Note: The story of Michael Mercer’s miraculous healing and Blessed Miriam Teresa’s holy life will be told on They Might Be Saints, airing Friday, May 8, at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time, on EWTN.
“Look what I found! Look what I found!”
Sister Maria Cassidy came running down the hallway of the motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity clutching an envelope that she desperately wanted to show to the others. She had been cleaning out a filing cabinet and discovered it at the bottom of the drawer between two hanging folders. The envelope marked “Save for later” contained a letter written decades earlier by a woman who believed she had witnessed a true miracle through the intercession of Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich.
The Case of Michael Mercer
The cause for canonization for Demjanovich, authorized by Rome in 1945 with the formation of an ordinary informative process about the saintly nun’s life and virtues, had been searching for decades for a verifiable miracle that could lead to her beatification. In 1970 Barbara Mencer had written to the Miriam Teresa Office, but it remained hidden until its discovery in 1998.
The note related the cure of her son Michael, who as a young boy suffered from macular degeneration resulting in 20/400 vision. An ophthalmologist who examined him determined that he had a congenital problem. Glasses would not help him. With having vision only out of the sides of his eyes, he struggled in school and in life — even getting hit by a car — so the Sisters of Charity, the children at the school and the neighbors began praying to Sister Miriam Teresa specifically for Michael that his eyesight might improve.
His third-grade teacher at the time fortuitously happened to be the director of the Miriam Teresa League. One day she sent Michael home with a pamphlet and a round memento containing a relic — a tiny piece of hair from the head of Sister Miriam Teresa — to give to his mother. Michael recalled, “I was trying to look at it, trying to focus, with my peripheral vision but obviously I couldn’t get details on it.”
He walked home with it clutched in his hand and kept struggling to try to see it and suddenly everything changed: “I looked up and saw an orb but it didn’t hurt my eyes — I thought it was the sun — but then when I looked back down and moved my finger over it I could see the hair in the memento!”
His mother was cooking dinner and, when Michael got home, he came up to her to explain that Sister had given their family the relic and was looking directly at her. She knew immediately that he was healed. When they returned to the doctor, he could not explain the impossible change and simply smiled and said, “somebody has been praying!”
Dr. Mary Mazzarella, the medical consultant to the cause, researched all the available medical records including at the renowned Wills Eye Institute, a famous ophthalmological center in Pennsylvania that treats especially difficult cases. The doctors asked Michael’s mother why she brought a child with 20/20 vision to the clinic. The cause initially sought the input of four doctors — two pediatric ophthalmologists and two general physicians — and after consulting with colleagues, medical journals and other sources, each of them reported that they had no knowledge of anyone ever being cured of macular degeneration.
The report was sent to Rome, where it was examined by the Vatican’s Medical Commission for the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Ultimately 19 doctors examined the medical record with all of them declaring it to be medically unexplainable. After the Congregation then determined that it was case of the singular intercession of Sister Miriam Teresa, the report was sent to Pope Francis, who declared on Dec. 17, 2013, that this was truly a miracle. This set the stage for the next step of the sainthood process.
Read more at National Catholic Register