Joe and Megan Hermosillo have always enjoyed their 9-year-old daughter Maureen’s participation in the Living History program at the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
In the program, Maureen portrays an actual student at St. Joseph’s Academy during Mother Seton’s time in Emmitsburg, Md., during the early 19th century. She also helps give tours to some of the 55,000 people who typically visit the Shrine each year. The Hermosillos especially appreciate the program because of its capacity for bringing history and the saints to life at the Shrine of American’s first native-born saint.
Little did they know the ways the intercession of saints would truly come to life for them.
In early January 2022, the Hermosillos, parents of six young children, 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 home.
Joe Hermosillo 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, but at the hospital, Joe’s blood oxygen level came back at an alarming 65%.
“They threw me in the ER,” Joe says. “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 recalls. “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. Living near the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg makes it easy for them to attend Mass and go to confession there. It’s a place that has been called Catholic Williamsburg, a nod to its programs that bring the history of this American saint to life, while offering a prayerful respite for pilgrims. The Hermosillos habitually pray for the intercessions 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 one saint to ask for intercession. She made a list and sought the advice of a local priest and her confessor, Fr. Timothy Grassi.
After considering the saints she had suggested, Fr. Grassi told Megan that the saint he recommended was not on her list: Blessed Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. Megan was not previously familiar with Blessed Michael McGivney, but Fr. Grassi explained that 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.
As Joe’s blood oxygen level dropped so low that he was at risk for brain damage, Megan made phone calls, texted, and posted on social media, asking everyone to pray a novena to McGivney, asking 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 yet, and his friends and family were determined not only to complete the novena, but to obtain a relic of Fr. Michael McGivney as well. Then, a family friend, Fr. Bill Kuchinsky, and Joe’s sister Teresa, each without knowing what the other was doing, went to the Seton Shrine and prayed before the tomb of Mother Seton, asking for her help in obtaining a 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.
Very quickly, the family obtained two relics, and Fr. Bill was able to visit Joe in the hospital, bless him with a relic, and ask Blessed Michael McGivney to pray for his healing. Four days later, Joe was taken off the ventilator, and a short while later, he began preparations to go home where he has since fully recovered from his life-threatening illness.
Joe’s healing has been submitted to the cause for Blessed Michael McGivney’s canonization and is being investigated as a miracle. Personally, though, Joe and Megan have no doubt about what happened.
“It’s just the facts,” Joe says 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 adds, “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 St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Blessed Michael McGivney, 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. 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 says, “But we absolutely know that they are spiritual friends in heaven.”