Coincidence and Providence

This article was posted on: April 15, 2024

Today, long after Father Joe’s death during Holy Week in 2006, many visitors have been further inspired to become long-term volunteers. The most recent is Katie Marach, a Wisconsin native teaching English as a second language in Eau Claire.

Katie Marach’s path to Casa Hogar

Miracles have the purpose of showing God’s power active in our world. God lifts the laws of nature and draws us closer to Himself. On the Feast Day for St. Joseph, we continue our constant prayer for a miracle. The feast marks the anniversary of the opening of the cause for the canonization of Servant of God, Father Joseph Walijewski, so we pray that the miracle is granted through his intercession. This year also happens to be the 100th year since the birth of the one we pray to be canonized.

Canonization, the process by which saints are named and celebrated in the Catholic Church, is complex and arduous. But the Church embraces it frequently in order to present heroic models and intercessors to each generation, especially at difficult moments in our history. The lives of the saints give us hope and spur us on in faith and virtue. 

Miracles move the process of canonization forward. By confounding our normal understanding, God gives us another path to belief. Miracles may include healing that comes in an unexpected way or recovery from a disease for which the medical world presently has no cure. Miracles may also come through unexpected insights or ineffable experiences. These miracles may be rare, but we trust that they do happen. Their stories are told, details are formally recorded and everything is investigated. Finally, these extraordinary blessings help us see that heaven has touched Earth once again. 

In the places and ministries founded by Father Joe Walijewski, other kinds of miracles occur. Although Father Joe established multiple Catholic institutions in Bolivia and Peru, the enduring work that continues to inspire is happening at Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II in Lurín, Peru. There miracles abound. The life and ministry at Casa Hogar give witness to the wonder of healing to be found in the hard work of self-discovery, true family and a faithful formation.

Where Miracles Begin

The prayer we raise for Father Joe’s canonization begins, “Holy And Good God, your servant and priest, Father Joseph Walijewski, through priestly zeal and heroic holiness, defended innocence against the sadness of evil, especially to broken families and helpless children.” His heart ached at the need and offered to do what he could. Then the miracles began. That is why Father Joe wanted visitors to come and see what was going on. The experience could be transformative, he thought, and could change more lives.

Today, long after Father Joe’s death during Holy Week in 2006, many visitors have been further inspired to become long-term volunteers. The most recent is Katie Marach, a Wisconsin native teaching English as a second language in Eau Claire. The children struggled with Katie’s first name until they equated her with Katy Perry. That revelation may or may not have come about at a dance-off during a birthday party for one of the children. Now, there is no struggle. 

Early Intercessions

Katie planned to learn Spanish at Casa Hogar, a requirement for her doctorate program. She brought to this simpler task the more complex equipment of the heart and a vision of faith. What she saw was miraculous and what she felt was the inspiration of Servant of God, Father Joe Walijewski. In response, she began a journal of her observations with a pre-printed title using the word “coincidence.” But that did not suffice when recounting the “little miracles” she described. 

Pope Saint John Paul II said, “In the designs of providence, there are no mere coincidences.” Katie knows this well. “Providence or coincidence? Too many details lined up just exactly right for them to be mere coincidences,” she wrote with specific insight. Then she begins listing signs of God’s providence at work since her decision to join Casa Hogar.

While teaching in Eau Claire, Katie already noticed the effect of Father Joe’s intercession and God’s providence. For 20 years she had waited for this chance to travel and learn, so she requested a one-year leave of absence to volunteer at Casa Hogar. She recalls, “The human resources department secretary somberly informed me that the director ‘never approves these leaves.’ She shared that the director had denied every request submitted in the past 11 years but welcomed me to try.” Katie mustered the trust, submitted her request and witnessed God’s first act of providence for her dream to come true. 

She recorded in her journal, “Remarkably, the director approved my request within 24 hours. Shortly after that, the school identified a teacher, a native of Peru, who could fill in for me while I served the children at Casa Hogar in that very same country. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.”

A Heart for Suffering Children

When Katie arrived at Casa Hogar she was traveling with a small group of pilgrims on the Footsteps of Father Joe Legacy Pilgrimage. Among the pilgrims was Sister Salome Nambi from Uganda. Much like Father Joe, God gave Sister Salome a heart for suffering children. She was caring for seven orphaned siblings. When she heard of Father Joe’s orphanage in Peru, she was eager to learn from his mission.

During her time in Peru, Sister Salome learned that the oldest among the siblings had conceived a second child outside of marriage. The young girl was clearly acting out of hurt and brokenness in seeking love. The pilgrims listened as Sister Salome explained how the girl’s mother died in her arms when she was 15 years old and her father abandoned the family. 

After this painful revelation, Katie wrote, “Sister Salome went to the tomb of Father Joe to ask for wisdom on how to help her. Our group left in the van shortly after, and I felt an urge to tell her about different treatments for trauma. She had never heard of these, and when she returned to Uganda, she found a psychologist to help her. It turns out that Uganda is a focus country for the growth of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).”

No Such Thing as a Coincidence

A few months later, Katie was gifted with another open door. Her journal entry begins, “Today was a miracle.” After a long meeting airing frustrations among the staff trying to correct the children’s behaviors, the lead therapist happened to see Katie’s book on neurofeedback. “He stopped to talk,” she writes, “I told God that day in adoration that if He provided me the opportunity, I would ask the psychologist if he wanted the training. The opportunity arose, and I asked. Happily, the therapist was very excited to get some more training. The next day, his supervisor said yes, too. They are very open. No such thing as coincidence.”

It was not in Katie’s plans to share her growing knowledge of a branch of trauma treatment in the vast science of psychology. But through Father Joe’s inspiration of bringing people together from different countries, the lives of children are being improved in deeper ways and in more places. That is the way of miracles, which abound in the lives of the saints drawn close to Him.

Story by Father Woody Pace and Katie Marach
Published in the March/April 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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