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Breath from Heaven

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By Marc Massery

Karen Fennell of Peabody, Massachusetts, grew up Catholic but left the Church when she was about 18 years old. "I used to sing for the Church — I loved the Church. Unfortunately, then along came a visiting priest," she said.

After leaving the Church as a result of abuse, she wandered in her faith for a while. "I just couldn't trust the Church anymore," she said. "I would run into people who were very faithful, so I would try their church. I tried many different churches because I was searching for Jesus."

Years later, in around 2008, she finally went back to Mass again. "My first Confession back I said, 'I broke every Commandment. Every single one of them,'" she recalled. She went to the Catholic church around the corner from her mother's house and heard a priest give a homily that impacted her. "In his homily, he apologized for all the abuse some priests had done to people," she said. "From that point on, I went to Mass all the time. It did something to me. It allowed me to open up, to put my walls down, and to get over any final bitterness I had." She joined St. Joseph Parish in Wakefield, Massachusetts, where she sang with the praise and worship ministry.

"Then I got sick," she said. "I was basically told, 'I'm sorry, you're going to die.'" In 2010, Karen was diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an immune disorder in which the lungs become inflamed in reaction to allergens. She was out of work for six months as a result of her illness. She had to start carrying around a portable oxygen machine with her.

"I went from being a good-sized woman to where you could see my ribs," she said. "But I kept going to praise and worship Monday and Friday nights, and I would sing like there was no tomorrow."

In her illness, she often found it difficult to sleep. But Eucharistic Adoration always gave her the consolation she needed. "I would go to Jesus, and I had my best sleep there," she said. "I would sit for hours sometimes." Often in Adoration, Karen felt close to St. Faustina, St. Thérèse, and the Blessed Mother, especially after reading 33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC.

"But as it got more and more difficult, I would yell at God, and I would say, 'Why have you forsaken me?'" she said. Despite her frustration, her struggle with physical illness ultimately brought about significant spiritual and emotional healing for her. "When I sang, I felt like He was healing me from the inside out," she said.

In 2016, the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, a good friend from Karen's parish named Bill Baril (whose story appeared in last month's Thirteenth of the Month Club newsletter) took her to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

"He took me on three occasions," she said. "My friend Bill made sure I went out there to get blessed by St. Faustina's relic. Bill was determined to get a miracle for me. He had enough faith for everyone. He talked to Fr. Anthony [Gramlich, MIC,] for me, who prayed over me twice."

Karen got her miracle, but it wasn't in the way she had hoped. Years earlier, a pulmonologist mentioned the possibility of a lung transplant. "But I didn't want someone else's body parts in me," Karen said. "I didn't think it was the thing to do."

But after almost 10 years of declining health, she finally felt like God was calling her to have a transplant. "I woke up one day, and on my heart, I felt an overwhelming feeling that said to call the doctor and make an appointment to find out about the transplant."

It took her two years to qualify for a transplant. "I worked up until the morning they said they had lungs for me," she said. "[In May 2018] I qualified, and 14 days later they had a transplant for me. That's really unheard of."

Thanks to her faith, she remained completely calm before her surgery. "I had never been so peaceful in my life. You'd never know I was going to have surgery," she said.

Today she feels like a new person. "It was the most wonderful experience of my life. All that suffering ... I really believed that He had to heal my soul first before He gave me the miracle. My soul was just way too damaged, so many years being away from the Church, so many sins."

Karen doesn't need an oxygen machine anymore. She even leads the singing in her praise and worship ministry at church. "So, I got my miracle," she said. "Even with coronavirus ... I'm not concerned. I know that Jesus has some kind of mission for me."

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Eugene - Sep 9, 2020

Karen your testimony has inspired me & has really psychologically, physically & spiritually edified me as I am still undergoing medical treatment after passing through the most terrible accident I have experienced in life. Thank you for sharing your life story, God bless you.

Betty C - Sep 2, 2020

Beautiful witness to Gods healing movement in your life! Thank you for sharing!

Linda - Aug 9, 2020

Thank you for this testimony. Reading about your healing in body, mind and spirit gave me a sense of the reality of Trust in God's great Providence and Mercy. Praising God for your journey. God bless!