Saint Joseph Was With Him

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By Lawrence Steneck

My brother Johnny was the oldest in our family. He was born on March 8, 1943, in New York City while our father was serving in World War II.

Johnny was born with a very severe case of cerebral palsy. The doctors advised my parents to institutionalize Johnny since he would probably not live past his teenage years and would be a tremendous burden to my parents. My parents, however, decided to bring him home and welcome him as a beloved member of our family.

My parents were later blessed with four more sons and one daughter. I was the second-born, and as such, I would share a bedroom with Johnny for 19 years. Johnny would never be able to do anything for himself. He was reliant on our family to feed him, dress him, clean him, and do everything for him that most of us can do for ourselves.

When Johnny was 8 years old, we moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, to be near a special needs school that was considered one of the best in the country. They did some tests on Johnny and reported back that he had an excellent IQ. He would be able to learn a great deal during his life. Unfortunately, Johnny would never be able to talk. He just made sounds and hand motions that only we understood.

Through the years, Johnny was a beloved member of our family. He participated in our family outings. He was a big Yankees fan and knew the players and stats from watching the games on television.

In 1984, our mom died, and in 1987, my dad died. Shortly afterwards, Johnny was placed in a care center that took wonderful care of him. He had many friends, and his great smile and laugh brightened everyone's day.

Johnny had always had good health, but as time progressed, his physical condition deteriorated — his body tensed up uncontrollably. In 2018, he required a feeding tube. Then in 2020, he contracted COVID-19 and was transferred to the intensive care unit in a nearby hospital. After two weeks, he was returned to the care center and placed in quarantine for an additional two weeks. Johnny was a people person, so these quarantines depressed him severely.

I had always known that my mom had a great devotion to St. Joseph. All the boys in our family took the name of "Joseph" at confirmation. So, when I read about Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, I purchased a copy and began the consecration on Sept. 30, 2020. My consecration day was Nov. 1, 2020, All Saints' Day.

By this time, Johnny had taken a turn for the worse. Complications from COVID had affected his lungs, and he was placed on equipment to help him breathe. Once again, he was placed in quarantine. Each day of the consecration process, I asked St. Joseph to pray for Johnny. I asked that, if Johnny could not be healed, St. Joseph would be with him at the hour of his death.

I live in the San Diego area and took a trip to visit Johnny on Oct. 29, 2020. On Friday, Oct. 30, with special permission, I got to visit him for 30 minutes. With tears in my eyes, I told him how proud I was to have him as my brother. I was told I could visit him again in seven days.

On Sunday, All Saints' Day, I completed my consecration to St. Joseph. The next day, my youngest brother, Paul, visited Johnny in the early afternoon. Johnny died a few hours later on All Souls' Day, the day following my consecration to St. Joseph.

The staff at the care center told us that he had died very peacefully. I truly believe that St. Joseph was with him and took him to Heaven. This February, I will offer another consecration to St. Joseph. This time, I will thank him for being with Johnny at his death.

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Jacquelyn - Apr 30, 2021

Lawrence ~

Thank you for sharing your love (God's love!) for Johnny.

I have often wondered if these special people wrapped in an unfair body, and without "our way" of communication; are indeed among His most elect!

It cannot be understated - how your brother - in all he could be - transformed the souls of your parents, siblings, his care workers and many more.

Our Lord decided during these difficult times to bring him into the fold of His saints in Heaven.

We are all truly better for his life being one of home living and community participation. One where we can know him.

May you continue to be touched by the things of Heaven as he dwells in the Communion of Saints!

Cathy - Apr 28, 2021

Beautiful family and story! Thank you St. Joseph! My mom was in hospice and the nurse told us to leave so my mom could take a nap. I walked to a bookstore not too far away. I randomly picked out a book and when I opened it it had a St. Joseph prayer book mark in it. I bought the book because of it and went back to the hospice. They said she was napping so I waited in the garden area. Later they got me and said she died. I placed the St. Joseph prayer bookmark in her hand. I only found out some time later that St. Joseph takes souls to Heaven! Thank you Jesus!