A road trip with an unexpected bonus

Above, Josefina Lacap (second from right) stands tall with her family in the Shrine Church on Apr. 30, where she was blessed with the relic of St. Faustina.

By Dr. Joe McAleer

The pandemic was especially difficult for Roland Lacap of Winnetka, California. Three or four times a year, the engineer would travel to the East Coast on business, and always made time to visit his elderly mother, Josefina. 

COVID-19 changed all that, and talking on the phone for over two years just wasn’t the same.

“My mom is 85 and lives with my sister in New Jersey,” Roland explains. “She never complains, and I had no idea how bad her health had become.” Josefina had trouble standing and walking, with severe pain in her knees and back. 

So when pandemic restrictions were lifted this year, Roland seized the chance to head East and visit his mom. A bonus was attending Divine Mercy Sunday on April 24 at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, open to pilgrims for the first time in three years.

Divine Mercy family
Roland’s wife of 26 years, Maria Teresa, had discovered the “Explaining the Faith” talks on YouTube by Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, and became an avid follower, even signing up as a Marian Helper. Roland joined in, as did their four children, after praying the Rosary and Chaplet together. 

“We are a Divine Mercy family,” Roland says, adding, “We’re Filipinos. As Fr. Chris says, Filipinos are the messengers of Divine Mercy. First Poland, and then the Philippines!” They knew they had to visit the National Shrine one day, which had become so familiar from watching daily Mass online and Fr. Chris’ “Explaining the Faith” Saturday talks.

Roland and Maria Teresa arranged to meet Josefina in Stockbridge, brought there by her other son, Camilo Jr., and his wife, Jeanette. Their main reason for visiting was to give thanks for the safe return of Roland’s nephew, an officer in the U.S. Navy who had been helping with relief efforts in Ukraine, and for all men and women in uniform.

“I was surprised when I saw my mom in the hotel,” Roland admits. “She was very weak, and could not stand. I had a heavy heart whether to have her come to the Shrine, but she insisted.”

The family did not have a handicap permit for their vehicle, so they parked at the far end of the lot. Josefina had to use a wheelchair to navigate the distance, mostly uphill, from the parking lot to the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine for the afternoon Mass. Father Chris was the celebrant. 

Roland sat with his mom in the special section reserved for disabled pilgrims. 

Roland Lacap wheels his mother, Josefina, past the information tent staffed by Robin and Richard Paolini on Divine Mercy Sunday, Apr. 24.

Something miraculous
After the consecration, something miraculous happened — in addition to the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, of course. 

Josefina stood up.

“My mom said, ‘I can do this. The pain is gone,’” Roland recalls. “I was a doubting Thomas. I thought she would fall all of a sudden. But she was okay. And she could walk on her own. It was a miracle.”

That night, from her hotel room, Josefina called her son. “She told me, ‘My legs are getting stronger. I can walk by myself now. Praise the Lord!’ She is 100-percent convinced this is a miracle.”

Josefina’s apparent healing is even more remarkable as doctors had told her four years ago she would need knee surgery. She declined, even though it meant increasing pain, extending up into her lower back. Regular cortisone shots offered some relief, but her ability to walk diminished.

Roland recalled something Fr. Chris said in his homily: “God has you here for a purpose. God has you here for a reason.”

Ready to help
Roland and his family members were so amazed, they returned to Eden Hill the following weekend to give thanks and attend Mass, receiving a blessing with the relic of St. Faustina. This time, Josefina left her wheelchair behind. 

“We were not expecting a healing,” Roland admits, “but God is merciful. Just like in the Image, Jesus is walking toward you, ready to help. This is truly the message of Divine Mercy.” 
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