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Novena helps cancer survivors

Posted By February 2, 2012 | 1:27 pm | Lead Story #3
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By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

NORTHBOROUGH – Eve Lindquist was diagnosed with a rare form of intestinal cancer.
She endured six surgeries and 27 courses of radiation.
In February of 2006, she and her husband, Russell, attended the Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes and Saint Bernadette, held each year at St. Bernadette Parish.
“We prayed for a total healing, and it happened,” she recalled.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the novena, named after Our Blessed Mother’s apparition in Lourdes, France to Saint Bernadette Soubirous. Lourdes is now a famous Catholic pilgrimage site.
Many favors have been granted to the faithful who come to pray at St. Bernadette Parish each February, according to pastor Father Stephen M. Gemme. He said people travel to the novena from all around the Worcester Diocese and also from the neighboring Archdiocese of Boston.
Following the novena, Mrs. Lindquist started to feel much better. She regained her strength. She felt healthy again.
At the end of 2006, she told her husband she wanted to go back to work. Soon after, she found a position as executive director of Visitation House in Worcester, a home for pregnant women in crisis.
“It’s a miracle,” she said about her recovery and her job of helping women in need. “The Blessed Mother sent me to this house.”
The position is demanding and the hours are long. Yet, Mrs. Lindquist, 67, despite being so sick at one point, is up to the task.
“I’m completely healed,” she noted.
Mrs. Lindquist is acutely aware of the power of prayer, which can bring dramatic healing.
Before her diagnosis, she worked at St. Paul Cathedral’s rectory, preparing meals for seven priests, including Bishop Emeritus Reilly. All of them, she said, were praying for her.
The Lindquists also went to the Our Lady of Lourdes novena at St. Bernadette, which is their parish, prior to the cancer diagnosis. Now, though, they don’t miss a year.
Mr. Lindquist goes each of the nine nights. Mrs. Lindquist does too, unless she’s out of town. Even then, she still prays the novena from a prayer booklet.
Kathleen McShane, another member of St. Bernadette’s, also had cancer. It came as a shock, during a routine visit to her dentist five years ago.
“I don’t like the look of that tooth,” she was told.
Mrs. McShane has endured a grueling schedule of five surgeries, in an attempt to keep her cancer at bay.
When we spoke, she’d recently had another procedure. But it was successful, she reported.
“I don’t have it anymore,” she said. “I have no cancer right now.”
Because the cancer was in her mouth, surgeons have removed part of her jaw. This has affected her speech. She also has no salivary glands, requiring her to always have water on hand.
For Mrs. McShane, life has changed. She was once a lector at St. Bernadette’s. She was very involved in different ministries. No longer able to drive, she depends on friends from church to take her to Mass. She is no longer able to attend the annual March for Life in Washington, DC.
Yet, Mrs. McShane realizes she’s also incredibly fortunate.
“I’m grateful to be alive,” she said.
“Yes, I would never stop thanking God for my blessings,” she added. “Never.”
Father Gemme said the Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes and Saint Bernadette has evolved in its 20 years of existence. Originally, it was more of a local event, with the pastor of the parish preaching for nine nights.
Now, this year, each of the nine nights will feature a different speaker. Bishop McManus will open the novena on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. Bishop Emeritus Daniel P. Reilly will close the novena on Feb. 18. Both bishops will offer Mass on those nights.
On Feb. 18, the church will be adorned with visible proof of the power of prayer.
“On the last night of the novena, people will bring a yellow rose if they feel their prayer has been answered and also to honor Our Lady, and many people bring flowers forward during the last night, and the entire sanctuary of the Church will be filled with yellow roses,” said Father Gemme.