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Photo: Courtesy of Brigitte Koerski
Hedwig Meussen, 85, seen here with her pet dog, sought and found spiritual healing at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. Hedwig used her crocheting skill to make two altar cloths for the Marian Fathers.
By Dan Valenti (Jan 17, 2012)
If you attend Mass at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on Eden Hill, Stockbridge, Mass., you have a good chance of seeing the world-class crochet work of Hedwig Meussen. Hedwig, 85, has put her talents to work to create spiritual art — beautiful tapestries that serve as altar cloths, which she has made and donated to the Marian Fathers of The Immaculate Conception.
Hedwig has been a long-time supporter of the Marian Fathers and devotee of The Divine Mercy message. She uses her skills with a crochet hook as part of her ministry for the Church. Two years ago, Hedwig crocheted an alar cloth for the Our Lady of Mercy Oratory adjacent to the Marian Helpers Center. Her latest creation for the Marian Fathers is a 118-inch x 40-inch altar cloth for the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine.
A Generous Ministry Amid Personal Illness
It's not just that she made the cloth. It's also the circumstances under which she donated her time and talent. Hedwig decided to work on the Outdoor Shrine altar cloth beginning in October 2010, shortly after a pilgrimage she made with her daughter to Eden Hill. She was in the process of dealing with cancer.
Hedwig's daughter, Brigitte Koerski of Bristol, Tenn., says she and her mother visited the Shrine to seek healing.
"We spent two whole days on Eden Hill," says Bridgitte. "We went to the morning Mass in the oratory, then we would visit the Shrine for prayer. We then would visit the Lourdes Grotto [Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto]. Then we'd go back to the Shine for the 2 o'clock Mass and Chaplet [of The Divine Mercy]."
Brigitte says the most gratifying part of the two days came in how well her mother responded physically: "Before we came to the Shrine, my mother had a terrible time walking. She was weak, and she could hardly move a few steps before tiring out. It was amazing to see her walking around the grounds of Eden Hill, especially up and down the steep hill [to the Lourdes Shrine]. No doubt, the pilgrimage helped her greatly."
The year before, in 2009, Brigitte made her first visit to Eden Hill and the National Shrine. It came after her mother became ill and could not travel.
National Shrine: a Place of Peace, a Place of Healing
Mother and daughter had made several pilgrimages to Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, at the site of alleged appearances by the Blessed Mother [NOTE: Although the Church has not yet determined the authenticity of these alleged apparitions, which have been reported on a daily basis since 1981, it does not discourage private pilgrimages there]. Hedwig's struggle with cancer, though, made travel to the former Yugoslavia impractical.
Instead, mother and daughter journeyed from Tennessee to Stockbridge, following up on Brigitte's pilgrimage the year before.
"When I realized we could not travel to Medjugorje, I went on the Internet looking for a holy site to visit in the United States," says Brigitte, who — like her mother — is a native of Germany. "I also began reading the Diary of St. Faustina around that time, and through the Diary, I found the National Shrine."
A 'Celebration' of Mass
Brigitte says the Shrine has provided her with great comfort: "Somehow, when I'm at the Shrine, I feel very close to St. Faustina. I also feel very close to Jesus. There is a noticeable sense of peace at the Shrine. Everybody I know who has been there experiences this wonderful sense of spiritual peace and quiet. It's never in a hurry there, unlike with parish life, with so many things to do. The Marian Fathers are [at the Shrine] to serve God. They don't 'say,' Mass, they actually 'celebrate' Mass. There is no hurry because they have to rush off and do something else. The Spirit is there."
Those words please Fr. Ken Dos Santos, rector of the National Shrine: "Our first and foremost purpose here [at the Shrine] is to provide an encounter with Jesus through exposure to Divine Mercy." Father Ken says if the Marians do that, "then we are doing our job, which is God's will."
Brigitte says her mother experienced spiritual healing at the Shrine, and has taken the solace back with her to Germany.
"My mother is holding her own," Brigitte says. "She continues her treatments, although I'm sad to say she has to do that now back in Germany. There, she is fully insured. Here [in the U.S.], we had to pay for everything ourselves. She's in good spirits, though, and as long as she keeps crocheting, she's fine."
Hedwig is at work on another of her crafting ministries. She is making baby blankets. Brigitte says they will be "distributed to hospitals, nurseries, social offices, and for people who don't have anything. It keeps her going."