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Peregrine Ministry

Good friends Rachel Berreckman (left) and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Stratton make "We C.A.R.E." bracelets at Children's Hospital in Omaha. The girls, who are receiving cancer treatments, began creating and selling the bracelets to help others struggling with cancer. Both are enrolled in the [START] of the Servants of Mary.
Prayer to St. Peregrine

Patron of cancer patients and other life-threatening diseases

St. Peregrine, you have given us an example to follow; as a Christian you were steadfast in love; as a Servite you were faithful in service; as a penitent you humbly acknowledged your sin; afflicted you bore suffering with patience. Intercede for us, then, with our heavenly Father so that we – steadfast, humble and patient – may receive from Christ Jesus the grace we ask.

By Lisa Schulte
The Catholic Voice

When Dave Berreckman's 10-year-old daughter Rachel was diagnosed with cancer last year, his heart was broken and his faith shaken.

Soon thereafter his fears were calmed after discovering the Servants of Mary's [START], a prayer ministry for those suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses and their families.

"Your initial thoughts are just horrible that you are possibly losing your child and then the questions of why are always there," said Berreckman, a member of St. James Parish in Kearney.

The [START] and the Servites' compassion and love helped him move beyond the questions to trust in the Lord, he said.

"Jesus didn't come into the world just to alleviate our pain and suffering, but he came to fill it with his presence," he said. "I think that's what we're longing for is for Jesus to fill us during this time and throughout this whole journey. Just to know that he is with us is so reassuring."

The Servants of Mary Sisters, whose motherhouse is in Omaha, established the [START] in 1991 in honor of the Servite saint who is the patron saint of those suffering from cancer or other serious illnesses. Through their ministry, thousands of people have received support, friendship and prayers.

St. Peregrine

St. Peregrine Laxiosi was born in Forli, Italy, in 1265.

As a teenager, he was the leader of a gang of youths who were taking part in the anti-papal movement. During one uprising, he attacked St. Philip Benizi, prior general of the Servants of Mary Order. When Benizi forgave him, Peregrine was filled with remorse, changed his life and joined the Servants of Mary.

He was cured of cancer after he had a vision of Christ on the cross reaching out his hand to touch a sore on his leg.

He died in 1345 and was canonized in 1726.

"One of the big things we can learn from his life is that we have to trust in God as we are dealing with pain, sickness and the crosses in our life," said Sister Zita Marie Sharrow, director of the [START]. "He placed himself unconditionally in the hands of our Lord and we see what happened."

Ministry of prayer

The purpose of the [START] is multifaceted, with prayer being the most important aspect, Sister Sharrow said. The sisters pray for more medical breakthroughs in curing cancer, as well as for protection from cancer. They also pray for the acceptance of suffering as a way to help people personally gain heaven.

"We do pray for miracles, for physical healing, but much more we pray for that deeper miracle where we can accept with peace whatever God allows in our life … that we have the faith and the love that carries us through," she said. "We pray for the miracle that enables us to live each day to the fullest. Today is what we have."

Those suffering from cancer or other serious illnesses can be enrolled in the [START] for free. Once a person's name is received, they are sent a letter, a medal and a prayer card, and are remembered in the sisters' daily prayers."Once a person is enrolled, they stay enrolled," Sister Sharrow said, noting that she receives 30 to 40 new members each month.

On the third Saturday of every month, a special 11 a.m. Mass is celebrated in honor of St. Peregrine in the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows Convent. It is open to the public, especially to those suffering from cancer or other serious illnesses, their families and caretakers. Three times a year, an anointing service takes place during the Mass.

Another special part of the ministry is the [START] Triduum, which is held the weekend closest to May 4, feast day of St. Peregrine.

Building friendships

This month, Dave Berreckman and his wife, Jean, attended the Triduum weekend May 5-7 at the motherhouse with Joe and Sami Stratton of Kearney. The couples met last year at Good Samaritan Hospital's Cancer Center in Kearney where both of their daughters are receiving cancer treatment. They enrolled their daughters, Rachel Berreckman and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Stratton, in the [START].

Rachel and Lizzie became instant friends after discovering they had the same oncologist, belonged to the same Kearney parish and had May birthdays only one day apart.

To show their appreciation for all that is being done for them and to help other families struggling cancer, the girls and their families founded a Cancer Awareness and Relief Effort Fund called C.A.R.E., which is connected with the Good Samaritan Hospital Cancer Center. Rachel and Lizzie create and sell "We C.A.R.E." bracelets. Each bracelet incorporates 12 different colored beads representing 12 types of cancer, a cancer-awareness ribbon and an additional charm.

Proceeds from the bracelets are used to provide newly diagnosed cancer patients who are receiving treatment at Good Samaritan Hospital with a C.A.R.E. packet. The packets include such items as a gas card, calendar, phone card, visor angel clip, journal and biographies on Rachel and Lizzie.

The "We C.A.R.E." bracelets can be purchased at the gift shop at the Servants of Mary motherhouse.

Dave Berreckman said the [START] Triduum experience was "very moving and meaningful" and gave the families strength for their journey.

"We were just so touched by the hospitality and the welcoming that we received from all the sisters, especially Sister Zita," he said.

Bereavement program

The [START] also provides a bereavement program to the families of those members who have died. It includes a newsletter, grief counseling and a memorial Mass on the third Saturday in November, held in honor of those who died during the past year.

As an extension of the ministry, the Servants of Mary have built a Peregrine Chapel, as well as a Healing Garden on the grounds of their motherhouse, to provide a place for prayer and reflection.

Sister Sharrow's work with the ministry became much more personal in recent months. In October 2004, just two months after becoming director of the ministry, she was diagnosed with cancer.

"When I found out that I had cancer, I talked to Peregrine and I said, you know, if you want me to do this ministry, take care of it," she said. "So I had the surgery on November 8, I came home on November 11 and I did not need any follow-up treatments."

Having gone through that experience, Sister Sharrow said she has an even greater desire to walk with those suffering and extend to them the compassion of God.

For Dave Berreckman and his family, that support has made all the difference in his daughter's ability to reach remission and remain there.

"Our heartfelt gratitude is extended to the Friends of St. Peregrine and to all who pray for cancer patients and their families everywhere," Berreckman said. "Knowing we are not alone and knowing that others are lifting us up to the Lord makes all the difference. May God continue to bless your ministry and do many things through your efforts."

To learn more about the [START] or to enroll a person, visit the Servants of Mary web site at or call at 571-2547.

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