My name is Father Ronald Pytel, and I am the pastor of Holy Rosary Church in Baltimore, Maryland. Our parish church is the Archdiocesan Shrine for Divine Mercy. It is also noteworthy to mention that Pope John Paul II visited and prayed in Holy Rosary Church in 1976 when he was Karol Cardinal Wojtyla. The Divine Mercy Shrine at Holy Rosary was dedicated on the first feastday of Blessed Faustina.
I have been a priest for 26 years. I was ordained at Holy Rosary Church, which is my home parish. I am of Polish ethnic background. My parents were born in America, but my grandparents came from Poland.
As a young boy, I remember seeing the Image Of Divine Mercy in our school with the inscription “Jezu, ufam Tobie!” It was not until 1987, however, that I first became very well acquainted with the devotion to Divine Mercy and the chaplet while on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje.
In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Bishop John Ricard started the Divine Mercy devotions and Mercy Sunday at the Cathedral of Mary our Queen in 1991. As the devotion grew, Holy Rosary Church became the second site for Mercy Sunday. The first Mercy Sunday Celebration at Holy Rosary was held on the day of Blessed Faustina’s Beatification. On her first feastday, a permanent shrine was blessed at Holy Rosary at the spot where Cardinal Wojtyla prayed. From Blessed Faustina’s first feastday until the present, we celebrate Mercy Devotions every Second Sunday of the month at this shrine in English, every third Sunday of the month in Polish and a perpetual novena is celebrated every Thursday at noon. We also have days of recollection, pilgrimages and talks on Divine Mercy. It is interesting to note that last Mercy Sunday, devotions were celebrated in the Archdiocese of Baltimore at 37 different locations.
All of this is to give you some background information and to set the stage for my story. Throughout the winter and spring of 1995, I was suffering from what seemed like a cold and allergies. Eventually, it seemed like I had developed bronchitis. I could not get my breath when going up a flight of stairs, and I was constantly coughing. I made an appointment with a local general medical doctor who confirmed that I was suffering from allergic bronchitis. He also said, however, that my heart murmur, which I knew I had since I was a boy, seemed extremely exaggerated, and he-made an appointment for me to have a Doppler echocardiogram.
The echocardiogram was taken on June 7, 1995. It showed that my aorta was stenotic, that a calcium dome had formed over the valve, and that I was only getting about 20 % blood flow through the valve and some was backwashing. In essence, I was in cardiac heart failure. On June 8th, I had an emergency appointment with Dr. Nicholas Fortuin, an eminent cardiologist from the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Dr. Fortuin is considered one of the best cardiologists in the United States. Dr. Fortuin read the echocardiogram and confirmed the stenosis of the aortic valve. He prescribed medication and sent me home for complete bed rest while he arranged for a surgical team to perform surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
On the morning of June 14th, my best priest friend, Father Larry Gesy, took me to Johns Hopkins Hospital at 6:30 A.M. On the way to the hospital, Father Larry said to me, “Don’t worry, Ron, this is all about Divine Mercy.” I underwent my heart surgery at the beginning of the Novena, before the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Included in the things which I packed for the hospital stay was the Diary of Blessed Faustina. Even though I did not like the thought of cardiac surgery, I was at peace. I just knew all would be fine.
After the surgery, I was then put in cardiac intensive care until noon the next day. After the respirator and stomach drainage tubes were removed, I was moved into a private room on the cardiac floor. The nurses had me up and walking Thursday afternoon. I was released from the hospital on Monday, June 19th, five days after surgery.
During my recovery, I read the Diary of Blessed Faustina whenever I could. I also prayed the chaplet everyday.
After the surgery had been performed, Dr. Peter Green, the surgeon, met with Father Larry Gesy and told him that, prior to the operation, I had suffered serious damage to the left ventricle of my heart. Since the valve was so stenotic, the left ventricle was trying to push blood which was not going through the valve; if the surgery had not been performed, I would not have lived much longer.
Shortly after leaving the hospital, I developed pleurisy on July 7th. Even though I should have been in excruciating pain, I detected something was wrong only because I developed a fever. I had no pain. I was re-admitted to the hospital with a liter of fluid on my left lung. My lung was drained of the fluid. I was given antibiotics and observed as blood cultures were taken to make sure that there was no infection going to the heart. When the doctors were sure I was out of danger, and my oral medication was regulated, I was discharged from the hospital. My normal weight of about 165 pounds had dropped to 144 pounds. I looked like the victim of a concentration camp.
Gradually during July and August, I regained some weight and strength. I visited Dr. Fortuin in August. After the examination, Father Larry Gesy who had accompanied me had his examination. Fr. Larry discussed my situation at length with Dr. Fortuin who said that he did not know what kind of life I would be able to resume. He did not think that I would resume any normal schedule. He also said I was un-insurable. My longevity was certainly shortened, and Dr. Fortuin’s prognosis was not optimistic. The damage to the left ventricle was quite serious. The situation had been pushed to the maximum before surgery. I had indeed been in congestive heart failure which was masked by what I thought were allergies and bronchitis. Father Larry was startled and shocked by this information. Fr. Larry gradually shared the prognosis with me.
I returned to the parish in early September. I was, however, on a restricted schedule.
On October 5th, we celebrated an all day vigil before the Blessed Sacrament with prayers, chaplet of Divine Mercy, Rosary and talks on our Lord’s Gift of Mercy. The day concluded with a concelebrated Mass. All of this was in preparation for the Holy Father’s visit to Baltimore on October 8th. I was the celebrant of the Mass. I spoke about trust and how I felt the Lord was touching me with his mercy. Physically, I was feeling and looking somewhat better. That evening, a group of individuals who have a ministry entitled “Our Father’s Work”, prayed over me for continued healing. Blessed Faustina was invoked to join in the prayer, and I venerated a first class relic of Blessed Faustina. During the prayer, I rested in the Holy Spirit. I laid on the floor for about 15 minutes. I was totally conscious and awake, but I could not move. I felt like I was paralyzed as the healing ministry and my parishioners gathered around me and prayed. Later that evening, I realized that I had forgotten to take my heart medication. I took the medication around midnight, and was relaxing before going to bed. I began to have chest discomforts when I took a deep breath.
Up until this time, I had no chest pains except from the incision in the chest after surgery. This was something new. I felt that I probably had been too active that day.
This pain was present every day after that, but it would be stronger at certain times during the day. The following Sunday, when the Holy Father visited Baltimore, our bus was parked 1.6 kilometers from the stadium. After the Mass, two people were missing from the bus. One person was my mother. I ran between the bus and the stadium five or six times looking for the missing people. I experienced no trouble breathing, and it was a very warm October day.
The pain persisted every day, and I decided to take some time to retreat at the ocean. While I was there, I realized that the pain was the strongest after I took the heart medication. The next day, I did not take the medication, and there was no pain.
I called Dr. Fortuin and told him of the problem. I felt that the heart medication, zestril, which he had prescribed for me, caused the problem. Dr. Fortuin told me that this was the best possible medication for my heart condition, and that I had already tolerated the medication for 2 months with no reaction. He told me, however, that if I felt that my body was telling me something, to try alternating between a half dosage and a full dosage to see if that helped and to call him in a week. The half dosage was better. The pain was less severe and dissipated more quickly. I called Dr. Fortuin and told him the results, and he told me to stay on the half dosage until my appointment with him in 9 days.
On November 9th, I once again visited Dr. Fortuin for a scheduled appointment. After an initial examination, a Doppler echocardiogram was taken. Dr. Fortuin viewed the results of the test and then called me into his office. He stared at me in silence for what seemed like an eternity and then he spoke. To the best of my recollection, these were his exact words: “Ron, someone has intervened for you.” I asked, “what do you mean?” he said: “Your heart is normal.” I said “What?” And he repeated, “your heart is normal.” I responded, “Well, Dr. Green, the surgeon had suggested that you do an echocardiogram to see if the left ventricle was strengthening.’ And Dr. Fortuin said, “No, no … we’re talking normal. I was not at all optimistic about your condition. I can’t explain it.” He continued, “you have no restrictions, you are to take no medication except the coumadin, and I’ll see you in a year.” I responded, “A year?” he said, “Yeah, a year. Your heart is normal.”
Dr. Fortuin then reminded me that I needed the blood thinners because of the artificial valve, and to continue to get my blood-clotting factor checked every month so he could check the dosage. He told me to discontinue the fluid pills, potassium and zestril.
Upon leaving the doctor’s office, I called Fr. Larry Gesy and told him what Dr. Fortuin had said. Father Larry’s response was “Well, I guess we got the miracle we prayed for.” In November of 1996, a formal Tribunal was held in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to acquire sworn depositions from the doctors and other witnesses about the change in my health. On December 8th, Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, vice-postulator for America, arrived in Baltimore. I should note that December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, was a favorite feastday for Blessed Faustina because the Blessed Mother had appeared to her on that day. On December 9th, Fr. Seraphim went to the Baltimore Tribunal where the documents were sealed and packaged. Then he, Fr. Larry Gesy and I boarded a plane for Rome. The documents numbered over 800 pages in medical records, and about 500 pages of sworn depositions.
On December 13th, my Archbishop, Cardinal Keeler, who was in Rome for special meetings, joined Fr. Seraphim, Fr. Larry Gesy, Fr. Antonio Mruk, the postulator for Blessed Faustina and myself to present the documents to Archbishop Nowak of the Sacred Congregation for the Cause of Saints. In August of 1998, we were privileged to have Dr. Valentin Fuster, an internationally renowned cardiologist, from Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, begin studying the medical data. He was so impressed with the case, that he requested every medical record and x-ray, and he studied these for four months. He then requested to see me in New York. These are a few things he said in his findings: “On examining the records and talking with Father Pytel, as well as with colleagues that were acquainted with him during and after his illness in 1995, I became convinced that there was a sudden change, from symptomotology prior to the Healing Mass to complete relief of symptoms within the following three days.”
“It is probable that the sudden symptomatic improvement of Father Ronald Pytel following the Healing Mass on October 5, 1995, cannot be explained by natural medical means.” After studying all of the information and results of the repeated tests of the last four years, the doctors of the Sacred Congregation for the Cause of Saints consulted on November 16, 1999. This date which was chosen because of the availability of all the doctors, happened to also be the feast of Our Lady of Mercy (Ostrabrama). Blessed Faustina’s congregation is the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. Dr. Valentin Fuster was admitted as a voting member of the consultation team of doctors. They voted that this sudden change from a severely damaged left ventricle of the heart to a super-normal functioning left ventricle cannot be explained by natural medical science, it was indeed a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Faustina Kowalska.
People say that the best way to get to the boss is through his or her secretary. There are two secretaries to whom I owe a great deal of gratitude. The first is the secretary of Dr. Fortuin. His appointment schedule was very heavy. Yet when his secretary heard how seriously ill I was, she called me and told me he had a cancellation in his appointments, and that I should be at his office in a 1/2 hour. I found out later that she canceled his lunch hour. Because of her, I had one of the best cardiologists in the United States as well as a specially chosen surgical team.
The second secretary to whom I owe a great deal of gratitude is Blessed Faustina, the Secretary of Divine Mercy. I know in my heart that Blessed Faustina put in a word with Jesus, and the love flowing from his heart touched mine and healed me. It’s as simple as that.
Personal Testimony of Father Ronald P. Pytel
Regarding Healing of Heart Disease
Through The intercession of Blessed Faustina Kowalska.