By Sarah Mac Donald
DUBLIN (Catholic News Service) — The Catholic Church in Ireland has confirmed that a woman who was seriously ill with multiple sclerosis experienced a complete healing of all her symptoms at Knock shrine in September 1989.
The cure of Marion Carroll 30 years ago is the first officially recognized healing associated with Ireland’s national Marian shrine since an apparition witnessed by 15 people occurred there in August 1879.
On Sept. 1, Bishop Francis Duffy of Ardagh announced to a packed basilica that the church had officially recognized 68-year-old Carroll’s healing.
“Without doubt, there was a healing, a cure of the illness that beset Marion for several years,” Bishop Duffy told the congregation, many of whom were taking part in the annual diocesan pilgrimage.
Carroll, her husband Jimmy, their two children and five grandchildren were in the congregation.
“I recognize that Marion was healed from her long-standing illness while on pilgrimage in this sacred place,” Bishop Duffy said. It was his predecessor, Bishop Colm O’Reilly, who administered the blessing after which Carroll experienced “something beautiful.”
Speaking to Catholic News Service from her home in Athlone, Carroll recalled that on the day she was healed, she had been taken into the basilica on a stretcher because she was “completely paralyzed.”
“I was doubly incontinent, I was blind in one eye and had very little sight in the other eye. I couldn’t eat right, I couldn’t talk right, and I had epilepsy,” she said.
She said she felt she was dying, not from multiple sclerosis, but from its ancillary complications, including persistent kidney infections.
At the blessing of the sick, Bishop O’Reilly blessed her with the monstrance as she lay on her stretcher.
“When he blessed me, I got this beautiful feeling — it was a magnificent feeling — and then the whispering breeze telling me that if the stretcher was opened that I could get up and walk.”
After Mass, the young mother was taken in her stretcher to St. John’s Rest and Care Centre in Knock. The nurses and doctors were surprised by her request that her stretcher be opened. The nurse told her afterward that she only agreed to do it to “pacify” her.
But as soon as the stretcher was opened, Carroll swung her legs to the ground.
“I stood up straight and didn’t even feel stiff” despite years of paralysis. Her voice had returned perfectly, as had the use of her arms.
Bishop Duffy said it was “a healing for which there is no medical explanation at present; it is definite and yet defies medical explanation.”
Father Richard Gibbons, rector of Knock shrine, who has overseen the celebrations of the 140th anniversary of the apparition at Knock, told CNS the announcement came “after many years of investigation by a medical committee set up by Knock shrine to examine the case, and (it) is the first official healing in the 140-year history of the shrine.”
Addressing the congregation Sept. 1, Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam explained the length of time it took for the formal acknowledgment of the healing.
“In these situations, the Church must always be very cautious,” he said.
The medical bureau at Knock shrine is headed up by Dr. Diarmuid Murray, who told RTE News that that it had taken 30 years to determine that there was no medical explanation for the cure because a formal diagnosis of Carroll’s condition had not been made.
Carroll said: “There was less information about multiple sclerosis at the time. My daughter has been diagnosed with it, but nowadays they can give a diagnosis quickly thanks to MRI scans.”
A letter from a consultant gastroenterologist to the medical bureau in Knock stated “regardless of whether her condition is organic or psychological, the dramatic improvement from the time of her visit to Knock is unexplained.” The letter adds, “My feeling is that her improvement is very unlikely to be explained by conventional medical wisdom.”
Carroll now dedicates time to helping the sick in Knock as well as talking about her cure at home and overseas. She serves as a eucharistic minister in her parish and accompanies the ill and the dying.
“My healing in Knock does not belong to me. This is a special gift to let people know that Jesus and Mary are there,” she said.