VATICAN CITY — Two witnesses to some unsung miracles will be in Rome tomorrow for the canonizations of Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II.
Pamela Pechanec from Topeka, Kansas, and Frances Mercado from Oceanside, California, have come to St. Peter’s Square to offer their thanks for the miracles they’ve experienced, they said, through the intercession of the two new (almost) saints.
I spoke to Pamela by phone as her bus from Rome’s airport was bringing a group of 88 people from Pittsburgh into Rome.
Her son, Jeremy, and his best friend, Jory Aebly, were shot in the head execution-style during a presumed robbery on the streets of Cleveland, Ohio, in 2009.
Jeremy didn’t make it and the doctors said Jory had no chance of survival as the bullet “had ricocheted three times inside his skull,” said Pamela.
As doctors put their medical skill and technology to work, the hospital chaplain administered potent spiritual power. Father Arthur Snedeker, a Cleveland diocesan priest, had been given a dozen rosaries blessed by Pope John Paul II before his death.
According to Pamela, the pope had told the priest that the rosaries were to be given to patients who were in terminal condition from gunshot wounds since he, too, had been shot and survived.
The priest gave Jory the last rosary he had of the 12 and prayed to John Paul. Jory not only survived, Pamela said he was able to walk and talk just weeks after the attack.
“I believe in divine intervention. I saw both boys in the hospital and I’m a nurse. I don’t know how Jory survived,” she told me.
Pamela said she had to come to Rome. “I met John Paul at World Youth Day in Denver at Cherry Creek” state park in 1993.
“I got close enough that he said, ‘Hello,'” she said. There was something about the way he looked at her “that I’ll never forget. He had that aura, you could see it.”
“You could feel something so strong when he spoke, that frail man and then that voice that came out,” she recalled.
Frances Mercado had many stories to tell me about the miracles she witnessed with the people in her life. She attributes the survival of her premature great-grandson to the medals and prayer cards of Blessed John XXIII they kept in the baby’s incubator.
At just 21 weeks gestation, little Christopher weighed less than a pound, was 9 inches long and had a hole in his heart. Doctors said if he survived, he’d be blind. Not only is he a healthy 14 pounds at 11 months, he’s not blind and the hole in his heart “didn’t get bigger,” Frances said.
Another miracle she attributes to “the Good Pope” is in 1969 when her husband’s employer feel into a coma and was dying. The employer didn’t believe in God, but she had climbed the stairs to the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil just six months before and bought a rosary for Frances because she knew how much Frances was devoted to her faith.
As the woman lay dying, Frances placed the rosary on her chest and prayed to Pope John “to just let her wake up long enough to say goodbye” to her husband and the woman’s sons at her bedside.
Almost immediately she sat up and asked for her children and Frances’ husband, who was like a member of the family, Frances said. The woman lived for four more days.
Sadly, Frances’ daughter unexpectedly died just a few weeks ago on Palm Sunday. Despite her grief, Frances said she still came to Rome “because my daughter would have wanted me to come. The trip was a present from all of my five children.”
When her daughter was dying, two siblings told the mother they could feel their deceased father in the hospital room. “I was praying, but I couldn’t feel it. The kids felt it.”
Then a priest came in the room to administer the last rites — a Father Arthur — the same first name as Frances’ late husband and the kids’ father. It was another sign, she said: “It was as if their daddy was there to pick up his daughter” and take her with him to heaven.
“So I’m here in Rome to thank both popes, for keeping Christopher alive and healthy for us.”
“I know my daughter’s at peace. She was so excited about this trip. I couldn’t let her down. Now I’m at peace, too.”