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How I Found Divine Mercy Again
By Irene Belcher
My mother was a Third-Order Lay Dominican who had great devotion to Divine Mercy instilled by one of her spiritual directors. Every Holy Week, my brothers and I would each receive a brochure for the Divine Mercy Novena and Chaplet. Attached would be a handwritten note explaining the prayers along with the need for the sacraments. As if this wasn't enough, she would proceed to call us every day starting on Good Friday until the Saturday after Easter to reminding us about the novena and inquiring what our plans were regarding going to Confession and Mass and receiving the Eucharist.
My mother died in 2004 on All Saint's Day. I jokingly say she requested this as she referred to All Saints Day as the "big party with all her favorite people." She always remarked how important it was for the chaplet to be said for the soul of one who is dying. As much as I could remember I began to say it over and over. After her death though I forgot all about Divine Mercy for a time.
In August of 2009 I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In my hospital room following an operation I would wake up thinking my mother was there. All I could hear was her continually saying, "Divine Mercy." Assuming I was just getting some really good drugs, I put the thought out of my mind.
Upon discharge, I continued to feel she was saying, "Divine Mercy." It was getting a bit annoying! During this time a co-worker sent me a link to a website she thought I would enjoy. "I remember your mother had such devotion to Divine Mercy," my co-worker said. Hmm, coincidence? The story was about Dona Kocylowski who had experienced a medical miracle. I knew Dona. She worked in the office directly next to mine. Another coincidence?
After this, I studied the website a bit and found the Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers. Being a registered nurse, I called the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy requesting information.
Meanwhile, I was pursuing information about a macrobiotic diet embraced by my mother dating back to the 1960s. Hearing it had some cancer prevention properties, I decided to attend a weeklong instructional conference in Massachusetts centered on food selection and preparation. Prior to leaving for this trip, Divine Mercy continued in my thoughts and Dona had sent me a prayer shawl. I began to pray the chaplet again. My mother always wanted to visit the National Shrine. I had no idea where it was located. I will never forget finding the address for the Shrine. I actually felt faint: Stockbridge was only 15 miles from where I would be learning about this new diet. I knew I had to visit there!
With anxious anticipation I traveled to Massachusetts. Walking into the Shrine was so overwhelming. From that moment, my life changed, spiritually, and I never heard my mother say, "Divine Mercy" again. This was no coincidence. I finally got it!
I am a medical case manager. I pray the chaplet each day for all the individuals whose charts I review. Starting in 2010, my ministry has evolved more at the parish level, promoting the Divine Mercy message and devotion. My goal has been to spread the Divine Mercy message throughout northeast Pennsylvania. I followed in my mother's footsteps! We are constructing a Divine Mercy prayer garden dedicated to all those ill or injured, as well as their caregivers, at St. Lawrence Church in Great Bend, Pennsylvania. Our first monument was installed last year with the hope of 13 more to follow.
Ovarian cancer, depending on staging and cell type, does not have the best prognosis. I have outlived my life expectancy, despite complicated medical problems. Last year, I developed blood clots in my lungs. I had emergency open-heart surgery in January. I continue to receive chemotherapy.
My mother, in the words of her spiritual advisor, always told us, "When I am gone, my prayers will be stronger for you than when I lived on earth." I have to believe that. Obviously, God has a bigger plan for me.
Irene Belcher lives in Harford Township Pennsylvania.