By RENEE WEBB
Drink plenty of fluids, get your rest and say your prayers.
For many parishioners of the Wall Lake, Sac City and Early cluster, the Traveling Crucifix has become part of their treatment plan.
According to Jim Derner, a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Traveling Crucifixes have traveled with parishioners to Rochester, Minn.; Des Moines and Omaha as they receive medical treatment or hospitalizations.
“The Traveling Crucifix means so much to people that they take it with them,” he said. “It’s a part of their treatment.”
Derner is parish contact person at St. Mary Church, Sac City, for anyone wishing to have the crucifix during a time of illness. His family has also had personal experience with it, since his wife Dollie was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
“We have had one since Nov. 9. She was diagnosed on Nov. 8,” he explained. “We use it twice a day for prayer. It’s given us the peace of mind that there is so much good in prayer – it’s so important.”
At the time of diagnosis, the doctors told them the tumor was inoperable. The prognosis was originally grim and they informed the Derners that they could expect Dollie to be with them for Christmas yet. With radiation, chemo and many prayers, there is now no trace of cancer.
“We attribute it to prayers that are being said through the Traveling Crucifix,” he said. “We are a witness to the power of prayer.”
The Traveling Crucifix program is a project of the Iowa Knights of Columbus. Last year, The Catholic Globe reported on another family from Wall Lake who had found a sense of comfort with the Traveling Crucifix. At that time St. Mary’s Council 10644 – with Knights from Sac City, Wall Lake and Early – had 11 available and now they have 18 between the three parishes.
John McGinness of Fairfax, Iowa, is a member of the Knights who has been making the Traveling Crucifixes for the last seven or eight years. Previously, the traveling crucifix was made with a solid piece of wood, but with the help of a craftsman from Trappist Caskets, a new wooden prayer box was designed.
The boxes – with wood from Trappist and crafted from the designer – come to McGinness stained and ready for completion. He adds the crucifix, images, a prayer and suggestions on how to use.
The crucifixes come in a wooden box about 5 inches wide by 10 inches tall and they are equipped with either an image of the Blessed Mother and The Memorare or an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a prayer for the sick.
“My original instructions were to get at least one into every council in Iowa,” he explained.
Since The Globe article ran last year, McGinness has seen an uptick in the number of requests. He has made about 60 Traveling Crucifixes in the last year for various Knights councils in the Diocese of Sioux City alone.
“Demand has increased considerably after word got out about them,” he said.
Part of the draw of the Traveling Crucifix, noted McGinness, is the visible image that serves as a reminder of God’s presence and the prayerful support of others.
A friend of McGinness had the box last year while fighting a terminal illness. It sat by his bedside and provided a sense of comfort and peace during his final months before death.
Along with Knights acquiring these prayer boxes, families have done so as well – passing it around to different members of the family who may need prayers. He has even been asked to make some for a Lutheran pastor’s church.
Gene Wassom of Lake View, district deputy with the Iowa Knights of Columbus and a member of St. Mary’s Council 10644, was responsible for bringing the Traveling Crucifix to his Knights’ council after winning one at a state convention four years ago.
“People are so appreciative that we care and they know the Knights are praying for them,” he said. “It’s also somewhat of an aid to the priests because they can’t always make it to everyone who is sick in the hospital or at home.”
If there are any miracles or healings after having the Traveling Crucifix, Wassom attributes it to God’s will.
While the program is still in its early stages, Wassom said word is starting to spread. He explained other Knights councils are just trying to figure out that best way to organize the program. This is not a program, he added, that has to be run by the Knights.
“If a women’s guild or other group wanted to run the program in the same way the Knights do, that’s available to them,” said Wassom.
For the Derners, it’s as if they can feel the multitude of prayers while praying in the presence of the Traveling Crucifix. On a daily basis, a group of parishioners gather to pray the rosary and one of the special intentions is for the people who have the Traveling Crucifix.
“I have also encouraged Knights to add this to daily prayer – for the people with the crucifix. It’s working,” Derner said. “People should not hesitate to request one if they have a need because that’s what they are for. It puts so many more people praying them daily.”