By Mike Yerly, Director of Development
Fr. John Belmonte, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Joliet, before Christmas break asked all principals in the Diocese to submit names of students in their respective schools in need of special prayer, which would be added to a Healing Novena taking place for nine consecutive days between January 17 and January 27.
A novena is a traditional form of Catholic prayer. Those praying a novena recite a specific prayer or series of specific prayers with a certain request or intention in mind, continuing over the course of nine days or nine hours.
Fr. Belmonte’s intention for the novena was to pray for healing. A list of names from all the principals was compiled and shared, and St. Isidore students began the Healing Novena on Tuesday morning, January 17 with their morning prayers.
The Healing Novena consisted of nine prayers to obtain graces through the intercession of Venerable Antonietta Meo, a young six-year old Italian girl born in the 1930s in Rome.
She attended Catholic school and was a “charismatic, active, and kind young lady,” who at the age of five, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer which eventually caused her left leg to be amputated.
She prayed, “Dear Jesus, you are holy, you are good. Help me, grant me your grace and give me back my leg. If you don’t want to, then may your will be done.” But the amputation had not stopped the tumor from spreading, and for six years until her death in 1936, the illness itself and treatments she received caused her horrible, almost intolerable pain.
In the months before her death, “Nennolina,” as she was affectionately called, wrote one hundred letters to Jesus or to the Blessed Virgin. She prayed often, and offered her pain to Jesus. St. Isidore students began on the first day of the Healing Novena with Antonietta’s “Little Letter to God the Father,” and continued the novena with other of her letters daily through January 27. After each reading, our students concluded with a “prayer to obtain graces through the intercession of Venerable Antonietta Meo,” the last line of which was “We humbly request healing for and all the children who suffer …” Amen.”
Names of 24 children or faculty members in the Diocese for whom the novena was prayed were then read, including one of our own students. What a special and meaningful initiative for our Diocesan children in need of healing, through the intentions of a little girl whose life and suffering long ago had, according to Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 when the Pope declared Antonietta “Venerable,” “been a witness of sanctity for all children who suffer.”