Eighteen years ago, I left my family, most of my heart’s desires and a life in Los Angeles to become a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word. My only intentions and motivations were to give up everything to follow Jesus Christ in the way of St. Francis of Assisi. Little did I know that God would give me several of my heart’s desires. The most special among them are the sisters and daughter I wanted. Three saints interceded and intervened to make this happen.
On May 4 1968, my parents’ first child, a baby girl was stillborn. While growing up, my dad, mom, brother and I always visited her grave for her birthday and holidays. We knew she was with us and prayed for us. This made me wonder how life would be with sisters. I wanted them but my mother couldn’t have more children. A few years before I entered religious life, my mom asked me to give her a granddaughter. I wanted to give her one and wanted a daughter too, but God had other plans.
Throughout the years I’ve been blessed with many amazing female saint and spiritual sisters, and spiritual daughters. About 16 years ago I was given a first-class relic of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Theresa of the Child Jesus (a.k.a. St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Theresa the Little Flower). These two holy women also became my sisters. I relied heavily on their intercession when my mother passed, during my seminary years and my early years of priesthood. Over time, I forgot about their relics and did not ask for their prayers as often. Three or four years ago, I was given a first-class relic of St. Bernadette and eventually forgot that I had it as well.
In January of 2018, I frequently visited my good friend Mary’s sick child, Isaac in the hospital. She was always accompanied by her younger sister, Ann. At one of the visits while speaking with her, I thought to myself, “Wow, I’m old enough to be her father. She would make a wonderful daughter; I’d like her to be my daughter.” I had never thought about anyone in that way. The three of us quickly bonded. They soon started to call me their big brother. I kept the part about wanting Ann as my daughter a secret. Our relationship strengthened much through the years. They feel like real sisters and Ann a daughter too. Both are bright, kind, generous, gracious, and a little silly. What amazes me is they have similar personality traits and mannerisms of my deceased mother. I’m grateful to God for them. I sometimes wondered how this happened. The Lord answered!
A few months ago, Fr. John Paul and I were visiting a family. They showed us their relic collection. It made me think of my forgotten relics of Saints Catherine and Theresa. At that moment I realized that had I forgotten them, but they did not forget me. They gave me my new sisters, Mary and Ann. I immediately remembered that Mary’s middle name is Catherine and Ann’s is Theresa. This revelation astounded me! Then I prayed and thanked God but said to Him, “You’ve given me sisters, but what about Ann and my sentiments of her being a daughter?” Three days later, I found a small box in my room. I opened it and inside was the first-class relic of St. Bernadette. Then I remembered, Ann’s confirmation name is Bernadette! I’m so thankful to God, St. Catherine, St. Theresa and St. Bernadette for giving me these lovely women I’m proud to call my sisters and Ann a daughter. Through the intercession of the three saints the Lord gave me my heart’s desires of having sisters and a daughter. I think my mom and sister living in eternity were involved in this too. Praise the Lord!
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:29). The Lord is faithful! He keeps his promises and answers our prayers in ways we never expect.
-Fr. Leonard Mary, MFVA