St. Peregrine, pray for us: Monticello shrine comforts all touched by cancer
MONTICELLO — In her heart, Ruth Ann Larson believes there isn’t one person who has not been touched by cancer in one form or another. What they didn’t have was a place they could go to remember, pray and reflect — until now.
With a statue donated by Larson and her family and the support of Msgr. Michael Bliss, pastor, and the parishioners at St. Philomena in Monticello and St. Michael in Bement, a St. Peregrine Shrine has been built on the east side of the Monticello church. It was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Louis Tylka after a Mass on July 22.
St. Peregrine is the patron saint of those with cancer and the new shrine features a 4-foot-tall fiberglass and bronze statue that was imported from Italy. It was built in memory of Larson’s first husband, Gerald (Jerry) Manint, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2018.
“I wanted to do something but I didn’t know what to do,” Larson told The Catholic Post. “A friend told me about a garden for Mother Mary in Danville and we went to visit. The longer I sat there, that’s what came to mind.”
She and Jerry Manint were longtime parishioners at St. Philomena and raised their three sons there. When she approached Msgr. Bliss with her idea, he agreed right away.
“Jerry died about a year before I arrived so I never knew him, but I’ve come to know his family and learn more about him through them,” he said at Mass, before he and Bishop Tylka led a procession to the new shrine for the blessing.
“He was a good man, a loving husband and fine father, and a man of faith,” Msgr. Bliss said.
In addition to being a memorial to Jerry, the shrine was designed as a special place for prayer and personal renewal for those who are living with cancer now and those who have been healed, as well as those who have died, he explained.
TRUST IN THE PROMISE
The courtyard of the shrine features bricks engraved with the names of those who have been affected by the disease. Among them are Norma J. Tylka and Mary Lou Bryant, Bishop Tylka’s mother and sister, who died of cancer.
He said he has prayed to St. Peregrine for many years as a result.
“Speaking from my own experience of walking that journey with my mother and my sister, as difficult as it was and certainly as I prayed for a cure in the way I wanted it . . . in the end some good came from those experiences,” Bishop Tylka shared with those who filled St. Philomena Church. “I learned a lot about them, I learned a lot about myself and our faith that we shared, our ability to trust the Lord, to appreciate more of the good times in the midst of the challenges.”
As sad as he was to see his mother and sister “go home to the Lord,” he said that faith helped him to trust and believe in the promise of the Lord.
“His passion, his death and his resurrection means that there is life eternal and that one day we will be back together again,” Bishop Tylka said.
After blessing the shrine with prayer and holy water, he would return to the rectory to pray with those who are dealing with cancer now.
“WHY NOT ME?”
It was on their 48th wedding anniversary that Jerry and Ruth Ann learned that he had Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Instead of tears of joy for their life together, they sat down at the table and cried about his diagnosis — for about five minutes.
“After that, he looked at me and said, ‘What am I going to do about that? I need to be able to do something,’” Ruth Ann recalled. “His comments throughout the whole thing were, ‘I’m not better than anybody else. Why not me? Why not us?’”
He was open with anybody and everybody, helping wherever he could, she explained. Even when they learned that Jerry was allergic to one of the ingredients in the chemotherapy drug he was taking and the doctor wanted him to stop, he kept going because he was in a research trial.
“You don’t know if what I’m going through will help someone else in the long run,” he said.
They missed their 50th anniversary by six weeks.
Jerry and Ruth Ann were active at St. Philomena, serving as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion and singing in the choir. She also was involved in Cursillo and WATCH weekends.
Remarried to Larry Larson, Ruth Ann now farms with him just south of Bement and enjoys her six grandchildren.
“God has been with me all the way,” she said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Msgr. Bliss said commemorative stones are still available for engraving. They are $125 each. For more information, contact the parish office at (217) 762-2566 or visit stphilomenaonline.org.