Indescribable ... Inexplicable ... Miraculous
Most people might think of a trip to Rome, Mass at St. Peter's and receiving Communion from the pope as a dream come true. Some would even call it a miracle.
For Dr. Edward and Jeanne Gatz of Omaha, it was another miracle - the cure of Edward Gatz's terminal cancer in 1989 - that led them to Rome Oct. 11 for the canonization of St. Jeanne Jugan and four other saints
"You can't describe the indescribable," Jeanne Gatz, 71, said. "The atmosphere and the spirit, the feeling of the love and the devotion that was there from the nuns, the priests, the people that came on the pilgrimages; it was so uplifting."
While in Rome, the Gatzes were guests of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the religious order founded by St. Jeanne Jugan. The sisters, who take a vow of hospitality, made the couple feel welcome in every way, they said.
"When we first arrived, I asked the Little Sisters if the priests could say Mass, and within 15 minutes they had their vestments on and we started the whole thing off with a Mass," said 72-year-old Edward Gatz, who joined the Catholic Church in 1959. "It's such a community of God, and it's indescribable as Jeanne and I search for words to say what it's like to be with the people, except it's a taste of heaven."
Edward and Jeanne Gatz got to know several groups of the Little Sisters of the Poor as they went through the canonization processs. Two English-speaking members of the order served as their guides during their five days in Rome.
At the canonization Mass, the Gatzes were seated one row behind the priests and were among only 40 people to receive Communion from Pope Benedict XVI that day.
Also in attendance was their son, Dr. Bart Gatz of Florida; their niece and nephew, Mark and Jacque Fitzgerald of Norfolk; their cousin, Laurie Burgess and her boyfriend, Darryl McNeil of Omaha; and friends, Sharon Melchior, Margo Schmising, Ron and Pauline Wilwerding, Father James Buckley and Father Matthew Gutowski.
The Gatzes said their marriage and their faith have been strengthened as a result of Edward Gatz's miraculous cure, and they feel a sense of greater purpose in life.
"I'm still looking for a reason why I'm still around," said Edward Gatz, who suffers daily from acid reflux symptoms because his stomach is now behind his sternum as a result of the surgery that removed the tumor. "It's not over until it's over and you ought to be looking for what you could be doing."
The couple, who celebrated 47 years of marriage this year, said they turn to several saints in prayer, but that St. Jeanne Jugan gets called upon the most for her intercession because they know she listens.
"Going through this experience," Jeanne Gatz said, "makes you realize there are saints in heaven, and yes, they are watching over you and hearing prayers and interceding."