A Witness to the Graces of the Divine Mercy Medal

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By Melanie Williams (Aug 25, 2016)
Each year, tens of thousands of pilgrims visit the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on Eden Hill in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Who are they, and what draws them here? The following is the latest in our "Pilgrims Progress" series. Meet two of our most frequent volunteers, Ken and Joanne Clough:

The year was 1961. A Polish medal of Divine Mercy showed up on the living room table in an apartment in an all-Italian neighborhood. Newlywed Joanne picked it up and had no idea what she was holding in her hand. Putting it in a box, she moved on with her day.

Twenty years and nine children later, Joanne's husband, Ken, was working three jobs to support his family. He earned tips with his Sunday newspaper job. Using the tips, Joanne brought the four children who were still living at home on a bus trip her friend was organizing to the Divine Mercy Sunday celebration at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. Ken didn't come because he was working, but also because he didn't share his wife's Catholic faith.

The Divine Mercy Sunday celebration wasn't massively attended back in the 1980s. The Mass was in the chapel, and a procession with the Blessed Sacrament took place outside. On that simple but joyous day, Joanne made the connection between the Polish medal she had found 20 years prior and Sr. Faustina and the Divine Mercy devotion. Everything that medal symbolized was right there in front of her very eyes. After that day, Joanne made multiple trips to the Shrine with her children, but Ken never came.

In 1998, Ken and Joanne went to Italy to visit their daughter and son-in-law at a military base. During their visit, they made a pilgrimage to the Catholic and religious sites in Rome. On their way back to America, they volunteered to give up their seats on the flight and were given two free tickets to come back to Italy. In May of 1999, they used those tickets to go to Padre Pio's beatification. Joanne brought her husband to as many Catholic events as she could when he wasn't working, but he still wouldn't become Catholic.

"I had a problem with the Sacrament of Confession, with telling another man my sins, because I did a lot of things that weren't so nice," Ken said. But Joanne kept praying and visiting the Shrine.

In 2000, everything changed for Ken.

One day, he met a seminarian from the Bronx. The young man told him he used to be a biker and would beat up people for fun. When Ken shared his problem with Confession, the seminarian said not to worry about it. Once he was ordained, the seminarian would hear his confession, and Ken wouldn't need to worry because there was nothing Ken had done that the seminarian hadn't.

In October of 1999, the seminarian was ordained and heard Ken's confession.In April of 2000, Ken was received into the Catholic Church. He was baptized, received his first Holy Communion, and was confirmed, all in one day. The young priest then invited Ken and Joanne to come with him on a pilgrimage to Italy. They went to visit Padre Pio's shrine in San Giovanni Rotundo, and while walking up the hill, Ken began to experience shortness of breath.

A cardiac nurse was on the trip and told him to go see a doctor as soon as he got back home. Not paying attention to that, Ken went on with the rest of the trip. When he got home to the States, though, he couldn't even mow his lawn. His doctor sent him to a cardiologist, who ordered a stress test for him the next day. Ken went to sleep that night but woke up in the middle of the night with chest pains. He took some nitroglycerin tablets, and in the morning, he went for the stress test. The doctor asked if he had taken any medication overnight. When Ken said that he had, he was told to go to the hospital straight away. Having left his wallet at home that morning, he drove himself home and then went to the hospital.

It was a miracle that he even made it to the hospital, because he was told that by the time he got the hospital and was put on the table for catheterization, the main artery in his heart was 95 percent blocked. They could try and clean it out, or he would need open heart surgery.

Ken said, "As I was lying on the table, I was looking at the pipes on the ceiling and envisioning them as a cross. I prayed to God that if He got me out of that, I would go see Him every day."

Sixteen years later, Ken has gone to Mass every day since his surgery.

"I'm not supposed to be here," Ken said.

The Lord kept him here on this earth for a purpose, and Ken knew that. He wanted to give back, and so he started coming up with Joanne to the Shrine to volunteer. First they starting ushering on Divine Mercy Sunday. Then when Joanne got sick with congestive heart failure a few years ago, they switched to the Adoration tent, where they now oversee volunteers. Ken was so eager to give back that he and Joanne come up to the Shrine almost every weekend and sometimes on weekdays, as well, to help wherever there is a need.

Ken said, "Everybody has a reason to give back. Think about your life, something bad that's happened to you, but you're still here — you have to thank God, you have to give back."

Joanne said, "So now I tell everyone to give blessed Divine Mercy medals to all their relatives and friends, because it all began with that medal for me and my family. Divine Mercy has brought so many graces to my family."

Come make a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. Visit our website for more information.

If you are interested in volunteering at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, see our website for more information.

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Cathy - Aug 27, 2016

What a great story Ken & Joanne - you probably won't find out till you reach Heaven just how many lives you've transformed and souls you've help save. I remember having the house painted by a Polish guy about 10 years ago and he spent time telling me about St Faustina (who I had never heard of). I later bought the diary out of curiosity and the Divine Mercy message has been a very powerful influence on my life every since. I'm sure he would have no idea, but I continue to think of him often and pray for his perseverance.