A Woman of Great Faith
The Gospel for this Sunday mass, Matthew 15: 21-28, is about the great faith of a Canaanite woman. We reflected on the wobbling faith of the disciples last week but this week, we have a great witness to faith in Jesus by a woman who is considered an outsider, a non-Jewish who had no close contact with Jesus as his close disciples had. The Canaanite woman’s prayer of faith is an inspiration for us to pray without ceasing and with trust in God’s love for us.
We still have in our time stories of great women and men of faith. Jessica Schwanger, who was received last week into full communion with the Catholic church is an example of such faith I want to share with the parish this week. Here is Jessica’s amazing account of her faith journey to the Catholic faith: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I grew up with religion in my life. My father's side of the family is Mennonite and my mother's side is Catholic. My parents raised us as non-denominational Christians. But I went to all 3 churches over the years. I settled in as a Brethren in 2011, baptized in 2015. I am even a worship leader at a local church. Pause here, back up to 2008. I was diagnosed with a very rare autoimmune disease that is also cancer due to the way it spreads. It was in my lungs. I needed surgery after surgery and oxygen to stay alive. I needed a miracle. I needed God. My family has always prayed for me and they were asking Mary to help us, they sent me a Miraculous Medal. I wore it every day. Not even really knowing Mary but feeling a closeness to her that I couldn't understand at the time. After almost 50 lung and 3 heart surgeries in May of 2015, I received a double lung transplant. I was in a coma for 5 days. My first memory is my aunt at my bedside with a set of beads and she tells me all about Padre Pio and how they were asking him to help and then BAM! I got the lungs. God blessed me with a miracle. Life was going very well. I went to Philadelphia and saw the Miraculous Shrine for Mary. Oh, it's so beautiful. If you haven't seen it I highly recommend the trip. Then cancer struck again. My brother, who lived in Italy at the time told me if I beat cancer again he would take me anywhere in the world I wanted to go. The plan was for me to fly to Italy and see the Amalfi Coast and then go wherever I wanted to go. First, we had to see the town Padre Pio grew up in. So we went there. I prayed and cried. Then we saw the Vatican. I am not catholic but I have always loved the Pope so, why not..... then we fly to Israel and see all the places Jesus walked. When we got to Mary's grave I walked down the steps and got to a picture of her and cried just like when I went to see Pio. I still didn't understand why these people were touching me so much. After all my pilgrimage was about getting to know Jesus. I spent just over a week in each country and came home. After I got home nothing felt quite right. I was left searching for all the things I had left overseas... I missed Mary, how I didn't even know Mary. And I was having dreams of myself walking with Padre Pio. So I talked to my family and some friends about what it meant to be a catholic. What it could look like for me? My aunt suggested that I take the RCIA class to help me figure it out. It was extremely helpful! As you all see I am now catholic. And loving it!!! If you have any questions feel free to ask me sometime. Just remember with being a transplant patient I have to stay in a bubble. Social distancing is always a good idea. Have a blessed week!!! Jessica
Fr. Bernard Oniwe, OP