Blog Post

Baltimore Archdiocese to Investigate Miraculous Healing

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer The Archdiocese of Baltimore is investigating the miraculous recovery of an Annapolis woman who was healed of cancer that had spread throughout her body after praying a novena to Blessed Francis X. Seelos. According to an article appearing in the Archdiocese’s newspaper, The Catholic Review Online, Mary Ellen Heibel, 71, was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus in 2003. The cancer spread to a lymph node and then throughout her body. On May 11, 2004, doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC sent her home, saying she had about six months to live. A friend suggested she pray a novena to Blessed Francis X. Seelos, a 19th century Redemptorist  pastor of her parish who died of yellow fever  in 1867. A week after she began the novena, her cancer disappeared. The tumors in both lungs, on her liver, back and sternum had all disappeared. “I was just so excited. I called everyone,” the mother of four remembered. “I never thought in a million years this would happen.” Her doctors do not believe the healing is due to any chemotherapy she may have had. Heibel is convinced that Blessed Seelos interceded on her behalf. “I know this had to be a miracle,” she said. Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien opened an archdiocesan inquiry into the alleged healing with a May 19 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. The archbishop also appointed a group to investigate the case and listen to testimony from Heibel, her doctors, and other witnesses. The commission’s findings will be sent to Father Antonio Marrazzo, Redemptorist postulator general in Rome, who will then take them to the Vatican’s Congregation of the Causes of Saints. If the healing is deemed miraculous, Blessed Seelos could be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI. Redemptorist Father John Kingsbury, pastor of Heibel’s parish, St. Mary’s in Annapolis, said the possible healing is a “major breakthrough” in the canonization effort. The first for Blessed Seelos was recognized when Pope John Paul II beatified the German Redemptorist in 2000. The second miracle needed for canonization could be the Heibel case. “We’re very happy that the archbishop has opened the investigation,” Father Kingsbury told The Review. “I’m glad Mary Ellen was healed no matter what – and, if it’s Seelos and it helps his cause, it would be wonderful.” Blessed Seelos was born in 1819 in Bavaria and came to the United States in 1843 to minister to German-speaking immigrants. Blessed Seelos was eventually named as pastor of St. Mary in Annapolis and novice master for Redemptorist seminarians in 1857.  During the Civil War, Blessed Seelos visited President Abraham Lincoln in an effort to exempt seminarians from the draft. Because only priests could be exempt, Blessed Seelos arranged for Archbishop Francis Patrick Kenrick to ordain all 20 seminarians. Blessed Seelos worked in Detroit in 1865 and then was reassigned to New Orleans a year later, where he worked for 13 months before dying at age 48 after ministering to victims of the yellow fever outbreak. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.