By William T. Clew
HOLDEN – The grand-nephew of a Holden couple was blessed Saturday by Pope Francis before he celebrated Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.
Conall Harvey, 5, was asleep, and stayed asleep, in his wheelchair when the Holy Father placed his hand on the youngster’s head, his great aunt Eileen McCorkle said.
Mrs. McCorkle said she and her husband Jim, parishioners of St. Mary Parish in the Jefferson section of Holden, didn’t see the event on television, but their niece and nephew-in-law, Christin and John Harvey of Havertown, Penn., emailed pictures to them.
She said she and her husband learned about what happened when a niece sent an email message that said the pope just blessed Conall.
Mrs. McCorkle said that Conall’s parents got tickets to attend the pope’s Mass in the basilica cathedral from their parish priest at St. Denis Parish. She said she didn’t know whether the Harveys’ other children, Ryan, 13; Owen, 11, and Maive, 8, also were there.
She said security personnel moved Conall and his parents twice, the second time putting them in the first row of pews in front of the altar.
When the pope came out onto the altar he walked over to Conall and placed his hand on the youngster’s head, she said. Conall slept through it all.
Well he might. Conall has had a rough time in recent months. On St. Patrick’s Day, Mrs. McCorkle said, he was at home with a fever. His mother took him to Children’s Hospital, where doctors began treating him for pneumonia.
He then developed an infection which turned septic and required treatment with antibiotics. Then, she said, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He underwent 30 treatments, 21/2 hours each, in a hyperbaric chamber, where the patient breathes oxygen under two atmospheres of pressure.
The infection persisted and Conall eventually underwent amputation of both legs below the knees, the fingers of his right hand to the first joints and part of his left thumb, Mrs. McCorkle said. It will be a while before he can be fitted with prosthesese for his legs, she said.
He also is undergoing chemotherapy treatments, which will continue for 31/2 years, she said.
Conall’s family recently took part in a fund-raiser for the fight against leukemia. They called their part of the fund-raiser “Conall Strong.” Mrs. McCorkle said they raised $28,000.
Parishioners at St. Mary’s have been praying for the boy, according to Marcia Grimes of Holden.