JOHNSTON — Although Pope Francis has declared that Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata (Calcutta) now has the required miracles attributed to her in order to be canonized a saint later next year, a Johnston family says the healing intercession offered to their ailing daughter by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin with one of her relics has long made her a saint in their eyes.
“I am so thrilled. It’s been a longtime coming and she’s such a wonderful person who has done so much for people, I just am so happy,” said Michele Khoury, whose then six-year-old daughter Sydney made a rapid and remarkable recovery after being blessed with the relic after falling critically ill with a cancerous tumor on her kidney in 2008.
“We consider a miracle was performed on her through the intercession of Mother Teresa and we are so happy,” Khoury said of her daughter’s recovery.
In November 2007, Sydney was diagnosed with a Stage 3 malignant tumor on her kidney. Two days later, doctors removed her kidney and started her on a treatment regimen of chemotherapy and radiation. The overall success rate of the treatment was only 42 percent they were told.
For nearly three months, her condition was stable. Then, a robust round of chemotherapy quickly took its toll on her.
Sydney entered into what is known as a neutropenic state, as her white blood cell count dropped to zero, severely limiting her body’s ability to fight off infections.
She was immediately brought into the hospital where she spent nearly all of February 2008 in the Intensive Care Unit.
She was intubated twice to maintain an open airway, and also became paralyzed for 12 hours during that time. Doctors told the family they couldn’t make any guarantees as to her condition over the next 48 hours.
On Feb. 28, 2008, with Sydney breathing on a respirator, Bishop Tobin visited Sydney in the ICU and prayed over her with a relic of Mother Teresa, a gift from a fellow priest in the bishop’s native Pittsburgh who had obtained it in Rome where he worked with the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Blessed Mother Teresa.
Both of Sydney’s parents and Bishop Tobin witnessed the young girl’s body convulse during the prayers for her recovery.
Four days later, on March 4, she was removed from the respirator and breathing well on her own.
In 2012, Sydney was declared cancer free, and her mother says that she no longer even requires follow up MRIs.
Sydney, now 13 and a seventh-grader at St. Philip, attributes her healing from cancer to Mother Teresa’s intercession after being blessed by Bishop Tobin with the relic.
“I was very happy to hear that she will become a saint,” Sydney said Monday in an interview with Rhode Island Catholic. “I’ve always envisioned her like that.”
“I think she healed me because she’s great,” added Sydney, who reads books about the soon-to-be saint and all that she has done to help others in her life.
Bishop Tobin said he was pleased to hear the news about Mother Teresa and believes that it could be through the intercession of Mother Teresa that Sydney was cured from a devastating illness so quickly following the blessing with the relic, although he is quick to minimize his role in the healing process.
“My role was very limited,” he said. “I think whatever happened there — and I think in many ways it was miraculous — begins of course with God. God is the source of all miracles.”
The bishop said that the healing power is an element that must be considered in the context of faith.
“The faith of the family, and the faith that surrounded little Sydney from prayers of her classmates and the prayers of the people of St. Philip Parish,” he said.
“Miracles don’t happen in a vacuum, but I think faith provided the very beautiful context for what happened there. I happened to be there at the right time and at the right place, but miracles come from God, and it’s everyone’s faith that makes it possible.”