How did Jeanne Jugan become a saint? She had been declared blessed in 1982 by Pope John Paul II, but it would take a second miracle for her to be canonized.
In 1989, Dr. Gatz, an anesthesiologist from Omaha, NE, was cured from esophageal cancer. Since he was in New York for the jubilee of Fr. Dominic Papa, CP he was happy to tell his story at Queen of Peace. Openly he recounted the early diagnosis of esophageal cancer, his depression that followed the prognosis, and his refusal of chemo or radiation treatment. He agreed to have surgery. Before the surgery, however, he was anointed several times. He recounted how the gift of the sacrament changed his disposition. He suddenly was quite calm. The surgery was considered successful, but the doctors warned that it would return in three to six months. The prognosis for esophageal cancer is not good. The survival rate is very low.
At his scheduled three-month post-operative appointment, there was no indication of cancer. The doctors were shocked. (This was so rare that the insurance company even suspected fraud). In re-examining tests done prior to the surgery which proved the diagnosis and stage of his cancer, the doctors had to admit that they could not explain his complete cure.
Mrs. Jeanne Gatz gave her testimony. She explained how devastated she was by the news of her husband’s cancer. She immediately reached out to a friend, Fr. Richard McGloin, who was the chaplain of the Little Sisters’ home in Milwaukee. He told her not to worry. “They doctors have never heard of Jeanne Jugan before”. In fact, Jeanne Jugan had never heard of Dr. Gatz before either. Through her intercession she was able to storm heaven for a cure. Fr. McGloin wrote in a note to Jeanne, “if Jeanne Jugan wants to be a saint, she better get busy!”
After living thirteen years cancer-free, Fr. McGloin suggested that Jeanne report the miracle to the Little Sisters. She really did not know how to go about contacting them. Even this was a small miracle! The next day the Gatz’s offered hospitality to two women who had been staying with the Little Sisters in Kansas City, Missouri. Their guests offered the phone number and their name of the superior to contact. Jeanne called Mother Marguerite the very next day to share their news of a cure.
When Fr. Papa, whose sister is a Little Sister, (and who was selected vice-postulator of the cause of canonization), came to Omaha, NE, to conduct the official diocesan investigation, he would stay at the Gatz home. They quickly became good friends. Key to the investigation was the testimony of the doctors who could not scientifically explain the disappearance of the cancer. Esophageal cancer has such a low survival rate, that the complete absence of the cancer can only be understood as a miracle. Rome approved the miracle. Jeanne Jugan was declared a Saint on October 11, 2011.
In this Year of Faith, Dr. Gatz and Jeanne’s testimony of their own faith journey impressed everyone. Dr. Gatz insisted that he was only the recipient of God’s gift of faith and new life. He had not himself prayed to Jeanne Jugan, nor did he believe in a cure until the test results kept coming back negative. He credits his wife, Fr. McGloin and all those who promised to pray for him for their faith and their perseverance in prayer. Now he lives each day as a gift from God.