on Oct. 31, there was a “McGivney Festival” at the priest’s former parish in New Haven on Friday, featuring Mass, adoration, a panel discussion, a Eucharistic procession around Yale University's campus, and testimony about McGivney’s life. 

Emily Lomnitzer attended the McGivney Festival. She told CNA that while a student at the Catholic University of America, she learned about McGivney, and that the event was a big moment for her and her friends, telling CNA they were “really into venerable, now-Blessed McGivney.”

“I’ve known about him for a long time. We never thought he would get beatified, so this is a really big deal,” she said. “I didn’t know about him growing up, I learned about him at [The Catholic University of America], and it’s really nice to see that he’s being recognized.” 

She said that she thinks McGivney will serve as a great inspiration to young priests and seminarians, as he was “an example of someone who did a lot of great work at the beginning of their ministry.” 

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“Even not living a terribly long life, he was able to do such good things, even from a very young age,” she said.  

McGivney, a Connecticut native, spent his entire priestly ministry in what is now the Archdiocese of Hartford. Future priests of the archdiocese played an important role in the weekend, including  Colin Lane, a seminarian in first theology year, who was one of the altar servers at the beatification Mass. 

Lane told CNA that knowing his archdiocese produced a blessed was an “incredible joy,” and that while in high school, he had attended St. Mary’s--McGivney’s former parish. 

“Being around Fr. McGivney, being around his tomb--to be there last night at the vespers, and to be here [at the beatification Mass], it’s really quite surreal,” he said. 

“Somebody who ministered in our parishes, in New Haven and in Thomaston, who walked many of the same paths that our priests do today, is being raised to the altar of ‘blessed,’ it really is a great inspiration and a great encouragement,” said Lane. 

He added that McGivney’s beatification was a reminder to him and the other seminarians that “holiness is possible, even amongst priests of the archdiocese, even in the state of Connecticut, there’s someone who lived a holy life.” 

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McGivney’s beatification shows that “The little, daily acts of a parish priest can lead one down the path to sanctity,” Lane said.  

Julie Buonasera, a member of Frassati New Haven, a young adult group at St. Mary’s Church, was a volunteer at the McGivney Festival. She said that she did not know much about McGivney before his beatification, although her grandfather was a fourth-degree Knight. 

She said the day was “beautiful,” and that she “felt a lot of grace.” 

“Just the beauty of being here together with peers and young adults from around the state and beyond is awesome,” she said. 

Unlike other pilgrims, Nathan Schaechle, 20, did not have too much of a choice in attending the beatification. His brother, Mikey, 5, was the reason why the beatification was happening in the first place - being the recipient of a miracle attributed to McGivney’s intercession. 

Schachle told CNA that when his mother was told her pregnancy with his brother Mikey had “no hope” he had “kind of just resigned [himself] to what felt like the inevitable.” 

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“It was like, ‘hey, he’s gonna die,’ and then all of a sudden he’s ready to be born,” said Schacle. His brother Mikey was delivered prematurely via emergency c-section after doctors realized that there was an issue with the placenta. 

The gravity of the situation was not apparent to the then-teenage Nathan. 

Nathan told CNA that at the time his brother was born, he was mostly upset that his mother’s emergency delivery meant that he was unable to attend the Diocese of Nashville’s diaconate ordination Mass like he had planned. 

“I really didn’t realize the magnitude of what had happened until it was approved [by the Vatican],” he said.

He was aware that the Vatican was investigating the circumstances leading up to his brother’s birth, and that his parents had been involved in a diocesan tribunal that had progressed to the promoter of McGiney’s cause in New Haven. But he did not know that his brother’s recovery had been a confirmed miracle until it was announced by Pope Francis. 

“We found out with the rest of the world that [the miracle] had been approved,” he said. Nathan told CNA that he woke up early the morning the pope approved the miracle to “probably about 20 texts” on his phone. 

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“The human moment for me was that, ‘wow, our name’s been on the pope’s desk,’” he said. “And really, I don’t think it’s completely sunk in yet, even now. It’s just kind of been a blur since then.” 

The Tennessee resident described the experience in New Haven as “very cold” (temperatures for the weekend hovered in the mid-40s), “very surreal,” and “a little bit frightening.” 

Nathan said his family is “not really attention-seeking people, but this is what God wants for us.”

“He wants to glorify Himself in the world through it, and He wants others to come to Him through us,” he said. “So we’re doing the best we can in that respect.”

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