October 20, 2006

Miracle man: An answered prayer has changed Philip McCord’s life

By Sean Gallagher

A serious eye illness. Weeks of growing concern. Some time alone in an empty church.

It was this simple chain of events—common to the lives of many people—that led Philip McCord to be in the offertory procession for the canonization Mass of St. Theodora Guérin at St. Peter’s Square in Rome on Oct. 15.

More than five years ago, McCord, the director of facilities management for the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, was facing the possibility of a corneal transplant. Although not Catholic, McCord went into the sisters’ Church of the Immaculate Conception and asked for the intercession of their foundress.

He noticed an improvement in his vision the very next day. And when he later visited an eye specialist, he was told that he no longer needed the transplant surgery.

After a thorough investigation, the Church determined that what happened to McCord was a miracle of God brought about through St. Theodora’s intercession.

It was also the miracle that led to her canonization.

Before he left for Rome, The Criterion interviewed McCord about how his life has changed since he made that simple prayer five years ago.

Q: You’ve talked about the enormity of what’s happening. How have you tried to come to terms with the fact that you’re right in the middle of it?

A: I’ll tell you the thing that I’ve realized is that how small a part in it I really am. The focus is properly and needs to be on Mother Theodore and her whole life. And there have been a number of other healings. I just heard about one yesterday. … So I’m just grateful to be a part of it at all.

Q: Has the miracle changed what it’s like for you to come there to work on an ordinary day with the sisters?

A: You kind of have to understand that my eye being healed is just one of the blessings of being here. Working with the sisters is rewarding on a daily basis. We are treated well. We are treated respectfully. We have authority to do our jobs. We’re respected for those abilities.

Q: Have you thought about what it will be like participating in the canonization Mass?

A: First of all, my wife and I have never been to Rome. My wife is so excited that she’s packed and unpacked twice. I’m sure that as I’m standing there it will seem unreal that this is the pope. [Laughs.] I’m really right here in St. Peter’s, and I have a part in this. It’s pretty overwhelming.

Q: What are your thoughts about the fact that, as a non-Catholic, you’ve played an important part in the life of the Catholic Church?

A: Mother Theodore never made any distinctions with the people that worked for her. She cared for them all and worked side by side with them all. So that’s just really consistent. It’s not a big surprise.

Q: Has your experience of the miracle and all of the things that have happened since then made an impact on your life of faith?

A: It has. I was raised Baptist. But it was kind of crammed down my throat. My dad’s a lay minister. And so I just kind of frankly rebelled against the whole process. But I’ve worked for a Catholic hospital. And for sure in the past 20 years I’ve attended way more Masses than I have anything else.

To tell you the truth, I’ll admit to my being lazy, and if the study and the process weren’t so daunting, I’d probably be Catholic. But every time I think about doing it [I think], “Well, I’ll get to it later.”

Q: How would you say that this has had an impact upon your relationship with God?

A: My dad is so deeply faithful that I was always looking to be cynical. And that’s kind of an easy cop-out. You don’t really have to face things. Well, I had something happen to me that you need to face. …

I’m much more prayerful [now]. I try to at least once a day talk to Mother Theodore and tell her thank you again.

Q: The Sisters of Providence frequently talk about how they feel her spirit at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Do you think that this has been a strong reality for you since the miracle happened in your life?

A: I’ve seen it a lot, just in the way they live and work with each other. … I have to tell you, they work at making things right more than anybody I’ve ever known. And I think the core of that is they ask themselves what guidance they have from Mother Theodore. What did she do in similar circumstances? The stories about her life have a big impact on their lives and my life.

Q: Does the example of her life give you some guidance now?

A: Well, I’ll tell you, first of all, when things get hard here, you kind of think about their history. And I tell everybody that after some of the things that happened to her, I’d have packed up and gone home. … But her perseverance through all of this was remarkable. So that kind of keeps you going.

Q: After you get back from Rome, there won’t be any more steps to go through in this whole process. Do you think your life will be changed after that?

A: It will be a little quieter. But it will have been changed because one of the things that’s happened with this that is really neat is that I had a call … from a friend of mine that I used to work with in Valparaiso that I hadn’t seen in about 10 years who’s working in Indianapolis now. … I had a cousin call me that I hadn’t seen in ages and some friends that I talk to.

Q: Has being interviewed frequently by reporters been an adjustment for you?

A: Yeah. I don’t seek attention. So I’m not all that comfortable. But I’ve always sent up a prayer, “Please, God, don’t let me embarrass the sisters.” †

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