A desperate prayer by Maureen Digan, pictured, to Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska 35 years ago changed everything, restoring health to Digan and putting the sister on the path to sainthood. Photo by Tony Gosgnach

Breaking down walls: prayer to Sr. Faustina brings healing, sainthood

By  Tony Gosgnach, Catholic Register Special
  • October 14, 2016

HAMILTON, ONT. – After a decade of suffering and personal tragedy, the last thing Maureen Digan had come to expect was a miracle.

A desperate prayer to Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska 35 years ago changed everything, restoring health to Digan and putting the sister on the path to sainthood.

Kowalska, a Polish nun who died in 1938, was canonized on April 30, 2000 after being credited with two miracles, one on behalf of Digan. With her husband Bob, Digan recently spoke about her healing to a crowd at St. Eugene’s parish in Hamilton, recounting what happened after she prayed at then-Sr. Faustina’s tomb near Krakow, Poland, in 1981.

But first, she recalled her history of having been raised in a strongly Catholic home and living a normal life until the age of 15. It was then that she experienced the onset of Milroy’s disease, an incurable and progressive malady.

Over 10 years, Digan underwent more than 50 medical procedures to deal with the condition and at one point was hospitalized continuously for over a year. That prompted her to “build a wall” around herself and withdraw from friends. “I stopped praying, I stopped going to Mass. I didn’t receive Communion. I didn’t need God, I thought.”

She did, however, continue to see her husband-to-be Bob, a U.S. Marine who would visit her on weekends when he was on leave. Despite his support, the trauma of her medical challenges — eventually including amputation of one of her legs — caused her to entertain thoughts of suicide many times.

Although enveloped in dark thoughts, and experiencing a serious deterioration in her remaining leg, Digan accepted Bob’s marriage proposal. But another blow came afterward, when she was told she would not be able to have children.

A miracle seemed to have happened when she became pregnant shortly after marriage, but the couple lost the unborn child five months into the pregnancy. That further hardened Digan’s resolve not to let God back into her life.

She became pregnant again shortly afterward and, this time, successfully brought the baby to term. However, Bobby was born with brain damage and came to experience regular seizures.

Through it all, recalled Digan, Bob was their “Rock of Gibraltar,” praying always and never wavering in his faith. Bob felt a call to bring his wife and son to Poland for two healings and connected with a priest in Stockbridge, Mass., Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, to bring this about.

Meanwhile, she received further bad news with the diagnosis her remaining leg would have to be amputated. The family, with Michalenko, flew to Poland in March 1981 and prayed in the chapel at then-Sr. Faustina’s tomb.

“I started the Creed and I thought I heard Sr. Faustina say in my heart … ‘If you want something, then just ask me.’ Very sweetly. And I said very sarcastically … ‘Okay, you dragged me this far from home. If you’re going to do something, then do it now.’”

She felt something almost immediately. “I knew something had happened to my leg only because the swelling was going down ….”

Returning to her hotel room from the chapel, Digan examined her leg and found “it looked normal,” like it did even before she came down with Milroy’s disease. Meanwhile, Bobby was uncharacteristically sitting up in his specialized wheelchair.

It took a couple of weeks before Digan could accept her healing and the improvement in her son.

About five years later, her healing was investigated by doctors on behalf of the Vatican who confirmed there was no medical explanation for it, setting the stage for it to be used in the cause of St. Faustina’s sainthood.

Now a woman of great faith, Digan is able to see how different life is “when you’re able to accept the Lord into your life.” Their son was able to get out of his wheelchair and learn to run and also won gold and silver medals in Special Olympics competitions.

Tragically, however, surgeons during a later operation accidentally cut a nerve in Bobby’s spine, causing a rapid deterioration in his health and his eventual death at the age of 18. Even then, Digan was able to say that, “Sr. Faustina has asked the Blessed Mother to come and get Bobby and carry him into Heaven.”

(Gosgnach is a freelance writer in Hamilton, Ont.)

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