Seventeen years ago, while visiting relatives not far from her home in the Philippines, young Pamela Avellanosa was speeding down a steep hill when she crashed her bicycle, somersaulted onto the pavement and sustained a severe head injury. Hours later, she faced death or, if she lived, a vegetative state for the rest of her days. Her miraculous recovery led to the canonization of Saint Arnold Janssen, founder of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD). On Sunday, September 16, she stood in the Main Chapel of Divine Word College to tell her story.
“Prayers work and miracles still happen,” Pamela said, as she
recounted the constant prayers that were said on her behalf to Saint Arnold by relatives and members of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (SSpSAP), also known as the “Pink Sisters,” a contemplative order he also founded. A thorough investigation by the church found that those prayers to Saint Arnold resulted in her recovery—the miracle that led to his canonization by Pope John Paul II in 2003.
Canonization is a lengthy process. Besides a thorough review of a person’s life, works and writings, there has to be at least two miracles; one before beatification and one before canonization.
Pamela and her mother traveled to the United States for much of September visiting SVD parishes in the Southern Province; bearing witness to the miracle they both experienced. They made a special trip north to make a presentation to the DWC community; reliving the events that followed her fall in the early afternoon of January 2, 1995.
At first her cousins thought her somersault off the bike was pretty funny, until they realized that 14-year old Pamela was seriously hurt. She was taken to a hospital where she was initially diagnosed with a bump on the head, though they held her for observation.
“Several hours passed by,” she said. “I screamed and cried with pain. They thought I was over-reacting or suffering from shock.”
Her aunts finally gained her release and took her to a second hospital, but on the way she became even more ill. Meanwhile, Pamela’s grandmother, a benefactor of the Pink Sisters, went to their nearby convent and asked them to pray for the health of her granddaughter.
“The Pink Sisters prayed, they are cloistered, all they do is pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, 24 hours a day, 24/7. Being a woman of prayer, grandmother had faith in their prayers,” she said. “After talking to my aunt, my grandmother went into prayer to Blessed Arnold Janssen, ‘Help my granddaughter and perform on her the last miracle you need to become a saint.’”
Later, after much pleading and cajoling, Pamela’s grandmother convinced a physician to operate on her. The procedure revealed a three-inch, 12-ounce blood clot. Seeing this, the physician told the family that even if she survived, she would be in a vegetative state. But her relatives did not lose hope and her grandmother again went to the Pink Sisters asking them to pray the Novena leading up to the Feast Day of Saint Arnold Janssen, January 15.
“On January 15, like magic, was the day I woke up after almost 3 weeks of being in a coma,” Pamela said. To the utter amazement of the physicians, she was stable enough to be moved out of intensive care, though half her body was paralyzed. “I left the hospital on January 29, the Feast Day of Saint Joseph Freinadametz, the first SVD missionary to China, and I could walk and talk a little.”
The young Pamela faced a long road to recovery, but by June, she was able to return to school. Meanwhile, according to official records, an investigation of the presumed miracle began in 1999 and on April 18, 2002, a medical commission found that, “…the cure was rapid, lasting and scientifically unexplainable.”
On October 5, 2003, Saint Arnold Janssen was canonized along with Saint Joseph Freinademetz,SVD, and Saint Daniel Comboni, founder of the Comboni Missionaries.
“I went to the canonization, in Rome and I had the wonderful opportunity to touch and kiss the ring of Paul John Paul II,” Pamela said. “When I looked up into his eyes, it was the prettiest and the most unforgettable blue that I have experience to see. I suppose, if you can look at the ocean, it’s deeper than that.”
Pamela has traveled to many places, telling her
e miraculous story, recounting the power of prayer and the impact that God and Saint Arnold has had on her life.
“God allowed me to live and be a part of Saint Arnold Janssen and the congregations he founded,” she said. “God took the away the old life I had, but replaced it with something better. What greater privilege could He offer me?”