In early January 2022, Joe and Megan Hermosillo, parents of six young children in Frederick, Maryland, faced the kind of health crisis every family fears. It started with a cough. After they both had seemingly recovered from what appeared to be a mild case of COVID-19, Joe began coughing again, feeling increasingly fatigued and found that his blood oxygen level tested low on an oximeter they keep at their home.
He called a doctor, who told him to go to the emergency room to be checked with more accurate equipment. A reading of 95-100% is considered a healthy blood oxygen level; at the hospital, Joe’s blood oxygen level came back at an alarming 65%.
“They threw me in the ER,” Joe said. “They stripped me down, they hooked me up, and I must have had 10 staff members around me. I told them my wife was in the lobby and she could make all the decisions, and then I passed out.”
“It was horrible,” Megan Hermosillo recalled. “It was such a weird thing that we couldn’t explain. His symptoms seemed to have resolved, and then all of a sudden, he got really bad really fast.”
During the days that followed, Joe continued to get “really bad really fast.” A medical report from the day after Joe’s hospital admission described his lungs as “80% compromised,” and a report from two days later described them as fully compromised.
Just days after being admitted to the hospital, Joe’s condition was so critical that staff began making plans for his transfer to another hospital and placement on an ECMO machine, a risky, last-resort treatment used when ventilators fail.
Joe and Megan Hermosillo have always been devoted to their Catholic faith. They habitually pray for the intercession of saints as they navigate the highs and lows of family life — job changes, pregnancies and minor health concerns. So, when Megan rallied friends and family members to pray for Joe, she wanted to choose a saint to ask for intercession. She made a list and sought the advice of Father Timothy Grassi, pastor of St. James the Greater Catholic Church in Charles Town, West Virginia, and her confessor.
After considering the saints she had suggested, Father Grassi told Megan that the saint he recommended was not on her list: Blessed Michael McGivney. Megan was not previously familiar with the Knights of Columbus founder, but Father Grassi explained that Father McGivney was devoted to families in distress, especially those without a father, and was an appropriate choice as the Hermosillo family was worried for the life and health of their father.
Soon, Joe’s blood oxygen level dropped so low that he was at risk for brain damage. Megan made phone calls, texted friends and family, and posted on social media, asking everyone to pray a novena to Blessed Michael, imploring his intercession for Joe’s complete healing. Thousands responded and passed along the call to prayer, and hours later, in the middle of the night, Megan got a call from the hospital. Inexplicably, Joe’s blood oxygen level had doubled to 112%.
Despite this dramatic recovery, Joe was not out of the woods, and his friends and family were determined not only to complete the novena, but to pray with a relic of Father McGivney as well. A family friend, Father Bill Kuchinsky, and Joe’s sister Teresa, each without knowing what the other was doing, went to the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and prayed before the tomb of Mother Seton, asking for her help in obtaining a Father McGivney relic. Staff members at the shrine also spread the word, asking volunteers and others to pray for the saint’s intercession in obtaining a relic.
Within two days, the family obtained two relics of the Connecticut parish priest, and Father Bill was able to visit Joe in the hospital, bless him with the relics, and ask Blessed Michael McGivney to pray for his healing. Four days later, Joe was taken off the ventilator, and a short while after, he began preparations to go home. Joe, now a member of St. Teresa of Calcutta Council 12036 in Charles Town, has since fully recovered from his life-threatening illness.
Joe’s healing has been submitted to the Father Michael J. McGivney Guild for investigation as a possible miracle. Personally, though, Joe and Megan have no doubt about what happened.
“It’s just the facts,” Joe said of his recovery. “Just look at my X-rays. They now say ‘no radiological evidence of acute lung disease,’ complete healing and no damage.”
“We know that Blessed Michael McGivney interceded for us,” Megan said, “and without a doubt Mother Seton gets the credit for the relics.”
These days, the Hermosillos share their story with anyone who will listen, and they wonder about the close connection between Blessed Michael and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, two quintessential American saints whose lives have been instrumental to understanding American Catholicism. Though their times on earth did not overlap, their geographical paths did. Father McGivney studied at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland, a place with special significance for St. Elizabeth Seton as well. The lower chapel at the seminary is the very place that, almost 70 years earlier, St. Elizabeth Seton took her vows of chastity and obedience.
“I don’t know if they were spiritual friends during his time here on earth,” Megan said, “But we absolutely know that they are spiritual friends in heaven.”
DANIELLE BEAN is editorial director of the Knights of Columbus communications department. A version of this article was originally published on the website of the Seton Shrine. It is reprinted with permission.