TOP STORY OF THE DAY — The Passion: A two-year journey of faith and healing
1 Peter 2:21 reads, “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow.”
This scripture is a tenet of the Catholic Church’s belief in “redemptive suffering.”
Father John Hollowell recently experienced this while on a personal journey in June 2022.
Father Hollowell prayed in early 2019 that if there were anything he could suffer for the victims of Catholic Clergy sexual abuse, he would do that willingly. One month later, the priest had his first seizure from what would eventually be determined to be a brain tumor.
Diagnosed with a brain tumor on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes, Feb 11th of 2020, Hollowell could have Mass in a chapel connected to the Mayo Clinic, which was also “Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel.”
The day after, the priest shared the diagnosis on his various social media accounts and offered it up for the suffering of victims of Catholic clergy sexual abuse. The blog post made it worldwide, and Father Hollowell had a list of 170 names he took into his surgery at the Mayo Clinic.
Hollowell had three surgeries at Mayo Clinic, Radiation, and chemotherapy that helped him remain stable for a few months and return to his parishes.
During the first diagnosis, Hollowell felt the brain tumor provided a unique opportunity: Redemptive suffering. The priest announced that if God would permit him to suffer on behalf of victims of sexual abuse by clergy, he was willing to do so.
“I embraced it willingly,” said Hollowell, who admits he didn’t know when he requested what God would do with it. “I received hundreds of emails from abuse victims from around the world. I wanted to show them I’m sorry and hoped it would help the victims find closure.”
But in March of 2022, Hollowell had a grim MRI that showed the brain tumor was starting to grow back.
Once again, Hollowell chooses the opportunity to again suffer on behalf of victims of priest sexual abuse.
Pilgrimage to Lourdes
“I figured it could not hurt to go to Lourdes,” said Hollowell.
The “Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes” is one of the world’s most important sites for religious healing. Since then, millions of pilgrims have made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, to wash in the waters at the site where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette.
“The best way that I can think of to summarize my trip is that I know that God’s hands were all over this trip,” said Hollowell, who felt blessed all during the eight days.
“I felt great peace the whole time I was in Lourdes,” said Hollowell. “I know a lot of that was due to my parishioners praying for me.”
Waiting for the MRI results, done every three months at the time, differed from what people would expect.
“I was calm,” said Hollowell. “But I know many of my parishioners and family were praying that I was healed at Lourdes.”
The MRIs showed the tumor was no longer there.
Life has returned to normal, but Father Hollowell says the publicity has presented another opportunity.
“The story has brought a few fallen Catholics back to the two parishes, so that is great!” he said. “The publicity also allowed me to get in touch with about 15 more victims of priest sexual abuse, so I am really glad for that.”
“Thanks be to God,” Hollowell said. “I’m just very excited–I was totally at peace if I died, but I went to Lourdes and was healed.”
Father John Hollowell is the Pastor of Annunciation Catholic Church in Brazil.