Nuns who experienced the miracle that led to Blessed John Paul II's beatification brought a message of hope and victory through surrender to the Catholics of Worcester, Mass.Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Normand, healed of Parkinson's disease in 2005, and Sister Marie Thomas Fabre, then her superior and now mother general of the Little Sisters of Catholic Maternity in France, were visiting the United States for the first time.

They came at the invitation of Father Kazimierz Chwalek, provincial for the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception in the U.S. and Argentina, and Marie Romagnano, founder of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, to speak at a May 1-2 conference on medicine, bioethics and spirituality at the College of the Holy Cross.

The sisters, who speak only in French, also gave talks at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge, St. Paul Cathedral in Worcester, St. Joseph Elementary School in Webster and St. Stephen Elementary School in Worcester.

Among children crowding around them at St. Stephen's was first-grader Caroline Villa, named for Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), who showed off her statue of the pontiff.

"I think that it was an amazing experience because I don't know how many people get to meet or listen to somebody that's received a miracle," said enthusiastic eighth-grader Michaela Lavoie.

"I found it interesting to be in the same room with someone who has experienced a miraculous cure, and the one who lived through it with her," said Pauline Ludwig after the sisters spoke at the health care conference. She is pastoral associate at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Webster and a nurse in Catholic Charities' home care program.

"I underlined this," Ludwig said of something Sister Thomas said of Sister Simon-Pierre:

She embraced "her sickness and did not run away from it. ... The disease may evolve and advance, but the person has the capability to recover interiorly. The periods of desolation can mysteriously become the beginning of inner joy."

Sister Thomas said she believed this healing grace was Sister Simon-Pierre's first victory, before her physical healing.

Sister Simon-Pierre was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in June 2001, when she was 40. It was hard for her to watch Pope John Paul on television, because his Parkinson's revealed her future.

After the pope's death on April 2, 2005, Sister Simon-Pierre's symptoms worsened. When Pope Benedict XVI opened the way, on May 13, 2005, for his predecessor's beatification, the superior general asked the congregation to seek his intercession, so their sick sister could continue her nursing work.

"On June 1st, I had reached the end," Sister Simon-Pierre said. "The pain was unbearable, and the tremors were growing much worse." On June 2, she told Sister Thomas she needed to be replaced in the maternity ward and that she accepted eventual wheelchair confinement.

Sister Simon-Pierre said she could no longer write, and Sister Thomas, without reflecting on it, asked her to write John Paul II's name.

"Unconsciously, I wanted to verify that she could still write, it was not the end, and that she should not give up," she said. "I remember praying and thinking at this moment that we had tried everything and that we had reached the end. 'Lord, the only thing left is a miracle!' That's how I expressed my thoughts before she left: 'John Paul II has not said his last word.'"

That night, Sister Simon-Pierre said, she felt compelled to write, and wrote legibly. The next morning she was not stiff. She went to the chapel to thank God. She told Sister Thomas that afternoon that she was healed through Pope John Paul II's intercession and showed her her handwriting.

"It was really hers, but I had not seen it in years," Sister Thomas said. Later she surprised the sisters by spontaneously invoking "St. John Paul II" as they prayed the rosary.

After the neurologist was shocked to find no more signs of Parkinson's June 7, the congregation began a novena of thanksgiving to Pope John Paul II. A letter was sent to the postulator for his cause and the investigation began. On Jan. 14, 2011, Pope Benedict recognized her healing as a miracle.

"I am aware that this unexplained healing... is a pure merciful grace and that miracles are not daily occurrences," Sister Thomas told the medical professionals. But, she said, "I sincerely believe that accompanying a patient with mercy in your heart, as you are doing, is already within itself, in our dehumanized society, a miracle of faith, hope, and charity."

Sister Simon-Pierre said she happily continues nursing.

"Nothing is the same anymore," she said. "A friend has gone far away from this earth while remaining so close to my heart."


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