On the three-hour drive to the Stockbridge, Mass. — home of the Congregations of Marians of the Immaculate Conception — Bob and Maureen Digan had chatted about everything, except the real reason why Bob had insisted they go for the car ride.
He saved that information for their conversation with Marian Father Seraphim Michalenko, the vice postulator for the sainthood cause of Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, a Polish mystic and visionary who saw Jesus as the divine mercy for all humanity.
Bob Digan revealed to Father Michalenko and his wife that he had been inspired by God to take his family on a journey to Poland to the tomb of Sister Maria Faustina. There he believed healing would happen for his wife, who had long suffered from severe, hereditary swelling called Milroy’s disease, and for their 7-year-old special-needs son, Bobby, who suffered from severe seizures.
Father Michalenko asked if Bob Digan wanted him to go as a translator. No, Bob Digan responded, he wanted the priest to witness the miraculous cure. The priest and Maureen were stunned.
"I thought he was crazy," said Maureen Digan, speaking in a telephone interview from the couple’s home in Lee, Mass. "I thought, ‘My rock of Gibraltar is crumbling.’ "
The Digans will tell the full story of what happened on their trip and how it changed their lives during a breakfast gathering for Magnificat Rochester, a Catholic women’s ministry, from 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 19, at the RIT Inn and Conference Center, 5257 W. Henrietta Road, Henrietta.
The trip itself got off to a rocky start. Maureen had been in the hospital just before the trip, and medically, it was risky to take her and Bobby across the Atlantic. Airline changes led to the permanent loss of Maureen’s brand-new wheelchair, which she needed after her right leg was amputated due to the swelling in her body. The pilgrims also were delayed in Warsaw for three days, waiting for their luggage to arrive. Maureen said she was one of the most reluctant members of the group.
"I was just kind of sarcastic about being there," she said.
Yet the group finally reached Sister Faustina’s tomb. At 9 p.m. on the ninth day of a novena the group had begun as preparation for the trip, the pilgrims prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at Sister Faustina’s tomb, and the swelling began to leave Maureen’s body.
"I didn’t feel anything when the healing happened," Maureen said. "I knew the swelling was going down because my shoe was getting big, but I didn’t feel anything or see any light. I didn’t want to look at my leg, because if I looked at it, everyone would look at it. It just happened. It was unbelievable."
The couple said their son also received a partial healing and was able to discontinue taking his 28 daily seizure pills. His balance also was greatly improved, the couple said.
"When he came home, not only was he able to walk unassisted, but he later ran in the Special Olympics," Bob Digan said.
After the group returned home, medical testing revealed that Maureen’s swelling and Bobby’s seizures were gone for good.
"My doctor was really, really surprised," Maureen Digan said. "His one question to Father Seraphim was, ‘Why?’ Bobby’s pediatric neurologist just couldn’t understand it. He just had never seen anything like it."
After doctors examined Maureen and came up with no medical explanation for the swelling’s disappearance, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, doctors, theologians, cardinals and bishops examined the case and accepted it as a miracle. Maureen’s miraculous cure was the evidence needed to lead to Sister Faustina’s beatification in 1993. Following the approval of a second miracle, Sister Faustina was canonized in 2000.
Although Maureen’s healing was physical, it also was spiritual as well. Both she and Bob began working for the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, and Maureen served as religious-education coordinator for years. She and Bob are now coordinators of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program at their parish, and Bob is scheduled to be ordained a permanent deacon this spring.
Ever since her healing, prayers, the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation are among the things that have new meaning and importance in her life, she said. She is quick to point out that it is Sister Faustina who is the saint, not herself, and she said she falls and needs the sacrament of reconciliation just like others.
Yet her life is different now because she has a prayer life.
"When you have faith, your life changes," Maureen Digan said. "You rely on God instead of thinking you can do everything yourself."
EDITOR’S NOTE: Reservations for the Magnificat breakfast are $15 per person until March 12 and $18 afterwards. Student reservations are $10, and clergy may register for free. Mail reservations to Magnificat Rochester, PO Box 24787, Rochester, NY 14624, e-mail info@MagnificatRochester.org or visit www.MagnificatRochester.org. The Digans’ story also is told at www.marian.org and in part in the 2007 documentary "Proving Holiness" by Daybreak TV Productions of the Buffalo Diocese’s Office of Communications.