THE ORIGIN OF THE PRAYER REQUEST FORM

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My wife Marg was, and I remain, a great believer in the role of Providence in our lives which I understand to mean that if we attempt to do what is right and ask by way of prayer then God will respond in ways that are spiritually beneficial and possibly materially beneficial but in ways that are not necessarily immediately apparent to us.

There were two episodes this week which reinforced that belief.

The first involved a long-time friend I have known since the 'sixties. He will be 75 in two weeks time and regrettably now has Parkinson's Disease. I visited him recently in a Canberra nursing home and during our conversation he said to me: "Denis, let the 'network' know that I am seeking a live-in carer". He was optimistic that he might be able to return to his home but realistic to understand that he could not cope on his own. Incidentally, his wife died around the same time as Marg last year and was buried on the afternoon of the same day, with several of our mutual friends attending both funerals. By the 'network' he meant anyone we both new who might be sympathetic to his request.

Well, I spread the word as best I could and last week I arranged for a short notice about his request to be added in to a letter being sent to 300 members of an organisation to which we both belong. Tonight (Sunday 3 March 2002) I phoned one of his daughters to confirm that it would be okay to refer to her the names of any people who might be recommended as live-in carers. She said 'Before you say anything, let me explain what has happened'. It appears that after visiting just about every nursing home in Canberra and being told that there were no long-term vacancies for her father and that the average waiting list was three years, and being conscious that the home he was currently in could only accommodate him for three months at the most, she received a call at work last week.

It was from a home they had approached which, to all intents, was the best possible solution in terms of care and suitability of social and religious environment but had been absolutely full up with a very long waiting list. They told her that an unexpected vacancy had come up and her father could move in next Thursday. I am certain that the man himself and many of his friends would have been praying for success in this search and while the request for a 'live-in carer' might have been a bit optimistic granted the nature of his illness, this is a tremedous outcome and one which I would attribute to Providence.

The second episode concerns the request for prayers which are occasionally sent to me by e-mail. They come from different parts of the world and generally involve brain tumour patients whose carers have discovered the Marg's Journey website.

I was puzzling as to how these requests could be handled. Could they be referred to a prayer group in our Parish that has been helping me with a particular project I am working on? Would our Parish Priest agree to the names been mentioned in the general intercessions for the sick read out at each weekend Mass? Could they be referred on to religious people associated with our local Hospice and Hospital where I have just recently joined the "Mission Integration Team" as a consumer representative?

No solution seemed right. Then I received a copy of the Newsletter from the Yarra Bay Eucharistic Prayer Community Inc in Sydney, whose driving force is a woman called Marika. I had established contact with Marika last year through a circuitous route which stemmed from a request by Marg to see if there were any additional religious tapes authored by a Catholic Priest Fr Ronan Kilgannon. Marg had been given a tape by Fr Kilgannon about prayer and it became one of her favourite tapes as her illness progressed. Fr Kilgannon put me in touch with Marika and she was able to send me a videotape which featured Fr Kilgannon celebrating a Healing Mass in Sydney. We communicated several times and at one stage Marg and I had a plan to visit Fr Kilgannon in the Kangaroo Valley but she deteriorated too much for the plan to be put into effect.

So, after receiving Marika's Newsletter I sent a fax asking if her community might be able to receive and act on the requests for prayer from brain tumour patients and their caregivers. She phoned this weekend and said they would be delighted to. She also revealed that she had no idea why she happened to send me the Newsletter last week, she had simply come across my address among her papers.

Some people would say "Mere coincidence", I and others would say "Providential".

Incidentally, Fr Kilgannon will be inducted (I don't think that is the correct word) as a religious hermit (and maybe that's not the official title either) this coming weekend. He has charge of a small historical Church in the country between Wollongong and Mittagong, NSW.

Sunday 3 March 2002