In Death, an Opportunity

This month we wish to share with you a powerful story from a Marian Helper from Kansas, Kristen Kurth. As the Holy Souls Sodality continues our year dedicated to St. Joseph, Kristen's testimony proves again the intercessory power of this patron of a happy death.

My father, Glen Kurth, was born in western Kansas in 1925. He was baptized in a Protestant church and raised Christian. After getting married, he and my mother, Marion, tried a number of Protestant churches, but they never stayed with any of them for very long.

In the 1960s, he became interested in yoga for his physical health and then Eastern religions and western occultism. His life became a spiritual search.

Through God's grace, I felt called to become Catholic and joined the Church in 1993. I began praying for my family to do the same. I heard about a Nine First Wednesdays devotion to St. Joseph, proceeded to attend Mass on the first Wednesday of nine consecutive months, and offered it in honor of St. Joseph for the salvation of the dying and the grace of a happy death for my family and me.

My mother joined the Catholic Church two years later. Dad went to Mass with both of us on many occasions, but he said he would never become Catholic.

Mom died in 2012, and I moved in with Dad and my brother. I brought all my Catholic books, pictures, statues, etc., with me, which all ended up in my bedroom. This included a large Divine Mercy Image. Every year when RCIA started, I would ask Dad if he was interested, and he would always laugh and tell me no.

On Jan. 17, 2018, Dad had a stroke. While his mind remained sharp, he was unable to walk or even to turn over by himself. Doctors also discovered he had an aggressive form of lung cancer. They said his death was imminent. Dad said he wanted to come home to die. He also told me he wanted to change rooms with me since my bedroom was warmer. I was happy about that because I realized he would be surrounded by all my Catholic pictures.

Dad said he was ready for death. But at this point, he didn't have faith in an afterlife. I spoke to him again about becoming Catholic. As usual, he just laughed and said no. I continued to pray for his conversion, put him on prayerlines, and asked everyone I knew to pray for him.

I would go into his room in the middle of the night, and as he slept, I'd pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for his salvation and happy death. I also followed the advice of my pastor, Fr. Jim Mainzer, who recommended that I speak to my father about God's love for him.

At one point I realized that, because of the position of his bed, whenever my father was awake, his gaze was on the Divine Mercy Image. I pointed out to him the rays of love and mercy coming from the Heart of Jesus and the "Jesus, I trust in You" inscription. Dad said he trusted Jesus. It was a good start.

A couple of nights later, Dad woke me up in the middle of the night and said he had decided to become a Catholic. Praise God!

The next morning, I contacted Fr. Mainzer as well as Fr. Thomas Welk, one of the founders of Harry Hynes Hospice, which was caring for my father. Dad already knew quite a bit about the faith, so Fr. Welk brought him into the Church. It was the day before Lent. Father Mainzer visited several times after that, spoke to him about the faith, and arranged for him to receive Holy Communion every Sunday.

Dad and I started a prayer routine. He would pray an Our Father and a Hail Mary. I would pray Psalm 22, and then we would pray "Jesus, I trust in You" together. We did this several times each day.

Andy Beugelsdijk, a seminarian helping out at our parish, visited Dad and spoke to him about the Divine Mercy devotion. We prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet together at Dad's bedside. He also told him about Our Lady of Guadalupe, since her image was on the same wall as the Divine Mercy Image.

Dad was able to receive Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday. We did the Family Offering to Merciful Love from Fr. Michael Gaitley's book 33 Days to Merciful Love.

Dad became unresponsive on May 1, and then on May 2, his nurse told us he only had a few hours to live. I immediately called Fr. Mainzer and asked him to give Dad Last Rites. I tried to pray the Chaplet interspersed with "Jesus, I trust in You" while I waited and trusted Jesus to get Fr. Mainzer to Dad's bedside in time.

Father Mainzer arrived and administered the Anointing of the Sick with the Apostolic Pardon. Afterwards, I went back into Dad's room and began our prayer routine. He couldn't pray aloud, but I hoped he could hear me. I prayed his parts for him. When I got to the end of Psalm 22, Dad made a gasp. I called my brother into the room. It happened again, and Dad was gone.

God is so good and merciful. He kept Dad alive for those extra months to give him time for his conversion and to receive the Apostolic Pardon. Dad died on May 2, 2018, the first Wednesday of the month. I took this as a sign of St. Joseph's intercession.

For a long time, it bothered me a little that I hadn't finished our prayer routine. I hadn't prayed "Jesus, I trust in You" before he died. But now I realize that I didn't need to finish it. Dad was able to tell Jesus in person that he trusted Him.


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