At our Men’s Prayer Breakfast yesterday, during the prayer time when we were voicing our prayer intentions, a man prayed for his daughter who has cancer.
Recently, I sent my daughter some information on the priest who baptized her: Fr John Petrasko. At the time of her baptism on July 17, 1988, Fr Petrasko was the Chaplain at Misericordia University (known at that time as “College Misericordia”). Normally, she would have been baptized by the assistant pastor at Gate of Heaven Parish in Dallas. However, he was away that weekend, and Fr Petrasko was covering for him.
Two years after he baptized my daughter, Fr John Petrasko died of colon cancer at the young age of 36. He was in the hospital for several months leading up to his death. Though he and many others prayed for his healing, Fr Petrasko accepted his illness without bitterness or anger, but as part of God’s mysterious plan for his life. As he got closer to death, he was very frustrated by the fact that the pain medication caused him to be so woosy that he was unable to pray well.
At the post-baptism celebration, Fr Petrasko mentioned in conversation that, besides his work as a college chaplain and fill-in priest, he occasionally went to hear confessions and have Mass for the inmates at SCI-Retreat, the state prison along the Susquehanna River in Hunlock Creek.
I asked him if others were allowed to accompany him, and he responded that they were, but that they needed to be added to the visitors list prior to the visit. He told me the date of his next visit, and we made arrangements for me to go with him and Sr Julian Baird, who usually accompanied him.
I made two or three prison visits with Fr Petrasko. Fr Petrasko was a truly holy priest, who definitely had a personal relationship with Jesus. He said Mass very reverently. I witnessed firsthand the compassion and charity with which he treated the inmates, and the effusive gratitude that they expressed to him. He also treated the prison guards with due respect, addressing each of them as “Officer.” The casual conversations we shared as we traveled to-and-from the prison also revealed his personal holiness and self-giving love. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember any of his homily at the Baptism Mass).
Because of his holiness, I’m guessing that Fr Petrasko is in heaven now. The 30th anniversary of his ordination was this month. Since his life on earth was so short, he probably wants to continue his priestly ministry from heaven. This makes him an appropriate intercessor, a saint who probably eagerly awaits our requests for his help. I suppose his intercession might be most efficacious for those who have cancer, like he did. (Also, for priests we know who need healing or help!)
So, as we pray for the daughter of that man at the Prayer Breakfast, don’t hesitate to enlist Fr Petrasko’s help from heaven.