For most people, supermarket tabloids mean very little. However when the story happens to be about a local priest in a local parish, the legitimate news sources in town get interested and begin looking into it, check out the sources, see if there’s any real meat to the story. In the case of “Catholic Priest Performs Miracles” there was plenty of meat to find. Although HIPAA laws forbid the release of medical records without the patient’s signed approval, there is no such prohibition (technically, as long as you don’t get caught) from nurses, hospital techs, aides, housekeeping staff, pharmacists, etc., to tell tales out of school, so to speak. Talk becomes even freer when money is involved, although some people, and these are the people news sources love, are the ones who are willing to talk without any expectation of payment at all. In the case of Father Cass they came out of the woodwork like termites.
Joe Frank started out as a sports writer for the Detroit Free Press in the 1980s, eventually getting his own column. After writing two bestselling books, the paper rewarded him by changing his sports column to sort of an “Everyman’s Column,” allowing him to write about whatever he chose. The readers loved it, and the Free Press knew enough to hang on to Joe Frank. Joe was a lapsed Catholic and when he first heard the story of Father Cass, he wasn’t interested. He’d seen his share of charlatans and snake oil salesmen and he had no desire to waste his time on this one. Until he saw a brief piece on the news about a few of Father Cass’s lesser-known miracles.
The whole world had heard about Emily Scanlon, Alex Khirshon, and the adorable Amanda Kozlowski. But since the news broke, reporters were digging deeper, looking for new information. Abigail Slaughter with CHWI News out of Windsor, just across the river from Detroit, broadcast an interview with three of Father Cass’s parishioners who also claimed to have been healed. The reason no one had heard of them, they said, was because they never contacted the archdiocese or anyone else about their cures. Joe considered writing a piece about Father Cass, although he knew it would be difficult, since no one had seen the priest in five or six days. He hit the play button on his remote and the image of Abigail Slaughter appeared. Beside her, but in shadow sat her three special guests.
ABIGAIL: “Good afternoon, I’m Abigail Slaughter and this is a special edition of CBET News. My guests today are three special parishioners of St. Florian Roman Catholic Church, in Hamtramck, Michigan. All of our guests claim to have been healed by Father Cass Radnaezewski of St Florian’s Church. Let’s start with Mary Klidja. Can you tell us about your experience, please?” The lights came up on Mary.
MARY: “Thank you, Ms. Slaughter. Well, it’s nothing so dramatic as cancer, but it sure was a meaningful thing for me.”
ABIGAIL: “Just call me, Abby. Okay, Mary? We’re glad you didn’t have to deal with something as serious as cancer. But you did have a serious problem, didn’t you?”
MARY: “Well, yes. Yes I did, Abby. I was a smoker for about twenty years and thank God I quit about ten years ago. I did it cold turkey and it was hell. Oh, I’m so sorry I said that. Can you beep it out?”
ABIGAIL: “Don’t worry about it. Go on.”
MARY: “Okay. Anyway, I was fine. But about two years ago I started having trouble breathing. I got short of breath just going down to the basement to do the laundry, and it kept getting worse. So I went to the doctor. He took some tests, did some X-rays and he said it was emphysema and asthma, basically COPD. I thought only old people got that. I’m only forty-six. Next thing I know I’m on three different medications and I’ve got an oxygen tank at home.”
ABIGAIL: “Mary, I see that you don’t have an oxygen tank with you today, do you?”
MARY: “No, ma’am, I don’t need it anymore. I joined in the prayer circles with Father Cass, and it went away.”
ABIGAIL: “Went away? What exactly do you mean by that?”
MARY: “Just what I said. It went away. I was cured. I can breathe now, and I’m training to run in the MS half marathon next spring.”
ABIGAIL: “Thank you, Mary.” The light came up on the second guest. “Our next guest is Ed Kroscnewicz. Ed, would you mind sharing your story with us?”
ED: “Glad to, Abby. Hi, my name is Ed Kroscnewicz, and I’ve been attending St. Florian’s for, geez I don’t know, I guess about thirty years now. All three of my boys made their first communions there, were confirmed there and they were all altar boys. I myself have been an usher and a member of the men’s club for I don’t know how long. That is until about eighteen months ago when I had to quit. I just didn’t have a choice.”
ABIGAIL: “Why was that, Ed?”
ED: “I was in too much pain, nerve pain, all over my body. It was like sharp knives inside me trying to get out. I just couldn’t take it, so I stayed home. I was too depressed to go anywhere. Liz, my wife, finally dragged me into the car and took me to the doctor, a bunch of doctors actually. They came up with fibromyalgia. There’s not a lot you can do for it, anti depressants, pain meds. But they really didn’t seem to be helping.”
ABIGAIL: “So, when did you go to the prayer circles?”
ED: “That’s the funny thing. I never went. I refused to get out of my chair for anything. But Liz has this amazing faith. Even when other people would give up, she won’t. She’s always been that way. So she told me she was going to go to Father Cass’s prayer circle and they were going to pray for me to be healed. I told her, ‘Keep the faith, baby, keep the faith, I wish I could go with you but I can’t, I just cant.’ So off she went.”
ABIGAIL: “What happened then?”
ED: “It was four weeks later. I remember, because Liz is a calendar keeper. Everything gets put on the calendar, whether it’s important or not. So she’d been to four prayer circles. I woke up that morning and I stretched and it felt so good, and then I remembered. Wait, how can that feel good? I haven’t stretched like that in months. So I kind of took an inventory of myself and I felt wonderful, there was no pain anywhere. It was gone, completely gone. And more importantly, it hasn’t come back.”
ABIGAIL: “Is that normal with fibromyalgia?”
ED: “Not according to my doctors, it isn’t. They said they’d never seen anything like it. In fact, they kind of inferred that I should see a head doctor because maybe the whole thing had been, what did they call it? Oh yeah, psychosomatic. That was it. Except my GP, Dr. Dutcher. I’ve been going to him for probably as long as I’ve been going to St. Florian’s, and that man knows me inside and out. Ha! That’s a good one-inside and out! Anyway, knowing me the way he does, he said he didn’t doubt the healing at all. He’s seen me through all kinds of things, a ruptured disc in my back, two outbreaks of shingles even, and I didn’t even take pain meds, not once, but this fibromyalgia thing got me for a loop. I signed a release and you can talk to him, or any of the others, for that matter.”
ABIGAIL: “So to be clear, you’re saying you didn’t even attend the prayer circles then? You’re wife went, but you didn’t. Is that right?”
ED: “That’s right, Abby. It was all done long distance, so to speak.”
ABIGAIL: “How is that even possible?”
ED: “How’s any of this possible would be the better question, don’t you think? There are more things in Heaven and Earth than we mortals will ever understand.”
ABIGAIL: “There is no doubting that statement, Ed. Thank you. For our final guest from St. Florian’s parish, I’d like to introduce Mr. Hank Wozny. Of all of the stories of healing that have come out of St. Florian’s, to my mind, Mr. Wozny’s is the most startling. Well, let me just have him tell you. Mr. Wozny?” The lights came up on the third guest.
The camera focused on a close-up of a man probably in his late fifties. He had a full head of black hair, though it was graying at the temples, with full-lidded, piercing blue eyes. His nose had a small bump at the bridge, which gave him an exotic ethnic look, matching the high cheekbones and ruddy complexion; all in all he was a nice-looking man. It was impossible to determine his height as he was sitting, but Joe Frank knew exactly how tall he was, because he had known Hank Wozny most of his life. At hearing Hank’s name, he jumped out of his chair, spilled the beer he’d been drinking, and turned up the volume on his television.
HANK: “First of all, for those of you watching who might know me, I’d like to say this-I am not wearing any hearing aids of any kind. Abby, can your cameraman get a close-up on my ears, so that your viewing audience can see that I’m not wearing my hearing aids?”
Joe choked on the beer he’d just swallowed. The coughing fit that followed lasted a full minute, followed by the usual sips of water, tossing his beer down the drain and finally changing his t-shirt. By the time he got back to the interview, he had to rewind it. He stopped it here – “… not wearing my hearing aids?”
ABBY: “Yes, Hank, I’m sure we can do that. Jack, can you handle that? Great. Okay.” The camera focused in on Hank’s left ear and then his right ear, then it zoomed back out for the remainder of the interview. “Go on.”
Always the ladies man, Hank smiled at Abby and said, “Thanks, Abby. Appreciate it. I just wanted everyone to understand that since praying with Father Cass, my hearing aids are a thing of the past. I don’t need them anymore. In fact I’ve donated them to the Lions Hearing Center, so someone who needs them and can’t afford them will be able to use them.
ABBY: "That’s wonderful, Hank. But I’d like it if you could tell our viewers about your specific hearing loss. How severe was it? When did it start? And it would be great if you could tell us about what happened during and after the prayer circles with Father Cass, if you wouldn’t mind."
Flashing his pearly whites he said, “I’d love to, Abby. I wasn’t born deaf. In fact, according to my mother, I heard more than I should have and told anybody who would listen. I don’t really remember back that far, so I can’t argue with her. What I do remember is getting a really bad case of the measles when I was six years old. Measles can cause all kinds of problems, and in my case it took my hearing. I lost most all of the hearing in my left ear and a good part of the hearing in my right ear. Hearing aids helped, but it couldn’t be said that they restored my hearing.
I became very adept at lip reading, and I learned American Sign Language. With a lot of dedication and drive, I graduated from the University of Detroit with a BA in education, and I teach at the Detroit Day School for the Deaf.
My mother’s friend Emily Scanlon suggested that I come to Father Cass’s prayer circles, and I’ve found it’s always easier to go along than to argue when it comes to church and my mother, so I went. But I was the reason that I kept going back after the first time. I found the prayer circles and Father Cass’s attitude about them to leave me feeling very centered and peaceful, almost as if, well I hesitate to say it, but almost as if I were in a state of grace.”
ABBY: “A state of grace? What do you mean by that?”
HANK: “I’m not sure. It was a feeling of sureness, of certainty. It was a feeling that I was finally on the right path. I didn’t feel as if I was searching anymore. I guess that was it. But you know, Father Cass never told any of us that we would be cured or healed or made better in any way. He just invited us to come and pray with him. I think the way he put it was this, ‘God is listening and there is power in numbers.’ It made sense to me.”
ABBY: “So what happened?”
HANK: “Really, it was the funniest thing. It was almost like God needed to smack me on the forehead to get my attention.”
ABBY: “What do you mean?”
HANK: “I mean, my hearing started to come back after the first prayer circle I attended. I just didn’t notice.”
ABBY: “How could you not notice?”
HANK: “Well, I noticed and I didn’t notice. I live alone and after I got home the first night, I read for a while, so obviously there was nothing for me to hear, really. So I went to bed and when I got up in the morning, I went to work, which is a pretty quiet place too. But I felt that my hearing aids were turned up too high, or so I thought. Every day I just kept adjusting them, until I finally realized I didn’t need them at all. I could hear absolutely everything without them. I’m not really sure how many prayer circles I had been to at that point.”
ABBY: “So let me ask you the obvious, Hank. Have you had your hearing tested?”
HANK: “I have. And the results are conclusive. My hearing is absolutely one hundred percent in the normal range in both ears, for a person of my age. In other words, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with my ears or my hearing. I’ve brought you a copy of the results if you’re interested. I’ve also brought you a copy of the test that was done when my last hearing aids were purchased, as a comparison. I hope this helps.”
ABBY: “It certainly adds another interesting layer to the amazing saga of Father Cass Radnaezewski of St. Florian’s in Hamtramck, Michigan, the priest, the people, and the miracles. It’s important to note that none of our guests were paid for their participation in our interview today. Transcripts of our show may be requested at www.CHWI-TV16Windsor.com This is Abigail Slaughter, thank you for watching.”
Joe Frank clicked off the television and finally leaned back in his chair for the first time since the light had focused on Hank Wozny. Hank Wozny, who lived next door to his cousin Brian on Pressler. Hank Wozny, the best bowler on the team Joe had played on for eight years, until he managed to screw up his rotator cuff and had to quit. Hank Wozny, whose reputation as a ladies man preceded him at every bar in Hamtramck-the strong silent type, with the Hollywood looks and the smoldering eyes. HOLY CRAP! Joe grabbed his cell phone off the table and pulled up Hank’s number from his contact list. Then he texted him a short message: “Can I buy you a beer?”
Almost immediately an answer popped up. “It’s 11:22 a.m. Are you drunk? How about coffee?”
Joe thought about that statement. Maybe his mother and sister were right. Maybe he did need a wife. Nah. He replied. “Sure. Starbucks 20 minutes?”
“Sat am too busy. Jeb’s 30 minutes”
“OK.” Joe wondered how many people had seen the CHWI interview and how many of the general public, or at least the general Detroit area knew about Hank’s story. Fortunately, Abigail Slaughter didn’t have a big name even at CHWI, much less in the general news media. Her Special Report had been broadcast at four o’clock this morning, which was why Joe had recorded it. There was no denying that it had the potential to rock the news world and Joe couldn’t understand why the bigwigs at her station hadn’t given it a better time slot. The only explanation was that nobody had bothered to give it the attention it deserved. So much for gender equality. What a shame.
Joe needed to talk to Hank before his miraculous healing turned into a ridiculous sideshow. Hopefully that would be now, when only Windsor’s insomniacs and Hank’s closest friends and family knew his story. He stuffed his wallet into his jeans pocket, threw on his worn, leather jacket, picked up his phone, and headed out to his car. With luck and Saturday traffic, he might be at Jeb’s in time to pick out a booth in the back where they wouldn’t be overheard.
Jeb’s House wasn’t a coffee shop. In fact there was a lot it wasn’t. For one thing, it wasn’t a house. Jeb’s House was the corner tenant of a small strip mall, and a man named Jeb didn’t own it. Jeb’s was owned and operated by two sisters, Faye and Lucy, who just happened to have a grandfather named Jeb, thus the name of the restaurant. Jeb’s House opened at six in the morning for breakfast and closed at two in the afternoon, just after lunch.
Their breakfast special was Corned Beef Hash & Eggs and their lunch special was a BLT & A with a side of slaw and fries, which anyone who had ever eaten there knew, was a bacon, lettuce, tomato & avocado sandwich. However, to the consternation of every coffee house within ten miles, Jeb’s House served the best coffee to be had anywhere, anytime, hands down. They had also mastered espressos, lattes and cappuccinos, for those who wanted one. Their pie wasn’t bad either.
Joe pulled his fifteen-year-old Honda Civic into the parking lot with almost ten minutes to spare. A cursory glance around the place told him Hank hadn’t arrived yet, so he headed to a booth in the back. As he made his way down the aisle, Lucy caught his eye. “Speak of the devil. Well, Joe Frank. We were just talking about you.”
Joe smiled. “You were, huh? I hope it was all good. And what do you and Faye have to say about me?”
“Not me and Faye,” she said, “Me and Hank, over there.” She pointed to the booth in the corner. It looked empty, but as she spoke, Hank who had been sitting with his back to them, leaned out of the booth and waved at Joe.
“I’m over here, Joe. Have a seat. I’ve ordered coffee.”