Updated: April 12, 2013 at 12:00 am
The sudden healing of a 4-year-old Colorado Springs boy in 1999 after two nuns prayed for the founding Mother of their order to intercede has been ruled a miracle by the Vatican.
The sisters of Mount St. Francis learned recently that Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel, foundress of the order, would be beatified because of the miracle.
Bonzel founded the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in 1863 in Olpe, Germany. She died in 1905, at age 74.
“It’s really just overwhelming,” said Jan Burgie, who had asked two sisters at Mount St. Francis in northwest Colorado Springs to pray for her son. “We were doubly blessed, with the healing and a lifelong friendship.”
Someone who is beatified earns the title “blessed.” It’s one step away from sainthood.
“God can make saints any time He wants to,” said Sister Nadine Heimann, provincial/president. “We’re very humbled.”
In September 1998, Luke Burgie fell ill with persistent diarrhea. His doctor thought he was suffering from rotavirus gastroenteritis, a common viral infection among children that usually lasts a week.
But nothing made it stop. No matter what he ate, Luke curled up afterward and moaned. For six months, he got sick 10 to 12 times a day. No one knew what was wrong.
Luke stopped growing, and lost more than 10 percent of his body weight, Burgie said.
Mount St. Francis nuns visited the class of Luke’s sister, and the family soon became friends with Sister Evangeline Spenner and Sister Margaret Mary Preister.
In January 1999, Burgie asked the two sisters to pray for Luke.
The sisters prayed a novena — a recitation of prayers and devotions — in Bonzel’s name. The nuns prayed for other people during that time, but they focused on Luke, Heimann said.
“They did that faithfully every day,” she said.
Then, on Feb. 22, Luke suddenly was fine. Normally, a recovery from such an illness would be gradual, doctors told the family. Luke’s pediatrician wrote a letter stating there was no scientific explanation for the boy’s recovery.
“God used me as an instrument,” Preister said Friday. “I happened to be in the right place.”
Now a teenager, Luke doesn’t remember being sick or being healed, Burgie said. Growing up, he was a little intimidated because people at church would call him the miracle boy, she said.
“For him, it’s been more of a burden,” she said. “The rest of us see the blessing.”
Luke thrived. He wrestled in middle and high school, and rides BMX bikes. Every single checkup done since has shown him to be healthy, she said. Rome asked for additional tests and information over the years, with the last batch sent last summer, she said.
Burgie said she was a little surprised that the miracle was approved because there never was a diagnosis of the problem. The “spontaneous healing” passed muster with the slate of church officials.
The process was very arduous, she said.
“So many people have miracles every day, but no one documents it,” she said.
Heimann credited the sisters in Germany in pushing the case through the process. Their congregation, the Germany-based Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, had asked Rome to start the process toward sainthood for Mother Bonzel in 1961. She was venerated in 2010.
The process can take decades, even centuries.
“When it comes to Rome, there isn’t any hurry,” Preister said.
Many of the sisters didn’t expect to live to see the beatification.
The leader of the Colorado Springs Diocese congratulated the order on Friday.
“I share the joy of our Franciscan sisters that their foundress, Mother Bonzel, will be beatified. It’s wonderful to know that she has been so close to us in her intercessory prayer,” said Bishop Michael Sheridan.
In 1999, the order asked Rome to investigate the miracle. A Vatican attorney visited the city in early 2000 to conduct interviews. The beatification tribunal in the Springs was in February 2001.
On Jan. 15, the Commission of Cardinals agreed to the miracle of Luke’s healing. The case was then sent to Pope Benedict.
Pope Francis signed a proclamation conferring the title of Blessed to Maria Theresia Bonzel on March 27. The sisters at the convent in northwest Colorado Springs rang the church bells when they learned about it on Holy Thursday, Heimann said.
“A lot of sisters just cried,” she said. “It won’t be real to us until the ceremony in Paderborn.”
Seven sisters from Colorado Springs hope to attend services in Germany in November, including Preister and Spenner’s blood sister. Spenner died years ago.
The Burgie family also hopes to attend.
It is the 150th anniversary year for the order, which has about 500 sisters in Germany, the Philippines, Brazil and Indiana. About 49 sisters are in the St. Joseph Province which includes Nebraska, New Mexico, California and Colorado. About 38 live in Colorado Springs.
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