My husband and I were not Catholics when we got married in 1975. The following year, we had a son. Three years on, we wanted to have a second child but it did not happen quite as easily as the first. I started feeling anxious as we were getting on in age and my biological clock was ticking.
An Earnest Plea for Help
Around that time, a Catholic colleague introduced us to take catechism lessons with a Redemptorist priest to get to know the Catholic faith. Together with her husband, she accompanied us in our weekly lessons. I once shared with her my difficulty in conceiving a child, which prompted her to suggest that I attend the Saturday Novena devotion to our Mother of Perpetual Help at Church of St Alphonsus Liguori (Novena Church). She asked me to attend it for nine consecutive weeks, explaining that ‘novena’ meant nine and many non-Catholics had their petitions answered when they asked Mother Mary for her intercession in these Novena services.
For nine weeks, we attended the Novena service faithfully. It took some effort as my husband had to rush there after work and we did not understand everything that was happening during those half-hour services. After nine weeks, there was still no good news. I was disappointed. My friend encouraged me to persist, which we did – my husband fell in love with the Marian hymns. And for me? I was hoping for a miracle.
52 Saturdays dedicated to Our Lady
Without us realising it, we had already attended the weekly Novena services for a year! Yet 52 weeks on, there was still no sign of a second child.
I said to Mother Mary, “I’m sorry Mother, but I will give you an ultimatum. If I still do not conceive this month, I will give up hope for a second child and contend with my only son.”
That very month, I found myself pregnant. I was elated and my heart was filled with great joy! As I sat in front of the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the church, my tears flowed. I could hardly believe that Mother Mary really heard me and interceded for me. Charlene was born on the same day as her older brother, 7 years apart.
Two years later, our family was baptised together on 8 December on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a date chosen by the Redemptorist priest in honour of our Blessed Mother.
Today, my husband and I are thankful to God for our three children, our daughter-in-law and our three grandchildren. Charlene, the gift from Mother Mary, is now undergoing formation to be a Religious Sister with the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. While it pains us that she cannot be with the family, we realise that supporting her in her vocation is how we can return this gift to our Blessed Mother.
May God be praised in everything!