With a Statue in Her Arms and Tales to Tell

In Michael O'Brien's novel Eclipse of the Sun, Cecilia Manyberries is an ordinary woman with a Red Flyer wagon bearing a statue of Our Lady. She walks the streets of Vancouver in Canada, praying for the city and the world, handing out rosaries and miraculous medals to anyone who will take them - insignificant according to earthly calculations, but mighty in the eyes of the Lord.

Wish such a person really existed? Then you should meet Judy Studer.

Judy Studer is a nurse, a mother and grandmother, an Irish-American, and a Catholic living with her husband in Rhode Island. She's a Marian Helper and a member of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. She's also the custodian of the United Nations Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

"It's called the United Nations Statue because it stood in the U.N. Meditation Room on Dec. 8, 1952, the feast of Mary's Immaculate Conception," Judy explained during a visit last month to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. "On that day, hundreds of people in the U.N. prayed for world peace. And my prayer is that, one day, the statue will be able to go back to the U.N."

Judy's devotion to Our Lady of Fatima began when she was diagnosed many years ago with terminal cancer.

"The doctors told me I had six months to live. My mom phoned me up one day and said, 'The U.N. statue of Our Lady of Fatima is coming to the cathedral. We have to go and pray that Mary will have Jesus heal you.' I said, 'Mom, the doctors told me six months.' She said, 'You can say no to me, but you can't say no to our Blessed Mother.'"

So Judy got her mother, went to the cathedral, and prayed.

"I said, 'If I'm healed, I promise I will spread devotion to you and your Rosary for the rest of my life.' I went to my doctor for tests a couple of weeks later. He called me up and said, 'You have to have your tests taken all over again.' Then he called me to his office and said, 'I can't explain it. All your tests have come up totally clean. You're cancer free.' I was so excited! I said, 'Our Lady did it!' I've been cancer free since."

Judy became a member of the Rhode Island Division of the World Apostolate of Fatima (formerly known as the Blue Army), the keepers of the U.N. statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

"Ten years ago, I was going to have the statue for one month," Judy said. In October, while the statue was with Judy, there was a fire in W.A.F. national headquarters in Washington, N.J. "They called and said, 'You can't bring it back. No one is allowed on the grounds because the building may be unsafe.' So I said, 'Okay, I'll keep it for a little bit. What am I supposed to do with it?' They said, 'Bring it wherever you can.'"

So she did.

At the end of that month, Judy met a priest from the Diocese of Fall River in Massachusetts, so she visited that diocese - with the statue. "Then I met a priest from the Springfield diocese, and he happened to be the vocations director, so I went to the Springfield diocese," she says.

"Then spring came, and I thought, 'I better call the Shrine. I can't be making plans with the statue. They want it back.' So I called them up and they said, 'Would you like to be the custodian?' The custodian who had it before me was no longer going to be a custodian. He was old and his health was failing. I said, 'Well, you know, I work as a nurse.' They said, 'You can bring her wherever you want.'"

Now, Judy travels the world, taking the statue wherever it's welcomed.

"The furthest I've been is India," said Judy. "I've been to Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and many states in the U.S."

And many lives have been changed as a result.

One time, the statue was set up in a parish church, and Judy was standing by to answer questions. "This young girl came up to me," Judy said. "She said, 'I don't know why I'm even in this church - I don't go to church. I'm a prostitute, a drug addict. I want to stop, but I don't know.'

"I said, 'It's difficult. I know - I work as a nurse and see it all the time. Ask Mary. Mary can help you.' The girl had come from an addicted family, and she was thrown out when she was only 16. She was 19 when she was talking to me. I said, 'We're going to get you some help.' I talked to her about Mary and prayer. I said, 'Just say, Mary, help me. Jesus and Mary, help me. Just the name of our Lord and Our Lady alone is a prayer. They may not work miracles overnight, though they can. The first thing you need is to go for rehab. That'll be a tough road. Let me go talk to someone.'

"I went and I talked to the pastor," Judy continued. "He knew places you could go. He came in and talked with her. She'd never been to confession. She'd been raised a Catholic when she was little. So then I said, 'You know the best thing is to go to confession. No matter what you've done, no matter how often you've done it, Jesus will forgive you. Just say, I'm sorry, Lord.' She said, 'I'm not going to tell a man. Men have done horrible things to me.' I said, 'Don't see a priest when you're in the confessional. Close your eyes and see Jesus. It's our Lord we make our confession to. Tell Jesus you're sorry.'

"She went in and, a while later, came out crying. She said, 'I never felt so peaceful in all my life.' Father did get her into rehab. We're still in touch. She said that she was still doing good, she had met somebody who wasn't into drugs. He was a Catholic who practiced his faith. They hoped they could get married. He had accepted her, and her past was gone. She said she still remembered the day she walked into a church."

Judy continued, "One day, a man who was unemployed for two years came in the morning to pray to Our Lady. He was going for an interview for a job. He had had many emotional problems from not being able to feed his family. He came back in the afternoon. He'd found a job.

"A drug addict who wouldn't go for rehab, came and listened," she went on. "He didn't know why he'd come into the church with the statue. He hadn't been to church since he was a little kid. He told his mother he would go for rehab. He did go for rehab, and I heard from him a couple months later. He was kicking the habit of drugs he had had for years."

"Oh, I could go on about the beautiful things Our Lady has done!"

For more information about the pilgrim statue, including how to request a visit to your parish, go to thefatimastatue.org.

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