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A Patron Saint for Cancer: St. Peregrine Cancer Care Ministry at Maria Stein gives hope

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by Susie Bergman

Growing up around Dayton, David Burkhardt frequently heard of the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics, but never explored it. In 2019, his wife, Somporn Mary, was diagnosed with lung cancer and, throughout her journey, he introduced her to the Catholic faith and reacquainted himself with it.

“I was spending time researching the saints. I felt like there was so much more about their lives that I wanted to know. One of the saints that was of great interest to us was St. Peregrine because he had been miraculously healed from cancer” said David. “When I realized his relic was in Maria Stein, I knew we had to go.”

Before Christmas they made a pilgrimage, attending the Shrine’s midday prayer.

“Shortly after we arrived I saw a woman ringing a bell in the hallway. As we made our way towards the chapel, she greeted us and asked us to join them for prayer,” said David. That woman was Susan Jenkins, the Shrine’s Pastoral Minister.

During prayer attendees shared special intentions and asked the Lord for mercy and guidance, while also offering support and lifting each other up in prayer. David was so moved that he shared his wife’s cancer journey and requested prayers of strength, healing and comfort.

“Everyone was so caring and concerning. It gave us both peace. After prayer, Susan approached us and asked if we would like to see the St. Peregrine relic. She was so kind,” said David. “Before our trip, I had a dream that we would be able to touch the relic but I didn’t think it would be permitted. So when she asked us if we would like to hold it, it was like a prayer being answered. It was so moving and amazing to hold St. Peregrine’s relic in the beautiful chapel with all the saints.”

Afterward, Jenkins introduced them to a new cancer care outreach program, St. Peregrine Cancer Care Ministry, which she helped establish in Sept. 2019 to be a source of prayer, encouragement and hope, to both those suffering with cancer and their caregivers, family and friends. Ministry members complete a four-week training course before their commissioning at a St. Peregrine Cancer Prayer Service. These services are held three times a year and offer public veneration of St. Peregrine’s relic; the next one will be 2:00
p.m. on March 20, 2022.

Currently, the St. Peregrine team prays for more than 400 individuals. “While we pray that someday soon this ministry is not needed, we are thankful and blessed to have the opportunity to share the story of St. Peregrine and the miraculous work that our God can do,” said Jenkins.

A few weeks after the couple’s visit to the Shrine, the cancer care team contacted them, then communicated often through emails and phone calls, to share updates, pray together and offer support tailored to their needs.

“This is a very personal ministry,” stated Shelly Bornhost, a retired Children’s Services Caseworker and Cancer Care Ministry Team Member. “What I have discovered through my journey with this ministry is that people often undergo a profound spiritual change, just as St. Peregrine did. Hearts change and a humble acceptance emerges that encourages and inspires others.”

Bornhost was intrigued when she first learned of the St. Peregrine Cancer Care Ministry, but thought she was not “the right kind of person” to offer support. Many of her loved ones had experienced cancer, but she doubted her own spiritual prowess, until, through discernment, she realized she has something to share: hope.

“I realized that is why I was being called to this ministry. To encourage people to continue the difficult journey that lies ahead and to never give up hope,” said Bornhost.

That’s a perspective David agrees with. “Even when things got really bad and we knew my wife’s final hours were near, our support-giver was always there when I needed her. She had gone through cancer herself and she could relate to the many feelings I was experiencing. She gave me hope and peace. It was a love and kindness I now strive to pay forward to others.”

To learn more about the Maria Stein Shrine St. Peregrine Cancer Care Ministry, visit mariasteinshrine.org.

This article appeared in the March 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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