Divine Word Missionaries blog will share some of the latest mission updates from around the world. The more than 6,000 Divine Word Missionaries are serving in 84 countries with a variety of provinces/regions that are then grouped into four zones, namely, the European zone (EUROPA), the Pan-American zone (PANAM), the Asia-Pacific zone (ASPAC), and the Africa-Madagascar zone (AFRAM). The zones may work as geographical sub-zones wherever this seems suitable. Check back often for real-time stories from the missions.
What is the Miracle?
Sep 24, 2018
We received a lot of comments about the article on Father Dennis Callan SVD that ran in the Spring 2018 issue of Divine Word Missionaries Mission Update magazine. You may recall that Fr. Dennis was serving as a missionary to South Korea when he was diagnosed with liver disease. After returning to the United States for treatment, Fr. Dennis was stunned to learn he would need a liver transplant. He received the transplant in July 2017. Hospital staff referred to his rapid recovery as a miracle.
We got in touch with Fr. Dennis, and he offered to write a spiritual reflection on his experience. We are proud to present his words:
I understand that people are amazed at the successful liver transplant that I received on July 12, 2017. Many people from all over the world, many known and many unknown, prayed for me while I was sick and asked the Lord to heal me. In addition, Chris Moore with his wife, Heidi, and family came to my aid with their prayers and a generous gift of courage and love, the gift of life. Chris Moore gave me a portion of his liver. All of this I deeply appreciate; the love of so many people emotionally moved me. I certainly believe that the prayers along with that special gift of life helped me. However, there is more!
The possibility of a liver transplant is the result of the wonders of the developments of modern medicine. Medical professionals use their God-given talents to practice medicine and help people to live longer and healthier lives. Undoubtedly, the developments in medicine are an extension of God’s healing presence in the world. Yet, one thing that stuck in my mind is what the doctors told me before the operation. Doctors always tell their transplant patients that most transplant patients die from illnesses not related to their transplants.
Despite the advancement of modern medicine, people still die. Lazarus, whom Jesus called out from the tomb, certainly died later. Others whom Jesus cured also certainly died. Due to the type of cirrhosis I had (autoimmune system malfunction), I am at higher risk for rejection of the transplanted liver and thus the possibility of my death remains. Death comes to us all.
For me, the real miracle is not that I had a successful liver transplant and am still among the living.
What is the miracle?
You may wonder if I ever got upset or angry knowing that I was sick and dying. The nurse who accompanied me during my first of many appointments with the liver specialist certainly remembers that the first trip to the doctor’s office and the return trip from the doctor’s office were different. The drive back to the Divine Word Residence in Techny, Illinois, was deafeningly quiet. I was silent and staring out the car window. The doctor’s stunning words had led to silence and emptiness in the face of God.
That silence and emptiness in the face of God soon brought forth grace.
In facing the possibility of death, I took stock of my life. Taking stock in the presence of God led me to see and understand clearly that despite all my sins, limitations, hesitations and stubbornness, God touched my entire life with an unfathomable love that I previously was unaware. Despite whatever I was thinking, feeling, doing or not doing, God was always present leading me in ways that were beneficial. I saw that God placed people, both liked and disliked, in my life who were instrumental in moving me in the right direction. I know that God’s providential and unfathomable love is a fundamental tenet of our faith. However, this was more than saying, “God writes straight with crooked lines.” In facing my imminent death, God touched my life with love and once again filled my heart with overwhelming love and compassion as a beloved son.
People from all over the world, many whom I do not know, prayed for my health and recovery. This was a moving experience, and I once again realized how blessed I am to share in the work of Christ as a religious missionary priest. Moreover, it deepened my experience of God’s love for the world. God’s love is equally intense, profound and unfathomable for all! God’s love moves not only mountains but also the world.
In addition to the prayers and support I received from people both near and far, I also experienced what is known as the “Communion of the Saints.” Many of the deceased members of my family and religious community were praying for my soul. I know that our Blessed Mother interceded before the Lord for my soul too. The week I was originally scheduled to participate in a pilgrimage to Lourdes in May of 2017, the transplant team confirmed that my donor was a match and they informed me that the suspected markings on my liver MRI were not cancer.
The unfathomable providence of God’s love is a reality in our lives, even in the seemingly mundane, especially in the most difficult and challenging of times. Knowing this brings about a powerful change in life. It brings about a peaceful ease trusting in God’s providence.
So what is the miracle? I am glad, I rejoice, that I was sick and dying! In facing death, I glimpsed the face of God who loves all of us! This miracle is not about me; it is about God and the glory of God. It is not about God hearing and answering our prayers; it is about us hearing God and responding to God who is always close to us.
“With God by our side … O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)