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Miracle After Prayers to Dorothy Inspires New Convert: My Long, Circuitous Journey into Catholicism

Dorothy Day

At Casa Juan Diego we all rejoiced when we learned that Sarah Maple’s aggressive brain cancer had been cured through prayers to Dorothy Day. This past Easter, Sarah came into the Catholic Church. When she received the sacrament of Confirmation, she chose Dorothy as her confirmation name (there are several saint Dorothy’s). This is her story.

There are many threads to this story of my spiritual journey, which will not be through until I die. My son says I am a Seeker, and I guess I am.

My journey must start with Katharine Drexel and she will appear at least twice more before I arrive where I am today. She founded St. Patrick’s Mission in Anadarko, where I grew up in a very conservative Protes-tant church. We attended services at least three times a week and never missed a revival or Vacation Bible School, even if it meant driving to a nearby town. But I knew of the Mission on the edge of town and I would often see the kids in town who attended school there. They seemed exotic to me and if I had the chance to talk to one of them at the swimming pool or the bowling alley, it was somehow exciting, as if I were learning about a foreign culture. In some ways I was since many of them were of Czech or Polish heritage. When those same kids entered out public schools in the ninth grade, it was exciting to me because there were new friends to be made.

As I made friends with some of them, I went to their homes and observed crucifixes, holy water, and other signs of their faith. One showed me the kit kept in his home for Extreme Unction. Another took me to meet the priest whom he was especially fond of. My Protestant family had the typical prejudices against Catholics but I was never discouraged from their friendships or from dating Catholics.

While dating a Catholic, I attended a wed-ding in Kansas. I shared a room with his sister, a nun. On that trip his brother asked me when I was going to “take instructions.” I was shocked as that prospect had never entered my mind. Now I need to tell him, “How about 46 years from now?” Sometimes I believe that when we put things into the universe they come to be. This is one of those times. It is somewhat sobering and reminds me to be careful of my words.

I soon graduated from high school and attended a Christian college, where I met my husband. The next years were spent in trying to be the best Church of Christ wife and mother I could be. My husband was a deacon, we raised four kids, taught Bible School, ran the bus ministry, hosted many church parties at our home, ran businesses, were active in the community and were busy, busy. Both my husband and I had difficulty with many of the beliefs our church taught. In time, he quit attending, and then I did also. Our kids were gone off to college and it wasn’t resonating with us anymore.

On Sundays, how-ever, I was uncomfortable and many times sad. I tried to fill it with cooking and family. I was always glad to be out of town on Sundays because then I could go worship “incognito.” During this time, we traveled to St. Louis often to watch the Cardinals. Near the Busch Stadium is the old cathedral. It is small, airy and beautiful. I loved going there on Sunday mornings before the ballgames. When we traveled to other towns, I would seek out the Catholic Masses to attend. I loved the ritual, the music, the buildings, and the incense. I liked that what we were saying in Mass was being said all over the world on the same day.

Back at home, in Antlers, Oklahoma, I was not comfortable attending the Catholic Church. But I needed spiritual help. I sought out the Methodist minister, a lovely woman who listened to me cry once a week until I had the heartbreak out of leaving my childhood religion.

She and I met with two other women to discuss spiritual issues once a week. We called our group The Quest. We talked about a wide range of spiritual subjects and read many books together that covered those issues. All along I was attending the Methodist church in two different towns. The people were kind and inclusive of me, but the church wasn’t meeting my needs. During this time, the Catholic Church in Antlers, St. Agnes, installed stained-glass windows, each one a female saint who had influence in Oklahoma. This effort was led by Farther Joseph Townsend and funded by the local parishioners.

A dear friend of mine, Paulette Davenport, a “cradle Catholic” and a WWII war bride from France took me to see the windows. I was deeply moved and arranged for the other women of The Quest to see them. This is where Katharine Drexel enters again. She is one of the women pictured in the windows. She founded a convent and school in Antlers, Oklahoma, where I have lived for 44 years. St. Agnes has a lovely pamphlet featuring these windows. I took the pamphlet home and began to look on the Internet for more information on the women in the windows. When I got to Katharine Drexel, I discovered that a man named Richard Fossey had written an article about her for St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Oklahoma. I was very surprised and could not believe that it was the same Richard Fossey I grew up with in Anadarko, Oklahoma. He was a committed Methodist and he and I had many discussions about doctrine and beliefs. I looked him up on the Internet and saw that he had a curriculum vitae that included many articles about Catholicism. I decided it must be the same person. I was pretty shocked and puzzled to think of him as a Catholic. I found out later that he probably wouldn’t have been Catholic if it weren’t for his marriage to Kim, another “cradle Catholic.”

Not long afterward, in 2009, I was stunned with a diagnosis of brain cancer, a glioma 3. A deadly diagnosis brings a flood of thoughts and desires. I wanted to clean every closet and the garage so it wouldn’t be left for my family to do. I wanted to write letters to people I love. I wanted to make scrapbooks for each of my grandkids to try to convey how much I love them. I wanted to get back in touch with people who had positively impacted my life. At the top of this list was Richard Fossey because of the importance he played in my life during a very difficult time. And, I was curious about his spiritual journey into Catholicism.

This is where Dorothy Day comes in. After talking to Richard and telling him that the doctors had given me on average two years to live, he and his wife reached out to me and my husband, Jim. We ate many meals with them and rested in their faith. Richard soon told me that he had prayed to Dorothy Day for my healing and he had the distinct feeling that she heard him. In his very humorous, kind way he told me of his process in deciding who to appeal to for help. He explained that his first thought was to ask for Katharine Drexel’s help since she had in a way led us back together, but since she was already a saint, he thought Dorothy might have more time to help me. I loved his reasoning.

As I took my treatment at Mayo Clinic, we stayed in touch with Richard and Kim. Richard kept praying to Dorothy Day so I, too, started asking Dorothy for a healing. At the end of my initial round of treatment, the doctors at Mayo were unsure but thought the tumor might still be growing. They put me in a trial for a new medication and within a few months they were surprised to see that the tumor had not only stopped growing but was shrinking. Others in this trial were not having as good an outcome. Pretty soon they told me my tumor was gone. Then in a few months they told me that not only was it gone but the scar was beginning to shrink which seemed to be a surprise to them. All others in the trial that I knew have died. Before their deaths they had many deficits which affected their speech, gait, reasoning, hearing, and eyesight. It has now been over four years since my initial diagnosis and the only deficit I have is some short-term memory issues, maybe no more than other 63-year-old people. When I reach my five-year mark in March 2014, I enter the general population and have no more chance of dying of a brain tumor than anyone else. To me my healing is a miracle from Dorothy Day.

During my illness and treatment, the Catholic Church in Antlers really reached out to me. Many have prayed for me. I followed my heart and asked Richard to teach me what I needed to know to enter the Catholic faith. On this past Easter, I received my first Communion and a few weeks later I was confirmed at the Holy Family Cathedral in Tulsa. I took Dorothy as my Confirmation name. The parishioners at St. Agnes had a lovely reception for me complete with gifts and a cake and punch. I was very touched and surprised by this. What a beautiful tradition. My husband and I travel a lot and it is a great pleasure to attend Mass at different places and enjoy the beauty and the Eucharist. When in Antlers, St. Agnes is always welcoming and I sit next to Katharine Drexel and thank her for her role in my life. Someday I hope that Dorothy Day has a window in Antlers. I would gladly pay for it myself.

I am no longer uncomfortable and sad on Sundays.

Houston Catholic Worker, June-August 2013, Vol. XXIV, No. 3.