After I Asked, Jesus Put Me to Work

The following first appears in the Summer 2019 issue of Marian Helper magazine. Order a free copy.

My name is Maria Kuliga Saeli. I was born in Poland to a very poor family. When I was a girl in the 1960s, I heard my mother pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. This was at a time when few people knew this prayer, given by Jesus to the world through St. Faustina.

In the 1970s, when my husband died tragically, my mother was at his grave and prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for his soul, and this meant a lot to me.

Indeed, events in my life made me keenly aware of God's Divine Mercy. But this took time. I had gone through a period in which I had turned my back on God, believing that He didn't know me or love me, a time in which I was hurt by others and struggled to forgive them and myself. Then, one day, in despair, I asked Jesus to take my hand and guide me. My life started to change. I experienced God's Divine Mercy.

God slowly healed my soul, which was torn into pieces, and then He healed my body from depression, spinal problems, cardioneurosis, high blood pressure, heart failure, and insomnia. He also took care of my financial problems. After my life changed, I felt the urge to share with others the beauty of God's Divine Mercy.

It didn't take long for God to put me to good use. He clearly wanted me to help those who suffer, including those in hospice. I worked for six years as a certified nursing assistant, but I still didn't feel that I was doing enough.

In prayer, I told Jesus I wanted to serve Him by serving the imprisoned, and in 2014, through His grace, I met a nun, Sr. Marta Cichon, who had a suggestion for me. She suggested I visit a woman in prison named Elzbieta who, at the time, was awaiting sentencing for a horrific crime committed in 2012 that had drawn a lot of media attention. I was uneasy about meeting this woman. Thankfully, I was introduced to Robin Hersma, who had been visiting Elzbieta from the very beginning of her incarceration.

Robin shared with me that when she first found out about Elzbieta and her crime, she, too, was uneasy. Her initial reaction was a desire to condemn Elzbieta. But then she heard Jesus in her heart tell her, "Don't judge this woman. Go to her. Be her friend." Ever since then, Robin has been a friend to Elzbieta.

During my first visit with Elzbieta, I reminded myself of the words of Jesus to St. Faustina when He said, "With My mercy, I pursue sinners along all their paths, and My Heart rejoices when they return to Me. I forget the bitterness with which they fed My Heart and rejoice at their return" (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1728).

Jesus forgives those who repent.

When I first met Elzbieta, with prison glass separating us, I saw a woman who was not at all who I imagined I'd be meeting. I imagined she would be hardened, possibly cynical, possibly angry. Instead, she was a woman discovering Divine Mercy, humbly begging for God's forgiveness and struggling to forgive herself. We became very close right away.

She had just recently experienced the death of her mother, a woman who had stood by her and never stopped loving her, even while the rest of Elzbieta's family turned away. And now she was gone. Elzbieta told me that her mom always brought her fresh flowers to make her happy. I vowed from then on that I would stand by Elzbieta, continue visiting her, and bring her flowers. The first time I brought flowers, she cried and laughed and said, "I think my mom sent you."

I met other women who lived in the same jail as Elzbieta. They spoke of how Elzbieta tries to help others, teaches them how to pray, and tells them about Jesus and God the Father, rich in mercy.

Elzbieta herself says that she had to fall so that Jesus could pick her up.

In 2017, after spending five years in a corrections facility awaiting sentencing, she was given a sentence of life without parole and transferred to a prison. She authorized me to retrieve her personal belongings from the corrections facility. In her belongings I found many prayer cards - prayers to the Mother of God and the Stations of the Cross. They were so worn out that they were hardly legible. She also had a Bible and St. Faustina's Diary, both of which were worn from use with her favorite passages underlined.

She let me read her own diary in which she writes of the importance of helping people who are alone and experiencing spiritual and mental anguish. She stated how, before her crime, she had many problems and sought help, but was unable to find it. Her last words in court were a warning to everyone about the importance of following Jesus.

On my most recent visit to Elzbieta, the prison was crowded with visitors. You could see the sadness of the women there. Elzbieta said that she is the most joyful prisoner there because, by the grace of God, Jesus is now with her.

My own journey with Jesus continues, strengthened by the guidance of many priests and the support of my husband, John, who gave me the freedom to help where the need is greatest.

Finally, a special thanks to Fr. Andy Davy, MIC, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Plano, Illinois, for inspiring me to write this. He visited Elzbieta and sang her the song "I Love You, Lord," which touched her heart.

Maria Kuliga Saeli lives in Sugar Grove, Illinois.

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