What happens when you return to the Source

In the aftermath of a tragic death, the past year and a half has been nothing less than life-changing for Mary Paver of Plano, Illinois.

Born and raised Catholic, she eventually fell away from the faith. She married in 2000. For seven years, she and her husband, Erik, lived relatively normal lives in Sandwich, Illinois. Normal except for the fact that Mary suffered from severe endometriosis, a painful disorder affecting tissue lining the uterus. She underwent nearly a dozen surgeries.

Then, on Jan. 6, 2007, doctors diagnosed Erik with a rare form of leukemia. He began cancer treatment that month and was told it would make him sterile. The treatments failed, and he ended up hospitalized that summer with a 108-degree temperature. He had dropped about 60 pounds.

"They sent me a priest to plan his funeral," Mary said. "He was in the hospital for three-and-a-half weeks before regaining his strength."

After being discharged, he eventually landed in a clinical trial.

"The new treatments seemed to be working," Mary said, "but over the next eight years he formed abnormal tumors around his spine that compressed the spine and temporarily paralyzed him."

Despite it all, Mary became pregnant in the spring of 2008. They had a son, Ken, followed by a daughter, Rhaena.

"I just knew it was meant to be for me to be a mom," Mary said, "and these two children truly are miracles."

But in the end of July 2014, Erik lost his battle with cancer.

"After he passed, my mind seemed 'fogged' and I felt as if I had lost my sense of direction," Mary said. "I missed my companion and felt as if a part of me had died along with him."

She wasn't used to making every family decision. Overwhelmed, she began to allow others to make decisions for her and her small children.

"I started dating and drinking to numb the feeling of my own emotions and the grief - the grief that I needed to feel to allow myself to heal," she said.
For the next few years Mary struggled with depression.

"I was trying to find things to fill the void, not realizing that the One thing I needed was there for me all along," she said. "I just needed to find Him myself."
One morning, in the spring of 2017, Mary awoke with a strong desire to go to Mass. This came from out of the blue.

Moreover, though plenty of Catholic churches were closer to where they lived, she felt compelled to go to St. Mary Parish in Plano, Illinois. Her relatives had taken her children to Mass there years ago when she was in the hospital caring for Erik.

"That day I walked into the church, I knew I was guided there for a reason," she said. "I decided I wanted to be a member of that parish and that my children deserved a Catholic education."

Providentially, the Marian Fathers administer the parish, including its school. Mary contacted the school, and her children were welcomed.

The following week, she took another leap of faith by renting a house just down the street from St. Mary, even though the cost was a little more than she had budgeted for. They ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly to make up the difference.

Once the kids were enrolled, Fr. Andy Davy, MIC, St. Mary's pastor, urged Mary to have them baptized. They were baptized last fall.

Ken, now 10 years old, came home last November with a school assignment he was eager to show his mom.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" was the class assignment. Most students chose police officer or professional baseball player, but not Ken. He wrote:

When I grow up, I want to be a priest. One reason is so I could baptize people.

When I was baptized I was blessed. I became part of God's family. God is really awesome. Another reason is we could have more Masses. Once we didn't have a Mass because we didn't have a priest. I would like to solve that problem. In addition, I could consecrate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. If you can't consecrate the Host, you can't have Mass. Those are just a few reasons why I would like to be a priest.

"I had struggled with doubts that I was doing the right thing for my family," Mary admitted. "But when he brought that story home, I knew that this was what it was all for. ... Our hearts and our eyes have been opened."

The priesthood remains Ken's dream. This past May, he went to Confession and received the Eucharist for the first time. He was so excited that he asked to go to Eucharistic Adoration and Confession again just two days later.

During a recent parish retreat, Mary said she came to realize why God guided her to St. Mary: "It was because of Fr. Andy and the Marian priests. They have had such an impact on us."

A highpoint for Mary and her children came this past June when they attended the ordination of Fr. Gabriel Cillo, MIC, at St. Patrick's, the sister parish of St. Mary. His first Mass was at St. Mary.

Ken, she said, "was just glowing and taking notes the whole weekend. He introduced himself to most of the [Marian] brothers and had his story blessed by the bishop. It was another life-changing experience for us."

Mary said, "As afraid as I was to leave my comfort zone, God gave me the strength to do this for us. I do believe that I was given this strength because I finally asked for help and guidance from the right Source and was open and willing to accept it - finally."

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