CNA recently published a story about Gloria Strauss, a young girl whose struggle with cancer and her reliance on her Catholic faith during her illness is leading people to the faith.
Her short life also inspired the creation of an organization to reach out to families with a loved one facing a chronic illness. Today, we take a look at the stories of two families who have been touched by the efforts of Gloria’s Angels.
Gloria’s story begins with her being diagnosed at the age of six with a form of cancer called Neuroblastoma.
Amazingly, she witnessed to her Catholic faith constantly during her struggle with the disease.
Her father, Doug, told CNA that Gloria had a beautiful gift: she was able to draw people to Christ through her cancer. “She taught us all how to carry a cross. Her gift to us was her living example of her commitment to a relationship with God through constant prayer. She always said, “Yes.”
“From shots to sickness it always began and ended with the sign of the cross,” Doug continued. “Often doctors would have to stand and wait as she made the sign of the cross and prayed. Amazing to watch!”
It wasn’t just her actions that drew people to Christ. Doug recalled how everyone spoke of Gloria’s presence. “She had this presence that allowed people to want to be with her and pray for her.” Even at the age of seven, “she knew her calling to bring people to God through her cancer.”
After Gloria passed away on September 21, 2007, the Strausses, together with Seattle businessman Bob Turner, founded Gloria’s Angels to assist families in caring for their loved ones who are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.
Matt Miller was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at the end of February 2008, leading him and his wife KyAnne to ask the Lord for assistance.
When they first met with Gloria’s Angels, it was at a time when the family “couldn’t keep all the balls up in the air anymore,” KyAnne told CNA. With five children between the ages 26 and 6, including one with Autism, it was difficult for the Millers to keep up with meals, yard work, babysitting and chores around the house.
Gloria’s Angels stepped in to help the family optimize their ability to care for Matt.
“First off, they organized a meeting with our family and friends that were on an email group I had set up,” KyAnne explained. “They presented a template in a Power Point presentation” which “showed different areas of service that we needed including, yard work, housecleaning, meals, babysitting and especially prayer.”
“Within a very short period of time we had three meals a week being delivered, our yard and hedge whipped into shape, landscaping done by a man we didn't even know. It did Matt a world of good to see the yard looking so great. There were groceries delivered and babysitting outings that our kids thoroughly enjoyed,” she continued. “We had the Rosary being said for us by people we didn't even know.”
“Matt and I both feel Gloria's Angels is a blessing to the community. Our last year would have been so much harder to bear without them. All our family and friends who worked so faithfully and generously with Gloria's Angels felt blessed as well,” said KyAnne.
Matt Miller is now in remission and is planning on helping families through Gloria’s Angels in the future. “God truly heard our prayer that first day.... He prepared the way and sent us Gloria's Angels to see us through. May He continue to bless them!”
Another family who has benefited from the care of Gloria’s Angels is the Cardenas family.
Ron and Chrissy Cardenas’ four-year old daughter, Cora, had just been diagnosed with cancer and was preparing for surgery to have her left kidney removed along with the tumor. Following the operation, their daughter would then undergo chemotherapy treatments. Chrissy explains, “our whole world was turned upside down. We were in and out of the hospital for weeks.”
Through the help of Gloria’s Angels, the Cardenas were able to spend time with Cora, while a coordinator organized volunteers into support teams in charge of meals, yard maintenance, housekeeping services and family care. Additionally, a fundraiser was organized which attracted over 250 people and raised over $10,000.
“This was the most challenging time of our lives. To be connected with an organization who understood our situation, hesitation and needs better than we did and provided a working model to organize our loving family and friends to best serve us was a direct answer to prayers,” Chrissy said.
“This experience was an education in life and love. We are forever grateful to Gloria's Angels and all of our family and friends. My regret is that I did not have the pleasure of meeting Gloria Strauss personally. She is an extraordinary little lady I have come to know through the Angels and inspiration she has served to many. We think of her often, her photo is displayed in our home as a constant reminder there are angels among us.”
Cora Cardenas has now completed her chemo treatments and her cancer is in remission.
“We have created something truly revolutionary – capturing all of the goodness people have to offer, harnessing it in an efficient and effective way, and preventing any unwanted outcomes for those who serve,” explained Bob Turner.
“Some of our teams are as large as 65 people, all coming together for months at a time to serve the family and lift burdens from them. The shower of blessings is amazing, and often, because of our approach, no one person gets burned out or overwhelmed by it,” explained Turner.
Gloria’s Angels has already begun work in the Washington area, but plans to branch out across the United States. The organization has already served 26 families.
For more information about Gloria’s Angels, or the upcoming book on Gloria, visit: www.gloriasangels.org