Here Comes Little McGivney!
Longing for a child after repeated miscarriages, a Knight and his wife entrusted their pregnancy to the Order’s founder
By Elisha Valladares-Cormier
In late March 2016, excitement was in the air as the due date of José Serna’s first child approached. After eight years of marriage, José and his wife, Elizabeth, were thrilled to welcome a son into the world in just a week’s time.
The journey had not been easy. The couple, who live in Guadalajara, Jalisco, had worked with doctors for years, trying to find an answer to their inability to conceive, before finally becoming pregnant. Their son, whom they named Mateo, was an answer to their prayers.
But the pregnancy took a tragic turn March 31. Elizabeth — 38 weeks pregnant at the time — woke in the middle of the night and knew immediately that her unborn child’s heart had ceased to beat. They rushed to the hospital for an emergency cesarean section, but it was too late.
“Mateo was handed to us, fully developed but lifeless,” recalled José, now a member of Santa Rosa de Lima Council 17267 and state advocate of Mexico West. “It was heartbreaking.”
The years that followed brought more heartbreak, as the couple experienced three more miscarriages. But today, theirs is a story of faith, perseverance and the intercession of the founder of the Knights of Columbus, Blessed Michael McGivney.
José and Elizabeth met as co-workers in 2001 and married in 2007, eager to start a family together. But five years passed without a pregnancy.
“It seemed strange to us that after five years of marriage, we couldn’t get pregnant,” Elizabeth said.
They sought help from a specialist, but after several studies, and even surgery to rule out endometriosis, the specialist couldn’t provide them with any answers.
At the suggestion of medical professionals, Elizabeth began some fertility treatments — primarily hormonal — to assist conception. The couple stopped seeing these specialists, however, when they suggested other treatments incompatible with the Church’s teachings.
José and Elizabeth continued to pray for a child, and in August 2015, a few months after ceasing fertility treatments, they received the happy news that she was pregnant.
Everything seemed to be in order. Month after month, Elizabeth would go for a checkup and receive good news. This made the morning of March 31, 2016, that much more devastating.
When the doctors performed the C-section to deliver Mateo, Elizabeth hoped against hope that her maternal intuition was wrong.
“I turned to José, hoping that he would give me a sign that there was life,” she said, recounting her experience on the operating table. “He just shook his head.”
Pain turned to anger for José and Elizabeth. After inexplicably being unable to conceive for so many years, how could God take away their son like this?
“I got angry with God,” José said. “I complained to him directly. But I never let go of him; he was the one who helped us move forward.”
The couple needed to find a place to bury their son, something unthinkable just a few days prior. They interred Mateo’s remains in a columbarium at Santa Rosa de Lima Church and began going there every Sunday for Mass and to visit his resting place.
That June, José and other men at the parish joined San Pablo Council 15284 in Jalisco in order to begin the process of establishing a new K of C council at Santa Rosa de Lima.
José and Elizabeth found strength in serving others, recalled Ricardo Sevilla, a member of Council 15284 who had invited José to join the Order.
“Elizabeth, as a nurse, was enthusiastically committed to caring for her patients,” said Sevilla, who now serves as the council’s grand knight. “José participated a lot in the council, and he told me it helped him keep his mind busy during that difficult period.”
Despite undergoing more tests and procedures, Elizabeth suffered three more miscarriages over the next few years, naming their child each time: Guadalupe in October 2016, Ángel in March 2017 and Fátima in May 2019.
Father Alejandro López, chaplain of Council 17267 and a close friend of José and Elizabeth, would often wonder, “How is it possible for them to be called over and over again to be heavenly parents?”
“They handled these difficult times of mourning with great faith,” Father López said.
TURNING TO FATHER MCGIVNEY
After asking God for so long why her pregnancies had miscarried, Elizabeth decided the question she needed to ask was “What do you want from us?”
Knights and family members of Council 17267, which was chartered in the spring of 2019, participated in prayer groups that often included prayers for José and Elizabeth’s struggle. During one of these meetings, Elizabeth felt moved to ask Blessed Michael McGivney for his intercession.
“Despite being so hurt and tired, I still wanted to be a mother, to have my son in my arms,” Elizabeth recalled. “It came from my soul to ask Father McGivney to please intercede for me. I asked him to help me, that if God didn’t have it planned for me [to be a mother], that he would remove that feeling from me. And if I was going to be a mother, to give me strength, and to help me to do it.”
“Despite being so hurt and tired, I still wanted to be a mother, to have my son in my arms. It came from my soul to ask Father McGivney to please intercede for me."
A few months later, in September 2021, Elizabeth learned she was pregnant for the fifth time.
“From that day, we prayed the Father McGivney prayer every night before going to bed,” said José.
With their excitement came trepidation, however. Due to the previous miscarriages, the doctors warned the couple that the pregnancy was high risk. And when Elizabeth’s mother died in October of that year, the couple worried that grief and stress would trigger another miscarriage. They prayed consistently for Blessed Michael’s aid, and other Knights and their families joined in the petition.
“When Elizabeth told us she was entrusting herself to Father McGivney, the entire community began to seek his intercession,” Sevilla said. “We began to notice a change; she continued with uncertainty and the fear of losing him, but she entrusted herself with great fervor.”
As her due date approached, Elizabeth was worried the baby had an irregular heartbeat. On the morning of April 19, 2022, doctors confirmed that the baby was in fetal distress and that an emergency C-section was needed.
“I kept asking Father McGivney to be there, to help my son be born well,” Elizabeth said. “So when I heard him cry and I could see he was alive and healthy, I was the happiest mom in the world.”
The couple named the child José Miguel after Father Michael Joseph McGivney, whom they thank for the birth of their son.
“The only thing that changed in this fifth pregnancy was that we asked for his intercession,” José affirmed.
But little José Miguel, now 10 months old, has acquired another nickname. Around Santa Rosa de Lima Parish, he is greeted with calls of “¡Ya llegó McGivinito!” — “Little McGivney has arrived!”
ELISHA VALLADARES-CORMIER is associate editor of Columbia and a member of Sandusky (Ohio) Council 546.