A Cancer Diagnosis Transformed Sister Catherine Stewart’s Life
Springfield Dominican Sister Catherine Stewart has a new book out, much different from her two previous works about teaching the faith to children.
This one was personal.
“I’m a cancer survivor,” she said in a pre-press interview. “It took me a little while to get used to that reality.”
On August 6, 2014, the feast of the Transfiguration, Sister Catherine had emergency surgery for stage three colon cancer. She was in critical condition for days while doctors watched to see if her body would throw off infection after the complete removal of a ruptured colon and a cancerous tumor. It was indeed a life-transforming event.
A long-time journal-keeper, Sister Catherine reread her journal entries while on retreat last year and realized anew how important her relationship with Mary was during those days of recovery and chemotherapy.
As a child she found Mary “too holy and too good and too plastic,” Sister Catherine said. Her encounter with the 1970s classic Marian text, A Woman Wrapped in Silence by John Lynch changed all that. Read early in her religious life, the book was her first encounter with the human Mary, she says. In Lynch’s book she discovered that “Mary has emotions, fears; she has a deep faith in God, but she is very real.”
At the start of her cancer journey Mary suddenly become very real to her, Sister Catherine said. She found it natural to turn to Mary during the frightening, painful, life-threatening days after her surgery. “I needed someone I could hold on to who had walked the paschal mystery…. I realized as I began the cancer journey with surgery and chemotherapy treatments that I was probably going to live one of the deepest paschal mystery events of my lifetime.”
A story of faith and courage
Readers of her book, a reflection on this experience of suffering, near death experiences, and the resurrection of healing, will find a tale of faith and courage, simply told and richly accompanied with prayers and suggestions for the reader’s own contemplation and journaling. The reader is led swiftly through the story of Sister Catherine’s illness and long recovery, accompanied always by Mary’s courageous example. The book is organized in sections and chapters based on the sorrowful, joyful, and glorious mysteries of the Rosary.
Sister Catherine hopes her book will give cancer patients, their families, and their caretakers a sense of what cancer diagnosis and treatment looks like. It will do that, but it is not a book for cancer survivors and their loved ones alone. The life lessons shared are practical strategies for every follower of Jesus who embraces the paschal mystery.
Buy the book
Facing Cancer with Mary and Sister Catherine’s other books, Learning Centers with the Saints and Enriching Faith: Lessons and Activities on Prayer, are available from Twenty-Third Publications, or from your favorite local bookseller.
Sister Catherine will sign books and visit with readers at the Springfield Barnes & Noble on Saturday, June 23. Watch here for details.