My beautiful daughter suffers from severe clinical depression and anxiety. She is an intelligent, talented and self-giving human being. After 9 years of being homeschooled, she entered high school on fire for the Lord, wanting to spread the light of His love. And she did. Somewhere along the way, though, something went wrong. Her confidence began to waver; self-doubt crept in. Self-doubt morphed into self-hate. Motivation dissipated into apathy. Joys were lost in despair.
How difficult it is to watch your child struggle to just get out of bed in the morning. The straight-A, honor student cannot stay focused enough to take the AP classes she once found challenging but fun. The extracurricular activities which provided so much enjoyment are now a toil. The young lady who has always shown great love for others, especially the poor, disabled, bullied and otherwise outcast, has no love for herself.
Depression day in and day out can lead to despair. Despair means no hope, no desire to live. A girl so full of wonder and awe now wonders how she is going to make it through another day. It is a heavy cross to bear.
Her father and I help as much as we can – listening late into the night, giving hugs throughout the day, lending a shoulder to cry on when needed, taking her to doctor visits, counselors, and, hardest of all, the hospital to ensure that she stays safe. These things can help her get through, to cope, and learn to live with her condition. But what a parent really wants (and what my daughter wants) is a cure.
Alas, there is no cure for depression. It would take a miracle.
In comes Father Joseph Michael Peek. Not into our lives, per se. I have never personally met Fr. Joe. Before I moved to my parish of St. Bartholomew, he was a seminarian at Mt. St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, MD. My pastor, who teaches at the seminary, often enlists the help of good, holy young men studying there. In 2002, (then) Deacon Joe Peek was one of these men. Many parishioners still speak highly of him.
From what I understand, he is one of 11 children in a devout Irish Catholic family. One of his brothers is also a priest (he also helped out at St. Bart’s while in the seminary) and one of his sisters is a Carmelite nun. Among the remaining 8 siblings, Fr. Joe has 39 nieces and nephews. The Peek family is, indeed, a blessed family.
Before entering the seminary, Joe attended the Georgia Institute of Technology on a Naval ROTC scholarship and served three years as a Search & Rescue swimmer and an anti-submarine air crewman. After the Navy, he felt called to the priesthood and decided to enter the seminary with the hopes of becoming a Navy chaplain.
Just a few months before his ordination, however, Deacon Joe noticed that something was wrong. During his daily run, he was unable reach the top of the mountain. After a series of tests, he was ultimately diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. With this new mount to climb, he completed his studies and was ordained on June 22, 2002.
In October of that year, Father Joe received a bone marrow transplant from one of his sisters, which effectively cured him of his cancer. Life-threatening problems, however, arose from the procedure. Fr. Joe contacted “graft-virus-host disease” which began attacking his body and ravaging his organs one by one. Father suffered tremendously, but few knew it. In time, the disease infected his skin, first on his back, then ultimately extending from his head to the soles of his feet. The wounds were massive, open and raw, easily agitated. A good night’s sleep was impossible. Changing bandages on his wounds was necessary but dangerous, as he contracted several times MRSA and once even became so septic, he almost died.
Father, nonetheless, desired to live to the fullest his vocation. He served in several parishes in the archdiocese of Atlanta. He also ministered to his fellow patients at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute. Becoming the spiritual advisor to some of the sickest of the sick, he would regularly visit them in the hospital despite the danger it posed to his own health. The open wounds covered more than 70% of his body, which made him susceptible to infections. Still, he felt that this was his special calling.
Eventually, he developed squamous cell carcinoma. Several of his wounds grew into lesions. Father Joe had a few procedures to remove them, but in time they spread to his lymph nodes. There was now nothing more doctors could do for him. For four more years, Father continued his ministry. He even began an online ministry so to reach as many as possible with his story of hope and true love.
Back in my church in Manchester, MD, we prayed for Fr. Joseph Peek every Sunday during the general intercessions. Then, on March 15, we received word that Father Joseph Peek entered into eternal glory the previous day. Like his namesake, he was surrounded by his own holy family – his mom, dad and 10 siblings, which, to him, must have made it a happy death.
On Good Friday, it was suggested to me by my good friend who knew Father personally that I pray to Fr. Joe for the healing of my daughter. That night, I introduced myself to Father. I told him all about my daughter, and I asked him to pray before the throne of God for her complete and miraculous healing in mind and spirit.
Thus begins a wonderful friendship. I have no doubt that Father Joe Peek is in heaven, and I believe that through God’s goodness, Fr. Joe hears me when I pray to him. I am, likewise, confident that he has taken my daughter into his heart and places her needs before the Most Sacred Heart. I have hope that through Father’s intercession, God will cure my Mary.
Then, when the day comes that I, too, enter into eternal glory, I will finally meet Fr. Joe face to face, and with a tear in my eye (the good kind of tears) and deepest gratitude in my heart, I will give him a big hug – and it won’t hurt him a bit!
If you wish to join me in prayer, simply pray every day:
Dearest Jesus, through the intercession of Father Joseph Peek, grant the complete and miraculous healing of Mary in mind and spirit. Amen.
Father Joseph Peek, pray for her.
Copyright 2016 Kelly Guest