March 3, 2006

Employee’s healing leads to
possible canonization

By Sean Gallagher

St. Mary-of-the-Woods—The reported second miracle that may lead to the canonization of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ first saint started with a simple prayer.

Shortly after New Year’s Day in 2001, Philip McCord, the director of facilities management for the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods since 1997, walked into the congregation’s Church of the Immaculate Conception to pray. (For more on this Cause, go to

He was contemplating whether or not to have cornea transplant surgery on his right eye.

A couple of months earlier, McCord had undergone surgery on the eye to remove a cataract. The morning after the procedure, he said he felt a “heaviness” around the eye and could not see out of it.

The cornea in his right eye was later found to be swollen, and a specialist in Indianapolis recommended that the cornea be replaced by one taken from a cadaver. McCord was told that the procedure had a 60 percent success rate and would require more than two years of recovery.

At a Feb. 22 press conference at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, McCord spoke about the days that followed his visit to the specialist.

“To say it [weighed] heavily on my mind would be an understatement,” he said. “I kind of moped around for a couple of weeks, thinking about it. And I finally got to the point where I just didn’t think that I could do it.”

Then one work day, McCord decided to walk into the church.

“I thought, ‘Well a prayer—what could it hurt?’ ” he said.

McCord, who is not Catholic but was raised in the American Baptist Church, described how in the past he tended to want to take care of his problems by himself. However, when he went into the church, he told God that he “needed help getting through this.”

Then his thoughts turned to Blessed Mother Theodore Guérin.

“It occurred to me, without being really familiar with it, that I had heard Mother Theodore [had] intercessory powers and so forth,” he said. “And so [I prayed], ‘Mother Theodore, if you have any influence at all, I’d appreciate it if you’d exercise it on my behalf.’ ”

A few minutes later, McCord went on his way.

“When I left the church, I really felt much better,” he said. “I thought, ‘Maybe there’s something to this prayer after all. It worked. I can [have the surgery] now.’ ”

When McCord awoke the next day, the heaviness around his right eye had disappeared, although he still could not see out of it.

A few weeks later, he returned to his specialist, expecting to set a date for his transplant surgery.

After he said that his eye was feeling better, the doctor examined it with an

ocular microscope.

“It was really kind of funny,” McCord said. “He looked at my eye … and looked back at the chart, and he said, ‘Hmmm.’ And I had worked in health care for a long time, and when a doctor says, ‘Hmmm,’ [it means something].”

The specialist asked him if his local physician had done anything, to which McCord responded no. When he asked if he had done anything, McCord replied that he had “said a prayer.”

The doctor acknowledged that the eye’s condition had improved.

“So I asked him, ‘Well, do we wait now for a while to schedule the surgery for later?’ ” McCord said. “He said, ‘No, you don’t need the surgery.’ I was stunned, to say the least.”

The specialist explained that since the swelling was removed, the lack of vision in the right eye could be corrected through an ordinary laser treatment, which McCord’s local physician later performed.

McCord now has better than 20/20 vision in both eyes.

Soon thereafter, he mentioned his story to a Sister of Providence. Word of it got to Providence Sister Marie Kevin Tighe, the vice postulator of Blessed Mother Theodore’s canonization Cause.

Eventually, it was decided to investigate McCord’s case as a possible intercession by Blessed Mother Theodore that could lead to her canonization.

More doctors, both in Indianapolis and in Rome, reviewed the case. None could provide a natural explanation for what happened.

When asked at the press conference how he felt to be the recipient of a miracle, McCord replied, “If you want a cheap answer, pretty good.”

But he also acknowledged that his healing troubled him for a while.

“I went through a long period thinking, ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ ” he said. “And I was talking to one of my friends who’s a sister here, and she said that there’s simply no quid pro quo. It’s an act of love. You just accept it for what it is.”

For McCord, a man who in the past preferred to work with “things that can be proven,” such advice wasn’t easy to accept at first.

“[But] I have come to an acceptance that there are things that I can’t explain that are outside of my engineering training and my personal background,” he said.

After Blessed Mother Theodore’s 1998 beatification, Sister Marie Kevin had been on the lookout for other possible miracles attributable to the intercession of the foundress of her religious order.

In a recent telephone interview, she said she had been following possible cases in southern Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

In the end, she didn’t have to look far from her home at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, just as she didn’t have to for the first miracle that led to Blessed Mother Theodore’s beatification: the 1908 healing of Providence Sister Mary Theodosia Mug, who had been suffering from cancer.

“She was able to intercede for one of our own sisters first,” Sister Marie Kevin said. “And then she interceded for one of our employees. It seemed very much like what she would do.”

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