'God makes miracles, I do not. I pray, these are mysteries'
Faith has cured her
March of 1978. Kay Kelly, living in Liverpool, Great Britain, learns that she has cancer. She has been married to Pat Kelly, docker, for fifteen years, and they have three children. Kay undergoes treatment in Clatterbridge hospital in Liverpool.
- I prayed to God to give me strength to accept what cannot be avoided, she recollects. - I knew other women who had had mastectomy and who could smile. I saw dying men who could smile. I prayed for my children, too. I thought it would be likely they could bear grudges against God and rebel against him, and I wanted to avoid that. I wanted them to get to know Christ and to know they are loved. I prayed to our Mother asking her to give me time. I needed time.
At the same time she learnt that some woman died in the neighbouring Manchester. She also suffered from cancer and she also collected a huge sum of money for that hospital where she was treated. She was called Pat Seed and unfortunately, the disease overcame her. Was Kay to share the same fate? There was much that indicated that. It was the Sunday of 11 March 1979. After having left hospital Kay knelt before the figure of Mary in her parish church. She prayed and looked at the statue. When she knelt she was very anxious and then, all of a sudden, she was calm. She did not know where from she got such a strong conviction that she was not to fear the terminal disease. And she did not understood completely why she was convinced that she would meet the Pope.
- How are you, Kay? asked the parish priest who passed by. - What are you planning in the near future?
- I am meeting the Pope soon, she said.
The priest looked at her with compassion. He thought she was out of her senses because of her disease. Meeting John Paul II? He knew that this new Pope from distant Poland was carrying out his ministry in a different way than his predecessor. But that did not mean that he met ordinary people, regardless how serious their healthy conditions were. Crowned heads, statesmen, the high and mighty of this world, indeed they could enter the Bronze Door to St Peter's. But anyone else? After she had returned home she had doubts. Was it only an illusion? Why would she have the chance to meet the Pope? He was elected only five months earlier, and surely he had million affairs to deal with, more important things than to cheer up some strange English woman.
A phone call dispelled all doubts. A representative of the Knights of Columbus phoned her to inform about the award she had received from this well-known Catholic charity. The Knights decided to appreciate Kay's efforts in collecting money for those who were treated for cancer. And the award was ... two air tickets to Rome to be use at once. The next day, together with her son David she was aboard the plane from Liverpool to Rome. Before the departure she was informed that Archbishop Derek Worlock of Liverpool, organised a semi-private meeting with the Pope after the general audience on Wednesday, 14 March. They arrived in Rome very late, on March 13. Their plane was delayed and landed in the Eternal City at 3.00 a.m. In the afternoon they went to St Peter's Square and then for tea (traditionally at 5 p.m.) to the Angelicum, the seminary for British priests who could not be trained in Great Britain after King Henry VIII had banned Catholicism. In the evening Kay went to Piazza Navona and admired the magnificent fountain by Bernini, with the figures symbolising four rivers: the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges and the Plate, which were sculptured by Bernini's disciples.
The next day a British seminarian came to their hotel and took them to the Vatican.
- Then I was not sure what the meeting with the Pope would look like - David Lowis recollects.
The rector of the seminary only told me that he hoped the Holy Father would meet Kay. They reached the gate leading to a little square on the left side of St Peter's basilica. There was the entrance to Paul VI's audience hall, which was designed by the well-known Italian architect Pier Luigi Nervi.
- At 12.15 the Holy Father began walking through the audience hall. A cannonade of flash lamps accompanied him. People were holding out their hands, the seminarian narrates. - It took him about thirty minutes to go through. I saw Kay sitting quietly in the part of the hall that was reserved for the sick. In the end the Holy Father spoke in Italian. I translated his words to Kay and David. Then he spoke in French, English, German and Spanish, and finally he asked the gathered people to sing Our Father. The audience was drawing to a close. The Pope left the podium and approached the sick. David Lowis saw that John Paul II was coming towards them. And here he stood in front of them!
- Holy Father, can I introduced Mrs Kay Kelly? the seminarian asked.
- Oh, Mrs Kelly from Liverpool, the Pope answered in English. - I have heard a lot about you. They talked for a while. The Pope signed his picture, which Kay had brought. It was for her son David. Then he hugged the English woman. He went on but he returned and came to her again.
- I am very proud of you. You are a wonderful mother, he said and left her. How did she experience that meeting?
- One needs a lot of courage to be very human and it seems to me that the Pope had that gift, she says.
- I felt that the meeting with the Holy Father was a turning point in my illness. His love and understanding created an atmosphere of joy, which embraced everybody and everything around. His smile reflected his inner peace and self-control. It was easy to talk to him. I was also struck that he did not mind the protocol. It was the Pope who showed that he was the shepherd of his people. Kay's stay in Rome lasted several hours. After the audience she flew home. She was taken to hospital again. The doctors who examined her were shocked. The cancer disappeared! There was no trace of the primary site of cancer and no signs of the metastases. The case caused a sensation and the news from England reached the Vatican as well. On the first occasion the journalists asked the Pope about that extraordinary healing.
It was her faith that cured her, the Holy Father stated.
'Her faith has cured her', Kay quotes the Pope's words after 26 years. - I can hear the voice of an old woman on the phone. She is older but she has the same will to fight as she had when nobody gave her any chance to recover.
- This happened a long time ago, she says, and for all those years I have tried to serve God. In what ways? She has collected dozen thousand pounds to support the work of Mother Teresa who founded a small convent of the Sisters of Charity in Liverpool. She also helped the dying who asked her to be with them at the moment of their deaths.
- I prayed for them, believing that life has no end, that there is only eternity where people go to God, Kay says. - I sent two young people to Paris, too. They both had cancer and both departed from their faith. They came back completely changed. They were converted before their deaths. This is a real miracle. People say: Kay, you have been cured, this is a miracle. And I say: a miracle happens when life changes.