(Kathy H. and her family have been sponsoring a girl in Uganda for 2 years. This is Kathy's story in her own words about how they came to choose their sponsored child.)
For quite some time, it had been on my heart for my family to sponsor a child from another country. Not only would it be a way for our family to perform works of mercy but it would also be an opportunity to become connected with another culture. I first learned about CARITAS at their booth at the Women of Christ Conference a few years ago. I knew this organization was a good fit for us. A few weeks after the conference, my son Carter and I sat down at the computer to choose a child to sponsor. But how to choose? A boy or a girl? Which country? After scrolling through page after page of beautiful faces, we almost gave up and asked the computer program to randomly select for us…and then, at the very bottom of that last page we looked at, we saw a name that caught our attention…Carter had a traumatic birth, which resulted in a very severe form of spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy and several other conditions that resulted from that initial diagnosis. Carter is nonverbal and communicates through eye gaze/turning of his head right to indicate “yes” and left to indicate “no.” He is non-ambulatory and uses a wheelchair. The cerebral palsy affects all four limbs and his ability to move his head. In short, Carter has very little volitional movement of his limbs and his body is so spastic he requires a special pump to administer anti-spasticity medication into his spinal column to keep him from being so tight he cannot sit in his wheelchair. He is tube-fed, has vision issues (uses peripheral vision to see), seizures and scoliosis. He has difficulty breathing which required him to have a trach a few years back. Though he had a lot of physical issues, we got to a place in his life where things were stable and he was living a happy life.
Then suddenly, at the age of 14, Carter began to experience additional, very strange symptoms that he had never had before. He was extremely sensitive to light and to changes in his positioning, he would often break into a sweat for no reason, experience rapid and dangerous elevations or depressions in his heart rate or blood pressure. He would become extremely spastic and then floppy as a ragdoll. For more than a year, none of his doctors could quite put a finger on what the cause was. Carter suffered quite a bit during this period and we prayed a lot.
In the fall of 2015, St. Maria Goretti’s relics made a tour of the United States, including a stop in Milwaukee. My sister’s parish in Indianapolis is St. Maria Goretti and so my family was well acquainted with the saint and so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit her relics. Carter was invited by the Knights of Columbus to move to the front of the very long line and, after he passed by the glass case where she was, he was allowed to sit very close to her for as long as he wished. My family and I immediately noticed something strange....Carter was fixing his eyes directly on her (rather than using peripheral vision) for long periods of time. This was the first time we had ever seen him fix his gaze directly for such long periods of time. He would smile broadly then become serious, then smile again. It was as if he was deep in conversation with her. Each of our family members there that day noted what an interesting reaction Carter was exhibiting to the saint. Each time we would approach to ask if he was ready to go, the smile would disappear and he would indicate a very clear “no” with eye gaze and head turning. This occurred several times. We wondered what was going on there between the two of them.The Relics of St Maria Goretti
Finally, after 40 minutes, my daughter was no longer willing to wait patiently and whispered in Carter’s ear that it was time to go. As she turned his wheelchair away from the saint’s coffin, he instantly began to flail his arms and legs and turn his head. These were movements that Carter had NEVER been able to make before. We had never seen him move like that. At first, we decided that it was an extreme way of pitching a fit that we had taken him away from the saint. When the movements continued all during the 40 minute drive home, we realized something was very wrong. By the next morning, Carter was admitted to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. After several days of testing and treatment, it was discovered that Carter’s baclofen pump was malfunctioning, causing alternating periods of overdose and then withdrawal of the drug being fed into his spinal column. Withdrawal of this type of baclofen even one time can be very dangerous – even life-threatening. We would come to find out later that this was the cause of all of the strange symptoms he had been experiencing for that YEAR prior.
St. Maria Goretti is a powerful patron saint of, among other things, youth. We felt that St. Maria Goretti interceded for Carter that day. Without the strange events that occurred during her visit, we may not have discovered that pump malfunction in time to save Carter. We are so grateful to her for her intercession. We feel like she spoke to Carter in his soul that day, telling him that, though he was going to have to do a bit more suffering, she was going to lead him to help and this is what made him gaze at her and smile in her presence.
So…when we scrolled down to the bottom on that last page of faces on the CARITAS site and saw a beautiful little girl whose name was Maria Goretti, we instantly knew she was the one to sponsor. Not only did St. Maria Goretti intercede for Carter but we believe she interceded for our Maria Goretti and lead us to her that day. Sponsoring our Maria has been a great privilege and source of joy for our family, and a beautiful way to remember and thank St. Maria Goretti for her intercession that fall day.
Maria Goretti in her school uniform with a letter from Kathy and her family
Editor's note: St Maria Goretti has most certainly been interceding for Maria in Uganda. Maria was found by a good Samaritan by the side of the road when she was just 6 years old. She was found with a document listing only her name and date of birth. It is unknown who and where her parents are and no other family has come forward. Maria Goretti lives with an older woman in the village who helps take care of her. Now through the love and support of her sponsor she is able to go to school and has hope for her future.