The response to the Susan Gunderson appeal (see details in Letters to Editor, August 2003, AD2000) has been so overwhelming that we are in shock. There has been a tremendous outpouring of love and charity from all over the country, resulting in a total to date of $54,000.
By the time this report appears, the Susan Gunderson pilgrimage will be in Lourdes. The generous response of AD2000 readers to the appeal - along with that of many others - has exceeded all expectations. Numerous donations have been received from priests, religious and lay people.
One AD2000 reader, a Christian Brother, sent $1,000, saying, "I have already started to pray for Susan's healing and will keep her in my prayers each day, especially at Mass".
A donation came from a Rosary Prayer Group in Mordialloc, Victoria, with assurance of prayers, while a Queensland man wrote: "Please ask whoever accompanies Susan to pray for my five children, all of whom have left the faith". He went on to give their names.
Another reader from Drouin wrote: "I am a World War II veteran ... I have been to Lourdes and I believe in miracles." And a man from Essendon: "After reading your letter in AD2000, I have decided to help, that the lady may be sent to Lourdes in an effort to assist her improvement. Enclosed is a cheque for $1,000. Should there be insufficient contributions, let me know and I'll make up the required amount."
St Padre Pio
We have also been praying through the intercession of St Padre Pio for Susan's recovery. She has been enrolled at St Pio's tomb in Italy for daily Mass while Capuchin priest, Fr Carmel Flora from the Assumption Seminary, Plumpton, Sydney, who is accompanying the pilgrimage, had celebrated a novena of Masses for Susan's complete recovery, beginning on St Pio's birthday last May.
Enough money has now been raised to pay for the fare of another chronically ill person who was recently diagnosed with a secondary lung cancer. This woman in her 40s is a mother of four with three grandchildren. She was widowed unexpectedly and tragically last year and is a tireless worker for the Church. We feel sure that her choice will have the blessing of the benefactors to this appeal.
Susan Gunderson had earlier nominated six-year-old Harrison Creevey as someone with whom she wants to share her abundance. Harrison was bitten by a mosquito in Mount Isa in 2001 and contracted Murray Valley Encephalitis resulting in Acquired Brain Injury. Steven Gunderson has, for the past 18 months, been helping each week with Harrison's exercise program. We are pleased to say Harrison and his father Matthew will be on the pilgrimage. Mount Isans have rallied behind them to ensure they take their place.
The pilgrims left Brisbane early on Tuesday morning 2 September in the highest spirits. Among them were Susan and Steven Gunderson and their carer, Harrison Creevey and his father Matthew, and Father Michael Rego and his sister Anne. Father Carmel Flora was to meet them at Paris airport.
The fundraising concert held for Susan's benefit on 29 August had earlier been akin to a send-off. Father Gregory Jordan SJ (Brisbane's Latin Mass chaplain) was the master of ceremonies and did a magnificent job. At the end of the night he remarked: "It's a bit like doing a retreat tonight."
Father Paul Glynn SM donated a box of his books Healing Fire from Frozen Earth to the appeal to be sold on the night - this raised $500. Fr Glynn's book actually played a large role in Susan's decision to go on this pilgrimage.
Warwick Adeney, concert Master of the Queensland Orchestra, had organised the musical program for the night. The first half opened with Mozart's Piano Concerto in C (made famous in the movie Elvira Madigan) performed by Tahu Matheson, a brilliant young concert pianist in his mid-20s. All of six foot seven with a hand span as wide as Rachmaninov's, his performance was electric. This was followed by a bracket from Messiah. The remainder of the program was of comparable quality.
The end of the night brought a wonderful surprise. Susan Gunderson got up from her wheelchair and assisted by her husband Steven went up on the stage to give a speech using her voice synthesiser. She had painstakingly programmed the speech into her machine over the past two weeks without her husband's help.
We invite all AD2000 readers to join the Gundersons, the Greeveys, the seriously ill woman and the pilgrims travelling with them to pray for three miracles with Our Lady's intercession.
The pilgrims will be in Lourdes for five nights: First Friday, First Saturday and Our Lady's Birthday. They will spend four nights in San Giovanni Rotondo and will be there for the feast of the Holy Name of Mary. They will then travel to Rome for the Triumph of the Cross and Our Lady of Sorrow's feast day and, hopefully, an audience with the Holy Father.
All benefactors and those praying for this miracle will be remembered at each Sacrifice of the Mass offered on the pilgrimage.