Pennsylvania man’s miraculous healing will canonize Italian priest

William Glisson Jr Courtesy of Sarah Webb The Catholic Standard and Times CNA US Catholic News 10 7 11 William Glisson Jr. - Courtesy of Sarah Webb, The Catholic Standard and Times

A Pennsylvania man says his miraculous healing shows God's outreach to those who seem far from their faith. The healing is credited to Blessed Louis Guanella, the Servants of Charity founder who will be canonized Oct. 23.

“It’s pretty amazing, obviously. I never thought this was anything I’d ever be involved with,” Springfeld resident William Glisson, Jr. told CNA on Oct. 6.

In March 2002, while rollerblading backwards on a busy commercial street, Glisson tripped and flew in the air, landing on the back of his head.

Glisson, who was 21 at the time, went into a coma and was expected to suffer permanent brain damage if he survived. He underwent five surgeries, including two to replace pieces of his skull.

But Glisson made a full recovery after a family friend organized prayers to Fr. Guanella, with the help of local members of the Servants of Charity as well as residents and students of the Don Guanella Village for those with developmental disabilities.

Only three months after his accident, Glisson was back to work at his family's home repair business.

“It happened due to the prayers of mostly men at the Don Guanella school while I was in my coma –  men who didn’t know me or anything like that were praying for me,” Glisson recalled.

“And then their prayers were answered, and I was helped and I recovered.”

Participants in the prayer campaign used two relics of Fr. Louis Guanella and asked the late priest to intercede with God for their intention, according to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Father Denis Weber, S.C., now the local superior of the Servants of Charity, was administrator of the Don Guanella house at the time.

He told CNA that a former staff member, a friend of the Glisson family, contacted the house and asked for prayers after the accident.

“So we began praying for him, within the community, as well as with our residents,” Fr. Weber said in an Oct. 5 interview. “We prayed the Rosary each day with our residents, and we included this intention in praying for his recovery.”

Glisson is grateful for the prayers that helped give him back his life.

“I can’t believe that these men were willing to take the time out to pray for me, and the fact that it worked,” he said.

The 30-year-old man said he grew up in a Catholic household, but had not practiced his faith consistently. “I never said my prayers at night before bed or anything like that,” he recalled.

“But due to the prayers of other people, while I was in my coma … I was chosen because of their prayers to get better, which just shows you that anybody can be saved by God.”

“It doesn’t matter who you are. You don’t have to be a priest or the president or someone high up or anything like that. God chooses you. It’s his choice, and that’s what he did for me.”

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“Now I’m just looking for the reason why I got a second chance,” Glisson reflected.

He may want to look to the example of the man credited with his healing.

Bl. Louis Guanella was born in Italy's Southern Alps during 1842. He became a priest and founded two orders – the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence and the Servants of Charity – to serve the poor and others abandoned by society.

The orders’ ministry revolves around care for the developmentally disabled, support for the elderly, and care for children from difficult backgrounds.

“Wherever there was any need,” Fr. Denis Weber recalled, “Fr. Guanella wanted to be present, to serve those who are marginalized, those who were seen as less by society.”

The priest said his order's founder “believed in the dignity of each and every person.” Fr. Guanella died on Oct. 24, 1915 and was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1964.

Fr. Weber also stressed that the soon-to-be saint had “great trust and belief in the providence of God. God is a father, and we are his children. God is a God of love who loves all his children and wants to care for and protect them.”

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In November 2009 the medical commission of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints said there were no scientific, natural or medical reasons for Glisson’s cure. In January 2010 the Pontifical Theological Commission affirmed that the healing took place through Bl. Louis Guanella’s intercession.

The local superior of the Servants of Charity feels excited to be involved in a miracle credited to the founder of his community.

“This is a great day for the Church, for the Servants of Charity, for the Guanellian family, but also for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which has experienced some difficulties here recently,” Fr. Weber observed.

He said it had been overwhelming for Glisson to have to relive a “terrible accident,” for the sake of the process to find out whether a miracle took place.

“But he’s been very open in talking to others,” the priest said.

For his part, Glisson is looking forward to the trip to Rome, where Pope Benedict XVI will declare Fr. Louis Guanella a saint of the universal Church. The Springfield resident says he's “never been anywhere before,” making this unusual journal a “very exciting first trip out of the country.”

Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntyre will join the delegation to Rome, representing Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

Bishop Robert P. Maginnis, a retired auxiliary bishop of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, will celebrate and preach at a Mass for St. Louis Guanella’s feast day on Oct. 24. The Mass will take place at the Cardinal Krol Center at Don Guanella Village in Springfield, Pennsylvania.

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